Thursday, June 21, 2012

How to Have a Successful Visit to an Amusement Park with Preschoolers

This summer we have had the opportunity to visit an amusement park.  Since I have only ever attended with friends or with my public school students, I didn't know what to expect when taking our own preschool aged children. 

After two visits, we have learned to prepare so that we have a great day!
  • Clothing
    Since most amusement parks have water rides, wear clothing that dries quickly.  Jean shorts are not the best choice.  The boys wear shorts and swim shirts. The girls wear athletic type clothing.
  • Food
    The amusement park that we attend allows you to bring food and drinks into the park.   Definitely check the rules for your park as this is a huge money saver.  We pack peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chips, dried fruit, and water as well as snack food. 
  • Backpacks
    If the park allows you to take in backpacks, choose ones that have thick straps.  The string backpacks can dig into your shoulders if you are carrying a lot of weight. Also pack soft food in semi-firm containers so you are not eating smashed sandwiches and chips.
  • Water
    Because of the summer heat, water is imperative.   Since water is heavy, carry smaller bottles and ask the shops in the park to refill them with tap water.  Also the night before going, place a little water in the bottles and freeze. The next morning, fill the rest of the bottle full of water.   Pop-can koozies fit around most water bottles and keep them cool. 
  • Sunscreen
    Apply it thick and often.  Don't forget to put sunscreen on your feet if you are wearing sandals.
  • Shoes
    Wear shoes that are comfortable, water friendly, and easy to walk in.  I wear quality flip-flops or sandals because I don't like wet tennis shoes.  The kids wear crocs (or the off-brand of). 
  • Plastic Bags
    While some water rides allow you to leave your bags in cubbies, others may not.  Bring a large plastic bag to put your backpack in so that things stay dry.  Also use ziptop bags to protect your keys and cell phones. 
  • Snacks
    My husband pushes the snacks during these active days.  Energy is needed to beat the heat and extra walking.  Bring several snacks and eat throughout the day.
  • Start the day visiting the most popular rides and shows. Leave the kid activities for the afternoon.
    We learned this one the hard way.  The lines to the popular rides and shows get longer and longer as the day goes (especially the water rides).  Long lines can be trying when you are standing in the heat with a 3 year old!
  • Don't push your kids to move on when they are content.
    On the first visit to the park, the kids wanted to spend a long time at each new adventure.  At first we wanted to hurry them to see all of the park.  We figured out very quickly that they didn't need to see everything the first time.  It was okay to let them go at their speed.
  • Use containers that can be thrown away.
    When packing lunch food or snacks, use containers that you can throw away.  This will lighten the load that you have to carry.  For example, I use Chick-fil-a salad containers to hold the sandwiches and bring Pringles because of the firm containers.  When a container is empty, throw it away!
  • For the ride home, bring a trash bag, additional food and drinks, as well as dry clothes.  The combination of exhaustion and hunger can make the trip home unpleasant.
    The kids will do much better if they are feed and dry.  Put the worn clothes into a trash bag to carry them to the washing machine once you get home.  If it is late, have the kiddos change into their pajamas so they can go right to bed when you arrive home.
  • Arrive early.  Leave when needed.
    Most people do not arrive at the park right when it opens.  The lack of attendance yet allows you to have first dibs at the favorite attractions.  Don't stay at the park just because it is open. Leave before everyone is exhausted.
  • Set behavior and safety expectations.
    Discuss the importance of staying beside mommy and daddy.  Explain what to do if someone gets lost.  Set expectations for behavior while standing in line and the possibility of purchasing souvenirs. 
  • Leave your adult expectations at home.
    Having visited the park several times as kids, both my husband and myself had expectations about how the day would go.  We discussed these and then released them to allow our family to create our own traditions. 
  • Have fun.
    Laugh at the funny moments, enjoy the precious times, and remember that the not-so-perfect times make memories!

What tips do you have to share about visiting an amusement park?

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