Surviving Mardi Gras With Kids

Mardi Gras looks different with kids and that’s OK. It doesn’t mean it can’t still be a ton of fun. We asked some local parents for the lowdown on how to survive (and dare we say thrive?) during Carnival season when you have small humans in your care. Here are their tips!

Go To The Mardi Gras

Bring all of the loud toys to the grandparents’/aunts’ houses. No vuvuzelas at home. Jamie S.

My kids still nap so we don’t skip that, even if it means leaving the parade early or arriving late. It’s just not worth it. They’re already going to have the overstimulation of the parade (not to mention the likely extra sugar), so why add over-tiredness too? There are always more parades! Sara P.

The smaller neighborhood parades in the Marigny and French Quarter are easier to attend with a child because they are not as crowded and the kids love the homemade throws. Tammie Q. 

It’s OK to do the Metairie parades instead of Uptown because they’re easier. Really. You don’t have to be embarrassed. We are parents, we are beyond that now. Sara P.

I always get stressed thinking about all the junk that’s about to enter my house. Remind yourself that the 10 million throws your child will receive can be donated. —Freya F.

Speaking as a mom with toddlers—lower your expectations. Seriously. Make them as low as possible and maybe you will even be pleasantly surprised. I aim for one nice photo I can send to friends and family, with my kids and a float. If that’s the only float they see, that’s fine! Sara P. 

Safety First

Get one of those passport wallets to wear under your clothes. Put money and credit cards in there and wear it under your clothes grandma-style. You don’t want to worry about being pickpocketed when you pick up your kid as the floats go by. Even with a crossbody bag, my cash was stolen out of my wallet last year. Charlena T.

I wear a vest and everything goes in my vest pockets on my chest, in the inside pockets. Seriously, no purses… not even in your car. Meagan T.

Travel in a pack! The more eyes on the kids, the better! It takes a village, right? Leigh Ann G.

When my son was small but mobile (i.e. the possibility of getting separated in a crowd) I would always run through the following with him before each parade: What is my phone number (he knew it)? Who do you go to if you can’t find me (a police officer or a mama with kids because she will help you)? We also stuck one of my husband’s business cards or a koozie with his contact info on it into one of his back pockets. Luckily we never lost him, but this was our plan for every parade. Erin M.

Have an exit strategy if something goes wrong and a designated meeting place if someone goes missing. We also put AirTags on all the kids. —Kara H.

I always use safety tattoos with my cell phone number on them for the kids. They came in handy once when my son got a little turned around at Jazz Fest. —Meera S.

Find your village and stick with them! I always find I can enjoy parades in my own way a little more when I know I have a friend or family member to grab when I need to use the bathroom or get a drink. Cherie M.

We follow the one-kid-to-one-adult rule. For example, I’ll never take both my boys to a parade on my own if their dad isn’t coming (unless there will be multiple other families with us and the adults can fan out and monitor all the kids). Erin G.

Parade Logistics

It’s ALLLLL about the wagon! It’s a place to nap for little ones, a place for shade, a tow truck for all the throws, a snack station, a mobile bar… it’s your lifeline. —Carley S.

I have to say, I love the ladders. They keep all the kiddos in the same place and they can’t crawl out without me seeing. We are a little extra with ours, but it definitely gets attention and is perfect for kiddos to toss their throws into. Lindsey S.

Bring your own bags. Kids really don’t want to wear all the beads (and neither do you) and you really need two hands available at all times to catch more throws. Bead bags from years prior are best, but seriously—grab something big for all the throws. —Leigh Ann G.

For kids with sensory issues or those who might get overwhelmed with loud/long days, wireless children’s headphones (not the noise canceling ones—those are too tight) are key. —Johnice R.

For night parades, go to the beginning of the route uptown to avoid being out too late if you have little littles. —Leigh Ann G.

Stock up on the usuals including baby wipes—even if you’re beyond diaper changing years, they’re great for wiping sticky Moon Pie fingers—bottled water for the inevitable “I’m thirstyyyyyy,” and snacks for days. —Cherie M.

Goldfish and Pirate’s Booty and fruits like oranges and apples and also fruit snacks are our go-to snacks on the route. —Meera S.

A wagon with a blanket makes an easier and more portable bed than a pack-n-play, and it doesn’t have to be carried after the parade. Also make sure everyone has a chair, because your child who never sits down will take yours because you didn’t bring one for them, and they will be that heavy on your lap. —Amber H.

Prep your kids for not getting things off the obnoxious cart with all the light-up stuff. Also have the talk of “sometimes someone else gets the throw you want” before getting on the parade route. It’s also good to have a place for the kids to sit and chill when they need a break. And remind them that no one ever runs in the street for a throw—ever ever ever. Kara H.

Of course they’ll start catching throws and playing with them on the route, but before the parade starts I always bring bubbles or Play-Doh, a ball or whatever other things I don’t let them play with inside—any catch from last Mardi Gras that was loud, for instance. It’s all stuff I’m comfortable with throwing away or losing. —Meera S.

We always identify a spot away from the crowd that we can take them to if they start to get overstimulated. Shirley B.

Establish a home base. Dress in a unified theme to easily spot your kids (I have four, ranging from preschool to preteen). Have one parent at home base with the wagon—not stroller, because you are going to be lugging throws back—and one parent to move around with kids. —Maya G.

Always bring sunscreen for day parades, and sometimes bug spray, depending on the weather! —Meera S. 

Bring lots of snacks! Preferably some with protein in them. And tons of water. —Johnice R.

Snacks snack snackssss. Especially if you’re doing a long run of parades. We like to pack high protein and high fiber stuff that will help keep their hunger at bay (granola bars, trail mix, nuts, whole wheat crackers and nut butter, dried salami, jerky, apples, oranges) as well as some standard fun parade snacks like popcorn, Pirate’s Booty, veggie straws, fig bars, etc. We also try to stand near somewhere we can pick up convenient food (fried chicken is always a fave). And everyone travels with a refillable thermos to stay hydrated. —Erin G.

Potty Time!

Know a bathroom nearby before you park yourself! Everyone knows you and your kids will need to go, so find a spot within eyeshot of a port-a-potty, a friend’s place with a toilet, or a location where they let people use the bathroom if they buy something. Leigh Ann G.

For our family, all children under 6 (who are still actively potty training) wear a pull up or a diaper, as the odds of finding a potty in time are slim to none. —Amber H.

Bring a portable potty. You put a plastic bag on either side of it with a paper towel at the bottom just in case. So easy! Stays with you all the time. Practice going “outside potty” outdoors before Mardi Gras of course. —Kara H.

Make everyone pee before you leave the house. When you find your spot, identify your bathroom plan and communicate it clearly. If you know there isn’t one nearby, grab a portable potty to keep in the car. Erin G.

We would take our parade ladder and place a travel foldable toilet under the open ladder, then wrap a scarf around the ladder to make a “private” area. The foldable toilet seat lets you put a plastic grocery bag inside, so you can easily dispose of it. —Melissa W.

We put a portable potty in our wagon with a puppy pad underneath it. Little ones just can’t wait sometimes! This may not work for the wagons with low sides, but our wagon is pretty deep. —Allison J.

The days of winging it are over. Now it’s all about the plan. A plan for bathrooms and storage and a space to rest and snack—which sometimes comes with a literal cost, as in paying a fee to access potties and break spaces. Hopefully you just know people on the route and they can help you out. Watching kids experience Mardi Gras can be so beautiful and uplifting—friends may even seek you out to offer up their homes. But it’s also totally OK to ask! —Sara P.

While the pageantry and community of Carnival make a beautiful backdrop to childhood, it’s also OK to opt out for a bit if you need to. Whenever things feel unfeasible, remember that throwing in the towel is always a viable option. There will be more parades and more king cakes and more beads than you could ever imagine as your child grows up. As always, the best route is the one that works best for your family.

New Orleans metro area parents! Want to share your experience with ANTIGRAVITY readers? We’re always looking for a wide variety of parenting voices and circumstances to explore each month. If you’re interested, please get in touch with Erin Hall or head to our About page to fill out a contributor form.

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