Carnival Survival Guide for Parents

Summer is (almost) here and carnies are descending upon Kansas and Missouri like ants to a picnic. If you’re like me, you know the main motivation of hauling your children to one of these is to wear them out so you can put them to bed early and enjoy some alone time. Or it’s to make memories. But we know it’s really to tire those little lovelies out so they won’t battle you at bedtime.

Having just braved a local festival on two separate days with a 4 year old and 1 year old, I thought it would be nice to pass along a few tips that might make your visit a tiny bit easier.

  1. Do your research: If your kids love to ride the rides and the festival is offering some sort of a wristband day or night, go then. It will end up costing you less in the end. My daughter has a strong bond with the Flying Elephants. So much so that we rode them at least 10 times. At three tickets a pop for each ride and each person, that adds up pretty fast. But if you have a wristband, you can ride Dumbo until the cows come home without having dollar signs flashing in your head every time they ask to go again.
  2. Be prepared: No one will argue that carnivals are pretty fun but when you start thinking about how many hands are touching the same rides, crossbars and carousel horses you are touching, it gets kind of creepy even for non-germophobes like me. So take hand sanitizer and plenty of it. Stash some baby wipes in your purse. And then just turn away as your kid shoves the funnel cake down their throat even though there’s nowhere to properly wash their hands.
  3. Sunscreen: We like fried corndogs, not fried kids. Enough said on this one.
  4. Special snacks: Let’s be honest. Who doesn’t love a good funnel cake and some curly fries? We try to let the kids pick one special snack each and then sometimes my husband and I buy another one so we can all have a little of everything. I’m a sucker for carnival food so I think you throw out the whole healthy eating guidelines for this day. It’s also helpful to bring along a few bottles of water so you don’t have to constantly search for drinks or water fountains. And I usually throw in some fruit snacks, graham crackers or whatever to keep the little ones distracted if we happen to get stuck in long lines.
  5. Look for free activities: Sometimes carnivals have areas for the little ones that include free and really fun activities. For example, Old Shawnee Days does a “Ticket to Fun” where kids can stamp their own leather keychain to take home, get homemade ice cream, feed the chickens and get pony rides for free. This is where we actually ended up spending most of our time because it was less hectic and more hands-on for the kids.
  6. Bring backup: If you can, bring reinforcements in the form of a husband, wife, partner, best friend, grandparent, neighbor, miracle worker, whatever. That way, you can divide and conquer if you have more than one kid interested in different things. Or if you start to feel queasy from the spinning teacups and need to tag out with the other adult to cram into the Dizzy Dragons. Someone can make a break for the bathroom with one kid while not interrupting the fun of the other kid. Just admit you need help from the get go and make it happen.
  7. Take pictures: There are just endless cute photo opportunities. So snap some between doling out the hand sanitizer.
  8. Admit defeat: Finally, be prepared to admit defeat if necessary. You never know when someone is going to melt down or just turn into a giant jerk in general. It’s OK  if your visit doesn’t go as planned or if it gets cut short. At least you are trying and your kids can’t complain that you “never take them to do anything fun,” right?

Now arm yourselves with a vat of hand sanitizer and go tackle those carnivals!

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