I love the state fair. North Carolina has a great one and we live close enough to make it a must-do every year. Once I had the twins, we had to rethink our fair experience. Going when they were infants was actually much easier than it was when they got a little older! This year the boys are 4.5 years old and we knew we needed to really plan ahead to make it more fun than folly.
How to survive a day trip with your preschooler without losing your mind?
♦ Plan ahead
Do some research on the venue.
One of the glorious things about the Internet is that venues generally have tons of information available on their website. Try to find out what the busiest – and least busy – days and times are. If you can schedule around that you’ll be a step ahead.
Our State Fair runs from Thursday to the following Sunday, and the second Saturday is always the most crowded day of the fair. That’s a day I’d avoid, especially with young’ns in tow.
Download a map of the venue from their website. Scope out parking options, tram locations and alternate entrances. There are 12 gates at our fairgrounds, and some are busier than others.
Make a food plan.
Are you allowed to take your own food into the park? Do you plan to eat at the fair? What are the food options there? We made a decision this year to take our own water and not buy drinks. We ate home before and after our day trip but also to had some fun “fair food” there.
Check the weather.
Many state fairs are held in the fall, and even in a mild climate like ours, the temperature can vary by 15 degrees during the course of the day. We manage this by carrying backpacks that are empty save for water bottles. We dress in layers and peel them off as necessary, stuffing them into our backpacks. Hint: keep your cash handy in an easy-for-you-but-not-easy-for-others to reach spot. If you keep it in the backpack you’ll be hoisting it up and down all day.
♦ Keep it going smoothly throughout the day
Talk to your kids about safety before you go.
Amanda, from The Emergency Mom, is a full-time 9-1-1 telecommunicator. She knows her stuff people! And she has some great tips for how to survive a day trip with your preschooler.
Amanda says, “I always keep a couple of Sharpie markers in the car. When we get to our area I write their first and last name, age, and my cell phone number on their backs. Yes! On their backs! This might sound crazy, but if your children are not able to communicate their name or phone number it may be the key to help an emergency worker help them. They might not remember phone numbers but if they are scared they will remember their parent writing on their back. You can even tell the child that if they get lost they can tell a police officer or official that ‘my mommy wrote on my back’.”
Amanda also suggests taking a photo of your children before you go in. If a child gets separated from you, the picture will provide emergency workers with an current, accurate image, especially helpful when mom or dad is too frantic to even remember what the child is wearing!
I’ve told my preschoolers to look for a police officer or “a mommy with kids” to get help. A mommy is easy for them to identify and find in a crowded place like the fair.
Keep ahead of hunger and thirst.
It’s easy to get so caught up in the action that no one realizes they’re hangry until it’s too late.
Set an alarm on your phone to remind you to have a drink at least once an hour, and to get a little protein burst every couple of hours.
Don’t try to see everything.
Because you can’t. If you’re trying to survive a day trip with your preschooler without losing your mind, you need to remember that you are with a preschooler. They don’t want to look at every winning pie at the state fair and don’t have the stamina to see every single attraction.
Know when it’s time to go – before it’s time to go.
We all know our kids well enough to know when they’ve had it. They’re cooked. Stick ’em with a fork ’cause they’re done. The trick is to make sure they are not at that point while you’re still in the middle of the park, a mile and a half from your car.
When you’re thinking about how long they can reasonably manage on an outing, don’t forget to plan for the amount of time it will take to wind your way out of the park and through the parking lot. I know the misery that is a 4 year old who says he can not and will not walk one more step — when we’re still a solid 15-minute walk from the car.
♦ Debrief and decompress.
Debrief on the way home.
Your preschoolers may be tired and cranky after a day trip, or they might be extra hyper. Mine tend toward the excited-till-they’re-hysterical side of things. We find it helpful to ask the kids during the drive home about their favorite parts of the day, least favorite parts of the day, the biggest thing they saw, the smallest thing they saw, etc. They may not want to talk about the day, and that’s fine, but if they do, let them go on and on until you’re sure you can’t listen to one more word. It’s their way of decompressing from the excitement.
Allow yourself to decompress.
When the day is done and the kiddos are in bed, take a little time to do your own reminiscing about the day. Ask yourself the same questions you asked the kids. Talk about the day with your partner.
Smoke a cigarette and paint your toenails.
Do something the next day to keep the fun memories alive.
Warning! Don’t try to do this on the same day of your outing. It will be overwhelming!
Preschoolers can draw pictures of their experiences and ask you to write down their stories. It’s great to print out some pictures to include, but if you know you won’t get around to it go forth anyway! Don’t procrastinate because you want perfection. Grab a binder, put the memory pages you and the kids have made in sheet protectors, and let the kids decorate the outside of the binder. You can also include tickets, park maps, and other ephemera. It’s an incredibly easy way to make a scrapbook that they will enjoy looking at for years.
Check out the scope I did for this post
Some of my viewers had some excellent ideas I hadn’t even thought of!
Have you learned how to survive a day trip with your preschooler? Give us your tips in the comments!