paradeI love a parade! Who doesn’t? With the arrival of warmer weather, there seems to be a parade every weekend. Just this month, we’ll have Mardi Gras parades, St. Patrick’s Day parades and Easter parades. So line up – it’s a fun, relatively inexpensive way to spend time with your children.

Of course, when you’re headed into a slew of people, you always have to make sure your kids know the safety rules. After all, parades involve crowds (and sometimes even crowds that have been imbibing as part of their celebrating). Even when a parade is family-friendly, there are simple rules to follow to help keep your children safe and with you. Because, believe me, there’s nothing worse than losing a seven year old in a crowd of celebrating Philadelphians at a Mummers Parade. Just speaking from experience…

So the issue of what to do if we become separated is my first and most important safety tip. Make sure you go over this with your children before you even leave the house. With my brood, each of the older people (parents, teenagers and possibly a mature tween) are buddied up with a littler person. The little person is instructed that he is to be with his buddy at all times. No stopping at a souvenir stand or wandering off to look for a bathroom unless your buddy is with you! We also establish a family meeting place, just in case a pair of buddies gets separated from the rest of the clan.

Of course, even the buddy system isn’t foolproof, and sometimes the adult to child ratio doesn’t permit one-on-one buddying. I also reinforce the “stay together” and “stick with me” rules. I also make sure my children know not to speak to anyone except a police officer or a store employee if they are lost. I emphasize that they are to stay put, not wander around to look for me. I tell my kids to stay still and let me do the listening. If  they want to do something, I tell them to stay in one spot and scream my name. Yes, it may be embarrassing, but better embarrassed than lost, right?

Other parade-related health and safety tips include:

  1. Stay behind the barricades. They were put up for your protection. No one wants to be run over by a rogue elephant.
  2. Leave your pet at home unless it’s the Doo Dah, or other pet-friendly parade.
  3. Dress appropriately for the weather. Layers work best in colder months. Remember a hat if you’ll be sitting in the sun.
  4. Keep hand-held items, like purses, iPods and GameBoys, to a minimum. The less you bring with you, the less you’ll have to lose.
  5. Just like on Halloween, all candy thrown from a parade vehicle must be inspected by mom and dad before eating. Also, don’t run out into the street to retrieve thrown items.
  6. Bring plenty of bottled water, especially in warmer weather.
  7. Wear sunscreen.
  8. After the last float or band goes by, leave the area immediately.

And enjoy!  A parade is usually a lot of fun for all ages, as long as you’re prepared for it.