Watching parades with kids: a survival guide
Parades and kids are a natural combo, right? Sure, but in practice, it can be more complicated. Possible trouble spots: the noise, the crowds, the hawkers of sugary treats and expensive-but-cheap toys...and the many long minutes spent waiting for the parade to begin.
Tracy observed a good solution for passing the time while waiting:
Not so much a hack as an 'aha' moment. Was at a local parade over the weekend; saw a family with a bunch of kids waiting for the parade to start, and the parents pulled out chalk! What a great way to keep the kids occupied before the start of the parade!
...which got me to thinking about parades-with-kids prep in general. A little strategic planning makes everything go more smoothly -- including a sudden exit if necessary.
Logistics: Find out when the parade begins and plan to be there at least an hour or two early (or more, for big parades). The time spent waiting for the parade is MUCH less painful than trying to get situated after the crowds are thick (especially if you've got a stroller).
Street corners offer nice visibility, but the marching bands sometimes play on the straightaways and are quiet while turning corners. Actually, that might be a good thing for kids who dislike too much noise.
Weather protection: Outfit your kids as you would for any outdoor activity. If it's sunny, remember the sunscreen, and insist on hats and sunglasses. If not, dress in layers, and pack cheap rain ponchos (they cover you well when seated).
Comfort: Blankets, folding chairs...you know what works best for your family. Bring what you can comfortably carry in a single trip from the car. Or, bring along a wagon or collapsable crate to tow everything. If it's a hot day, bring a squirt bottle full of water for instant air conditioning. For the noise-sensitive, consider a pair of foam ear plugs.
Food and drink: And lots of it! If you've got the room, you can pack everything into a hard-sided ice chest, which doubles as parade seating. Prepare yourself: no matter what you pack, the cotton candy- and/or ice cream man will still cast his Peter Piper-like spell. Bring cash for a few parade treats.
Entertainment while waiting: Sidewalk chalk, bubbles, a camera, and a book for reading, writing or coloring.
Exit strategy: Keep your stuff as contained as possible in case you need to make a quick getaway. I've been at more than one parade that turned sour for my kids as soon as the crowd pressed in and the clowns, bands, and horses came out. If the tears come, consider packing up and trying again when the kids are older. You've got all the supplies packed: head to a quiet park for a picnic!
What are your best tips for maximizing fun and minimizing hassle at parades?