11/09/2011 16:17 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

Toddler Tales: Playground Pals

Baby Diana in a playground swing D grabs the best seat in the house at her new local...

Baby Diana has a local. You'll find her there at 10 am, 4 pm and often on weekends. She's become a regular at the playground.

This is an exciting, albeit exhausting, development. Here's the thing: staying home with Diana for an extended period of time is no longer a feasible proposition. Neither is going to a café or restaurant or any area where she can't jump out of her pram and walk around when the mood strikes her.

She's even figured out how to slide out of her pram, a sign that she means business, or alternatively, that a tantrum is coming. When she starts swivelling her body into the escape position, I better hope I'm near a park/baby-friendly open space...

I love going to the playground (a particularly fun game is trying to catch the last few glimmers of sunshine in what has been an abysmal summer). Baby D's obsessed, from the swings which have her laughing with glee to the grassy knolls and wooden vehicles she clambers over and climbs into. But most of all, she heads to the playground to stalk other kids.

To be fair to Diana, older kids and fellow toddlers are pretty obsessed with her, too. She's at that age where she's fully mobile, always eager to follow them around and can't say "no," which I think is pretty much the ideal playmate for an older child who just wants someone to boss about and then get praised for their prowess (D claps, remember?)

And for D, it's a dream come true. Not only are there new kids to smile at and poke and follow around, but new playmates mean new toys as well. She kicked around a hot pink football the other day and mounted another child's scooter this morning (with permission from the parents). It might be time to get this kid a set of wheels.

I enjoy the playground, but man, is it exhausting. It's like weight lifting (I am constantly having to lift up my 25-pounder to avoid her stepping into something precarious), sprinting (she moves fast these days!) and contortionism (as an adult, I can't fit into half the stuff Diana squeezes herself into, but that doesn't stop me trying) all at once. Plus, D never wants to leave unless she gets tired, which means we're there for at least an hour. So it's like a workout but doubly tiring, since instead of listening to your iPod, you're also expected to provide the entertainment for whichever other kids your child is engaged with.

On the plus side, a playground session does make D very sleepy and she usually naps for a couple of hours straight after. Other than being completely amazed and excited about the fact that my daughter can actually walk, this newfound need for copious amounts of sleep as a result of the energy expenditure is definitely the best part of D's bipedalism.

I usually don't get a nap, though. And lately, I've been ultra exhausted since the parents of some of the older babes noticed their kids stalking D in the park, saw my commitment levels to staying near my child (crawling on all fours to board a three-foot-high toy train) and realised they had hit on a gold mine: they could relax nearby while another responsible adult (and her waving, clapping, pudgy-faced sidekick), supervised, praised and amused their kids. For free.