The weather is warming up, and that means parade season! There’s nothing quite like the nostalgic family fun of a good parade. The make great memories – and great photo ops! Parades are a fun way to get together with family and friends for a day out. You’re probably planning to attend at least one parade this summer with your family – and if you have small children, I’m sure you’re thinking about exactly how to keep the day fun and stress free!
Not to worry – as parents ourselves, the Bebe Au Lait knows your struggle!
Here’s our 10 tips for surviving and enjoying a parade with your kids.
1. Plan ahead
We know as well as you do that with small children, you have a narrow window of opportunity when it comes to attention span. If you arrive at the parade too early and your kiddo doesn’t have anything to do, they will become bored and restless. However, if you arrive too late and can’t find a good place to view the parade, they won’t enjoy themselves either. Do a little research about the parade route, the best places to set up that are close to a public restroom, and the parking situation. Plan a schedule that will allow you to part and arrive at your setup spot in a timely fashion – and bring a few toys and books to keep the little ones occupied if there is some wait time involved. You might even get a new toy or book just for the occasion for maximum distraction value.
Pro tip: Bring cash for emergencies!
2. Bring snacks
Nobody has a good time while they’re hangry. Avoid the temptation to buy junk food and bring a small cooler or backpack of food and drinks. Pack fruit, sandwiches, cheese sticks, or any other healthy snacks. Remember to bring plenty of water – it’s easy to get dehydrated on a hot summer day! Juice packs are also a handy, easy way to keep kids hydrated.
3. Bring a stroller or wagon
Not only do little legs get tired, but all the excitement will probably wear your little one out. Instead of carrying a sleeping toddler or coaxing a cranky kid to walk all the way back to the car, pack a stroller. Or better yet, a wagon! Kids can sit in a wagon to watch the parade – and you can pull them back and forth easily. Bonus, a wagon can also carry all of your gear!
4. Extra diapers
Try to find a parade viewing spot that’s close to a public restroom – but don’t rely on that! Even if you’re potty training – don’t risk an accident. Pack extra diapers or pullups and a sealable bag just in case you need to store a dirty diaper. And bring lots of baby wipes! It’s a guarantee that there will be stick and dirty faces, hands, and knees at a parade.
5. Change of clothing
Speaking of dirty faces and hands, there will probably be spills as well. Bring an easy change of clothes for your child – just in case juice spills or a Popsicle drips. And don’t forget yourself! Pack an extra blouse that’s cute and wrinkle free. It’s hard to enjoy yourself if the cute outfit you planned for all those family photos has a big stain on the front from sticky hands!
6. Pack for the weather
Make sure you take the weather into account. Being outdoors is fun – but it can also be uncomfortable! If it’s the middle of the day, the sun can be hot and bright. After dark? It can get chilly fast! Bring sunscreen, sunglasses, and hats to keep you and the kids protected and comfortable on sunny days. If you’re planning on being there later, bring some light blankets and sweaters to keep cozy.
7. Go in a group
Parades are really fun if you make it a group activity – not only do you have people to share the fun with, but having more adults than children makes is a lot easier to wrangle active toddlers! It’s great to go with family, but it’s also a great way to get together with your friends. As parents of young kids, it can be hard to socialize like you did before you were a parent. Make the most of your time and invite your squad!
No matter how well you plan, things will probably go a little bit wrong. After all, anything could happen with a toddler! Letting little hiccups put you in a bad mood won’t make things better. You want happy memories, not tragic ones! Keep your cool and be patient with yourself and your little ones.
9. Don't be afraid to throw in the towel
Sometimes you can be as patient and prepared as Mary Poppins, but things are still going badly. You can't control everything! Face it - if your toddler is throwing a screaming fit and everyone's miserable, you're not going to enjoy those memories. Throw in the towel and head home - there will be plenty of other parades and summer events. Wouldn't you rather be relaxing at home with your kids than trying to pretend everything is cool in public?
10. Exit strategy
The parade is over. Everyone had an amazing time – but now the fun is wearing off. Everyone is a little tired and cranky, and the crowds are surging around you as everyone heads out. Where did you park again? Do yourself a favor and plan an exit strategy! Research parking before the day of – it might even be worth it to drive over and scout ahead of time. Plan the fasted route to get from your parade setup spot to your car. If it’s an option, have someone leave a little early while everyone else packs up to bring the car around to a closer pickup spot.
Pro tip: When you park your car, drop a pin on the map in your phone - you'll thank yourself later when you can get step by step directions back to your car and don't have to wander around looking for your vehicle!