I don’t know about where you live, but in this little corner of the Midwest, it seems that you can find a festival to attend just about every weekend from June through August. In fact, my city’s biggest festival of the year starts this coming week and runs for 9 days. Festivals are great fun, aren’t they? Rides, silly serious competitions (Bed Race, anyone? Yep, that’s a thing.), great live music, and oh.my.gosh the food. In fact, our big festival has an entire alley dedicated to the incredible-greasy-goodness.
But this can be simply daunting if you have an older infant and/or a toddler (or two, or three…). I’m determined not to be dissuaded from partaking in the festivities this year. Of course, I will probably not be hitting up the beer tents or the wine tastings like I would have done 3+ years ago. But that certainly does NOT mean I can’t have fun!!! Here is how my family makes the best of festival-going.
11 Tips for Surviving Festival Season with Little Ones
- Get a good night’s sleep. Cranky babies and toddlers do not have fun and are not much fun to be around no matter how many rides, balloons, and deep-fried-whatevers you have on hand.
- Go in the morning. This is key for my fam. Number 1, it is cooler in the morning. Number 2, we can often get away with skipping a morning nap, but afternoon naps are an absolute must at my house. For my kids, that is. And it’d be super if I could get one too, but then I wouldn’t get any posts written for your reading pleasure.
- Leave while everyone is still in a good mood. For my family, this is usually right after breakfast or right after a nap. If the littles are cranky… well, refer to number 1.
- Set the expectations beforehand. This usually happens over several conversations leading up to the event, starting at bedtime the night before. We talk about what we will do and what we will not do while at the festival; what we are going to eat and not eat – i.e. we will have a funnel cake to share but we will not have slushies. We talk about consequences for misbehavior, including the standard rule that if anyone begins to throw a tantrum we immediately leave.
- Bring the “big” stroller (even if you are a baby-wearer). You can recline the seat if needed for the little one who still takes a morning nap. Also, it is easier to feed a baby while she is sitting in her stroller with a tray in front of her. And if nothing else, it is good to have the option to let baby ride if you both get hot, sweaty, and uncomfortable using the carrier.
- Pack snacks. Yes, I know a good part of the fun is corn-dogs, funnel cakes, and fried cheese (among other, more questionable food items). But it is inevitable that the littlest festival-goers will not appreciate the deliciousness of these treats. And even so, having crackers on hand can be a lifesaver while waiting in line.
- Stay hydrated – Bring water for everyone. Dehydration effects mood and overall demeanor more than you might think. Besides, those brightly colored drinks, regardless of how fun the souvenir cup is, are a sugar crash waiting to happen. Fill up a few sports bottles for everyone to share.
- Don’t forget the backup provisions! Diapers, wipes, undies, outfits, wipes, wipes, and did I mention wipes? If you are a cloth diaperer, be sure to bring your wetbag. If you are a cloth-wipe user, don’t forget your hiney-cleaning-solution. I always bring sippy cups and small bowls so that we can easily split up food. Cloth napkins are a good idea too.
- Mentally prepare. Long lines. Pushy people. Hot sun. Lots of shiny-blinking-colorful goodies tempting even the best-behaved kiddos. Get yourself in the right frame of mind to let all of this roll off your back and you’ll prevent a few gray hairs.
- Be flexible. If you are a planner like me, this might be a pretty big challenge. But your sanity will remain intact if you can allow deviations from the plan. Maybe that means eating BEFORE checking out the live band instead of after, or sharing French fries instead of spiral potatoes, or riding the Gravitron one more time (unless you are me, in which case you don’t even look in the direction of the Gravitron for fear of throwing up).
- Stay consistent. This is pretty standard parenting advice in general. If you said you were going to leave after riding rides, then leave after riding rides. Even if it induces the most hellacious screaming tantrum. My kids catch on to what they can get away with very quickly (and my oldest isn’t even 3 yet) and if I give in to screaming fits, the next time the same opportunity arises the tantrum is that much worse because they know I gave in the last time.
If your first festival venture is not so successful, don’t be discouraged! It does get a little easier each time. The kids learn the routine and you will develop your own “best practices”. And come September, you will look back at the summer feeling great joy knowing that you made memories with your kids, showing them some of the best pieces of summertime.