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Seven Tips to Prevent a Meltdown When Spending the Day With the Kids at the Theme Park


If you have kids, you know visiting the theme park isn’t always as fun as it sounds. It’s easy for the kids to get cranky, and before you know it, you’re dealing with a meltdown in the heat, wishing you would have just stayed home.

A day at the theme park can be difficult for children, especially very young children, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go! Whether you’re planning a day at a smaller park, like Silver Dollar City in Branson, MO, or you’re spending the week park hopping in Orlando, FL, preparing ahead with these tips can make sure your kids are as cool, calm, and comfortable as possible so everyone enjoys the day from sunup until sundown.

Set Expectations Before Entering the Park

Setting expectations for children is important, especially when you go out in public, and even more so if you’re planning a trip to the theme park.

There are assumptions your children may have about the day that will lead to a meltdown if not addressed ahead of time. For example, do they expect to be able to pick out a new toy at the gift shop, but you don’t want to buy a toy this time? You may want them to hold your hand when they want to walk on their own, and there may be a water ride they want to ride first, but it may not be something you want to ride until it warms up later in the day.

Go over all of these expectations in the car before you enter the park. While you’re at it, talk about safety expectations too, like what to do if they get lost and what will happen if they don’t follow your rules.

Bring Snacks

Many meltdowns can be prevented with snacks. That’s true for kids, but it’s also true for adults! Make sure you bring snacks with you.

It’s true that the theme parks have some really great food, and many items on the menu would fill everyone’s tummy and taste delicious, but you should still stow away things like granola bars and fruit snacks in your bag.

Lines at theme parks are notoriously long. Instead of standing with a crabby, crying child while waiting to place your order, you can give them something to munch on while you wait.

Always Have Something to Drink

Dehydration is a huge health risk. It can make you feel dizzy, tired, and it can give you a headache. If you let it go too far, you can experience low blood pressure, a fast pulse, and it can even result in fainting and seizures. Not to mention, the first sign of dehydration is often crabbiness!

Make sure you always have something to drink so both you and the kids can take a sip whenever you would like. Bringing a water bottle is always a good idea, as long as you make sure to refill it when you have the chance, even if it isn’t completely empty yet.

Juice and sports drinks can do in a pinch, but it’s best to leave these beverages for snack and lunch time. Water really is the best way to keep everyone hydrated in between rides.

Take a Break

Next to being hungry or thirsty, being tired can turn an otherwise well-mannered kid into a monster. Chances are, a trip back to your hotel room for an afternoon nap isn’t an option, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make time to rest.

Take breaks throughout the day so everyone has a chance to regain a little energy. A few ideas include:

  • Sit on a bench and play I Spy

  • Have a picnic lunch

  • Lay in the grass and watch the clouds float by

  • Catch a show in an air conditioned theater

  • Grab dessert and sit down to eat it

Always Check Height Requirements Before Saying Yes

There are probably going to be rides at the park that your child wants to ride, but that doesn’t mean they can. Different rides have different height requirements, so it’s important to take a look before you get in line.

It’s especially important to tell your child that you will check the height requirements when they ask if they can ride before you say yes. If you say they can ride, then see the height requirements and realize they can’t, a meltdown will likely follow.

Have Fun in Line

Waiting in line is just part of the theme park experience, but that doesn’t mean toddlers and young children are happy to stand and wait! Make it easier for young children by finding ways to have fun in line.

You can play games like Two Truths and a Lie and The Alphabet Game, but apps are a great way to stay entertained too. There are a lot of great apps out there that the kids can play while they wait in line, especially if you’re tackling a line that requires you to wait for an hour or more.

Plan Ahead for Comfort

It’s important that you choose your outfit carefully to ensure you’re comfortable. The same is true for your kids! They should wear a comfortable pair of shoes, pants that they don’t have to pull up all day, and a shirt that keeps them cool but provides them with protection from the sun.

No matter how comfortable their shoes are, they are probably going to get tired, so planning ahead for your child’s comfort means bringing a stroller or wagon they can ride in. That way they don’t whine because they have to walk, and you don’t get frustrated because you have to carry them!

Just because the kids are surrounded by fun rides, games, and delicious food doesn’t mean they are guaranteed to have a good time. It’s easy for children to feel crabby and frustrated, which can lead to a meltdown. With the tips on this list, you can avoid and shorten meltdowns so everyone has a great time at the park.

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