With the 4th of July holiday rapidly approaching, parents across the country are currently knee-deep in making kid-friendly plans that may or may not include things like parades, loud music, red, white and blue themed treats, road trips, airplane rides and of course, fireworks! Kids either love this stuff, or they’re completely terrified, and you may not know which category they fall into until you’re hours away from home without an easy escape plan.
But never fear, there’s still time to plan ahead! Whichever category your littles may fall into, here’s a guide I made to help you (and me!) emerge unscathed from this year’s mid-week holiday:
MOMMY TEST DRIVE’S GUIDE TO A STRESS-FREE FOURTH:
Plan for traffic—and lots of it. With airfare steeper than ever these days, lots of families are opting out of flying to their destinations and hopping in the car instead. [Not that gas is any cheaper!] Plan ahead for gridlock by traveling during off-peak days and times. Install a traffic app on your smartphone that gives you ideas for less-traveled shortcuts. And, more importantly, be prepared for long hours in the car by packing lots of car-friendly snacks, games and music you can sing along to. Pouches are my favorite for long car rides because they’re easy to grip and fairly mess-free (just beware of excited squeezing—this can spell disaster for that cute little patriotic sailor dress you bought your toddler for the festivities). Plum Organics makes some great ones with lots of variety. For a great list of 101 tips and games for traveling with a toddler, check out the Mom’s Minivan blog.
Practice makes perfect. Thanks to modern technology (and common sense), you can prepare your littles for the 4th of July festivities by explaining to them what they’ll be seeing and hearing over the holiday. Contrary to popular belief, kids don’t like surprises, so the more you can clarify to them what’ll be going on in terms of parades, fireworks, loud noises, strangers, etc., the better they’ll be prepared to handle the new experience. Start now by walking them through the day—this may sound ridiculous if you have child under 1, but trust me, it does help; they understand a lot more than we give them credit for—explain what a parade is, play some marching band music for them, buy them a little flag to wave. There’s also a 99-cent app available for smartphones called Fireworks that lets you design and put on your own custom fireworks show. Though I don’t condone letting a toddler play with an iPhone, in this instance it just might help them be a little less stressed when it comes to the loud noises and bright lights.
Invest in noise proofing for little ears. Young ears are super sensitive, so definitely invest in a quality pair of noise-reducing earmuffs if you’ll be taking your kids to a fireworks show or loud parade (or any other noisy happenings like street festivals, concerts, sporting events, etc.). Hearing loss is irreversible, so don’t take any chances with your little’s ears. Plus, parades and fireworks might be a little less scary without the loud, startling noises that accompany them. Baby Banz sells a great model for around $30. Here’s an informative article from the New York Times about juvenile hearing loss and the importance of protecting your little’s ears.
Keep it cool…. then warm. Holiday festivities often take place over the course of an entire day, so plan ahead by packing lots of layers for you and your family. Keep your littles and yourself nice and cool for daytime happenings with wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses and light colored clothing. And, don’t’ forget the sunscreen. Check out MTD’s Summer Must-Haves for some of my recommendations. For keeping strollers and carseats cool, Meeno Babies sells a fabulous product called the Cool Mee: it’s seat liner than keeps little bodies cool when the sun’s beating down. For yourself, I can’t say enough about the Cobber, a gel-filled neck bandana that stays cool for hours. My family has been using these for years at sporting events, parades, on bike rides and hikes, etc. They really work! Be sure to bring non-toxic bug repellent and a change of clothing for the whole family for activities during the cooler evening hours. JJ Cole makes a fantastic water/sand/bug proof blanket to sit on for watching fireworks.
Have an escape plan. If none of the above options work for you, you just might have to call it quits on the traditional holiday festivities… but this doesn’t mean that you and your family have to miss out on all the fun. Plan ahead for a meltdown by developing a Plan B scenario for your day… is there a park or indoor play place that’s open near the festivities? A kid-friendly restaurant or movie theater? Do a little research before the big day, and develop an evacuation plan that’s quick, easy and saves the day (and your sanity).
Most importantly…have fun! Spending time off from work and the pressures of real life with your family is what’s key to the success of the day. Enjoy your time together and remember to go with the flow.
Oh, and by the way: don’t forget about the other “kids” in your life: your pets! Find a quiet place for your pets to take refuge in during loud parties or fireworks. Leave on the television or some soft music to help drown out any noises that might frighten or stress them.
Happy planning, friends, and have a great day!