How to get the most out of festival season with your little ones.
For NOLA families, festivals are like Mardi Gras—a way of life. We start the little ones early and go often. Having a game plan before heading out can make all the difference between a day of tears and tantrums and day full fun, food, and music.
With big crowds, noisy attractions and great expanse, festivals can become a parent’s worst nightmare. Preemptive measures are a must.
- Instruct your child to keep an eye or a hand on you at all times.
- Consider matching shirts for your group. It will help with finding straying family members in a crowd.
- Write your cell number on your child’s arm, in permanent marker. In addition, write your number, name, and any other pertinent information on a piece of paper and put it in her pocket.
- Take a picture with your phone of your child dressed for festival, making it much easier for authorities to spot him if there is a search.
- Establish a well-known meeting place. Point out easy landmarks to your child to help them gain perspective to your location.
- Tell your child that if she gets lost, she should look for a police officer or a mom with little kids for help.
The weather, the distance you’ll have to walk, and the crowds all can test the most patient child—and parent. Be prepared for all of that, and then some.
- Pack an ample supply of the items your child needs on a typical day, from diapers and wipes to drinks and snacks. Then pack extra.
- Bring a stroller even if your child doesn’t like riding too often. Tired feet can change their minds.
- Be prepared for the weather. Have plenty of sunscreen and drinks, and dress your child with protective clothing, including a sun-shirt and a hat.
- Bring a change of clothes, if possible.
- Find a shady spot to use as a base camp. If you go in a group, people can take turns hanging out with the kids and venturing out for a quick adventure.
- Don’t forget to check festival guidelines; many don’t allow outside food or drink, but there may be exceptions for young kids.
Festivals are supposed to be fun. And they can provide a great bonding time for families, too, creating memories that will last a lifetime. Make the most of your day by considering your child’s interests and breaking point.
- Go early when crowds are thin and plan to leave at the first signs of readiness–two to three hours for most young children.
- Give a little to get a little. A child with a favorite snack or a special treat will be more apt to sit longer while you watch a performance.
- Be sure to check out all the child-friendly aspects of the festivals, from special children’s areas to demonstrations and colorful shopping areas.
- You know your child best; while the large festivals typically have fun children’s areas, the overall crowds might be too much stimulation. Start with smaller festivals with your children, and consider getting a sitter for bigger venues you can check out just with your spouse or fellow grown-ups.
The Parenting Center at Children’s Hospital contributed to this article.