By Tess Worrell/Times Sentinel columnist
— In an incredibly unscientific poll asking people their favorite season, fall emerged the clear winner.
Fall not only brings crisp air, football, bonfires and beautiful walks through the woods, it’s also prime season for festivals, making it one of the most family-friendly times of the year. Whether you enjoy art, history, or food, there’s a festival for your family’s interests. With a little child-friendly planning, a day at a fall festival becomes a great family memory.
Choose festivals that cater to children. Some festivals cram booths of expensive art or crafts along narrow paths with no break in the flow. Not the most child-friendly setting. Parents spend more time corralling their children to prevent breakage than enjoying the sights. Children — wondering when the endless stream of humanity and bright colors will end — whine, fuss and melt down. A no-win situation for all.
To escape this scenario, take the time to read through all the activities of the festival to ensure organizers considered children in the planning.
Madison Chautauqua of the Arts festival always includes a special tent of activities exclusively for children. Not only do children get a break from walking the booths of art, jewelry and food, they get to try their own hand at painting a T-shirt or molding a pot from clay. Art comes to life for them as they create their own, giving them more appreciation for what they view at the booths.
When choosing a family outing, purposely choose those that include elements such as craft areas, game areas, bounce houses or petting zoos. When aspects of the outing connect with children, they engage more enthusiastically making the day more enjoyable for all.
Remember routine. Children misbehave most when tired, hungry, or out of their routine. A day spent in the woods or touring a historic site offers great fun but can seriously mess with routine. Parents do themselves and their children a favor if they find ways to keep as much routine in place as possible. Time festival arrival around nap times. Let morning nappers rest on the way to the festival, or arrive while children are still energetic, then leave in time for children to nap on the return trip. Festivals such as Brown County’s Covered Bridge Festival combine both booths of arts and crafts and a driving portion to view the covered bridges through the fall foliage. Visit the booths while children are fresh and plan the driving portion when children need to rest.
Pack snacks and water bottles to keep children from hunger and fussiness. Sated children are better participants. So are sated parents.
Most of all, be prepared to leave. It’s easy to think that the time and effort required to get your family to a special locale means you should stay as long as possible to try everything. That approach can be a recipe for disaster. It’s better to have two hours the family fondly remembers than six hours completely ruined by an ugly meltdown and flaming tempers.
Set a family goal. The type of goal depends on the age of your children, but setting a goal can give a focus for the family as you engage the activities. If you attend an art festival, challenge children to find five works of art they would love to have in their bedroom.
At a history festival, assign older children a character or event they can tell the family about on the way home. Give younger children a page with pictures of aspects of the festival they can check off when they spot them. Food festivals offer the opportunity for children to try one new food, or get the parents to try one.
With a family goal, not only does the festival take on deeper meaning, the family works together to accomplish the goal making for better bonding and memories.
The results are in; fall leads the count as favorite season. With a little planning, taking in all the sights and sounds of fall can make this a season of blessing for your family.
Tess Worrell is the mother of eight and teaches parenting and marriage. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.