Carnival season is in full swing. We’re in that tiny lull between the first weekend of parades and when things really kick into high gear. At 4 years old, my twins are Mardi Gras pros, having been to parades since they were just shy of 4 months old, and we’ve picked up a few tips and tricks for making the experience as fun as possible for everyone.
Respect their Schedule. As new parents of twins, we were very, very strict with our schedule to maintain some semblance of order in what had the potential to be mass chaos. The first year, we were able to get out and about with relative ease (other than the 10 tons of baby gear we thought we needed) because our children were still in that portable newborn stage. The next year, it was a lot more challenging to get to parades and parties and work within their nap schedule, but, we did, and everyone was happier for it, because they were happy and rested. Parades are tiring for adults and even moreso for little ones. It’s so tempting to throw the schedule out the window (my apologies, Mr. Al “Carnival Time” Johnson) and catch All The Parades on Saturday or Sunday, but, sometimes, that’s just not feasible with kids that need a nap (and you’re not lucky enough to have the kind of kids that will pass out in a parade ladder). Figure out how to see things early in the route, or wherever works with your kids’ schedules and while you may not be seeing as many parades as before kids, the quality of time spent will be better with happy and well rested kids.
Bring snacks. But not too many drinks. Snacks are an important part of a toddler’s life. Even if a child is not actually hungry, a snack can provide a nice distraction in a situation that may otherwise cause a meltdown. Sometimes parades are late. They sometimes have large gaps. We know the drill as adults, and we know that’s the perfect time to have a piece of king cake or some more fried chicken, so why wouldn’t it also be good for the littlest parade goers? But, we also know the general rule that bathrooms are limited so liquid intake should be balanced against the bathroom situation. And, even still, the bathrooms can be…not so great. Not someplace you want to be with a newly potty trained little one that has to touch everything. So, while we don’t let our kids get dehydrated, we also don’t give them bottomless sippies of water like they got when they were still in diapers. Also, put a travel potty in the car. We’ve done 2 Carnival seasons with potty trained kids and between the travel potty and limiting drinks while on the route, we’ve yet to deal with the horror of taking a child in a port-a-potty.
Strollers are your BFF. Even if you only bring it out once a year for Mardi Gras, hang onto your stroller and let your kids ride in it as long as you can get away with it. Not only do they get you to your destination faster, and safer than letting them walk (especially if you have more kids than hands), but they also double as seating out on the route for the kids and it’s extra storage for jackets, diaper bags and, usually there are a few cup holders, just in case you would need something like that. I’ve seen lots of families using wagons, but, we find that the jogging stroller is the more compact option, and it’s also way easier to navigate along the uptown sidewalks. The only time I don’t recommend a stroller is for the night parades with thick crowds, when you won’t be able to babysit it; we either go without or bring a stroller that, if it were stolen, we wouldn’t be heartbroken.
Wear Your Baby. Babywearing isn’t just for the crunchy mamas (or dads) at Mardi Gras. I barely used the Baby Bjorn received as a gift before the twins were born, but the times it was used was at Mardi Gras. Babies stay snuggly and warm, and parents have their hands free for catching beads, and eating and drinking. Win-win. With the addition of our third baby, we’ve upgraded to the Ergo baby carrier, which is way more comfortable and has a higher weight limit (in theory, both of our 4 year olds can easily fit) and has pockets! Even with using a stroller, it’s great to have a carrier with you; holding little ones up can be tiring and the carrier does the work for you.
Be flexible and have fun. This is the last tip in every parenting article ever, right? But it’s so true, for so many things (and SO SO hard for a Type-A person like me). Mardi Gras, like everything else, is different with kids. And, it’s the good kind of different. One of my favorite parts of Mardi Gras it it’s the ultimate low-pressure holiday. The only obligation is to have fun. If things don’t go as planned, as often happens with kids, roll with it, do the best you can, and still have fun. Let your kids see you having fun and enjoying the party, despite the delayed parade, or freezing rain (I’m looking at you, Mardi Gras Day, 2014) is what Carnival is all about.
Happy Mardi Gras!
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