Letting Your Children Explore
It can be hard for parents to decide when to allow their children explore the park on their own. There are many tips for parents. How do you know when they are ready to fly solo?
(Mike's notes in italics) Amusement Parks are a controlled environment to let your kids build their confidence. It is also a good "laboratory" for you, as responsible parents, to test and observe them. Before that time arrives, it is up to you as parents, to instill the rules and good manners. Remember one of the parts of the Code of the Park Hackers is to Love your Neighbor.
First, make sure your phone is fully charged. The ability to text one another makes reconnecting much easier. In a lot of parks, there are charging stations with different types of cords. You can also buy or bring external batteries to rechange your phone battery on the go. You might also consider solar chargers since most of the time you’ll be in the sun. They are even more useful, if you play on your phone while waiting in lines and taking lots of pictures.
We don't memorize phone numbers much any more. Make sure your kids have your phone number in their heads. I've had two or three times, in the park, when a young teenage kid has asked if he could call his mom or dad with my phone. If their phone dies or is lost and they've always relied on the programmed contacts to reach you, how are they going to contact you?
You should still make a clear plan when and where to meet. Some landmarks come to mind instantly as you walk in where to meet. The front entrance of the park, a certain gift shop, or a favorite open area, can all work. Make sure all the other group members know as well. If for some reason, a member of your group can’t meet by a certain time, try to be flexible. I personally like meeting in a gift shop, especially when it is raining. It keeps everyone dry and is a chance to slow down a little and maybe pick out a t-shirt or key chain.
If you are letting your children run free for the first time, it will help if they have a phone. Set regular times for them to text or call with an update. A useful park hack would be have them set alarms on their phones as a reminder to check-in. Now parents, be a little flexible. They could have just gotten on a ride or are sitting in a show, leaving them unable to respond. I would suggest that they inform you before going to see a show. An alarm or a ringtone is rude during a performance.
The age you allow your children this privilege, is up to you. You know your children best, and can judge their maturity. Personally, I was 12-13 when I was first able to go on my own. Still, I had my cousins or friends with me.
Children are going to want to explore themselves. Allow them to have that freedom. It is a great way to show them you trust them, not to mention, allows them to make decisions on their own that can help them become strong leaders for groups.
Mike’s Additional Thoughts
I thought Krystal’s post was wonderful! Letting their kids fly solo for the first time, is an exciting time for families. Remember, it doesn’t have to happen all at once. First, these older kids can head off to do one ride and then rejoin the rest of the family after it is done. Then, as you get more practiced at the process of checking-in and finding one another, you can extend the time and distance. Next, maybe you can see how they do getting a meal for themselves.
If they’re not ready, you can gently keep it at that trial level for as long as necessary. The park is a safe and controlled environment for learning these things. Kids adapt and grow up fast when they feel that independence. For some, it may be only a taste that they need. Then others may soon be waving good-bye from the parking dro-off area and then calling you after the fireworks. Every kid is different. Enjoy the ride, parents! -Mike
»If you have thoughts on letting out the leash of control, please share from your experience in the comments below!
Photo credit: Baby Bald Eagles by Skeeze Public Domain