Babies, Children, and Fireworks
Posted on 26 June 2016
As we approach July 4th, you may be wondering about the safety of bringing your baby to a fireworks display. While repeated exposure to loud noises can be damaging to anyone's hearing, with new babies especially susceptible, pediatricians usually agree that one night of fireworks is fine for babies and young children. I have personally had a variety of experiences taking my children, who are now aged 9 months to 5 1/2 years to fireworks. Here is my guide for an enjoyable experience.
Prepare to be off schedule.
Are your children very scheduled? Are they good sleepers? Are they easily thrown off by a late night out? If you answered yes to any of these questions, weigh the pros and cons of keeping them out very late to see fireworks. If your baby or very young child needs his or her routine and sleep, consider staying home and watching fireworks on TV. If your child is older, and you want to have this experience and create the memories of seeing fireworks, be prepared for meltdown city the next day. Keep your schedule clear and make time for a long nap.
Preparing and Packing
We are a spur of the moment family, and it has always worked out for us. We packed water, snacks, bug spray, a blanket, and of course the diaper bag. I wore my baby in a Moby Wrap and planned to carry my 3 year old while my husband carried my 5 year old if he was too tired to walk.
Other, more prepared families around us did a much better job. They brought their kids in their pajamas so when they fell asleep on the ride home, they could be put right to bed. (Our kids just slept in their clothes last night.) We saw one family with a wagon outfitted with a blanket. When their 4-year-old got tired, he had a cozy little bed to sleep in and was easily pulled back to their car at the end of the show. Know the terrain and the length of the walk between the car and the fireworks display. For us, it was easier to carry our kids and stuff than to push a stroller though the park, even though it was a very long walk. For others, it was easier to push the stroller through rocks and sticks than to wear or carry their children.
Know where to park and where to sit. The less confusion, the easier it will be. Our fireworks are in a park, but you have to park at a nearby school. If you know the rules before you go, it will be easier for all involved.
If possible, go with friends who can entertain your kids while you wait for fireworks. This was invaluable this year! Consider bringing a few toys or things to keep them busy while they wait for the show to start. If all else fails, there are usually people selling glow sticks. Older children love swinging them around in the dark, and babies can have fun checking them out - always with very close supervision! Remember that many of them have small parts that are choking hazards. Don't let babies chew on glow sticks!
If you have a breastfeeding child, be prepared to breastfeed for hunger and for comfort. If you need to, pack a chair or something to lean on. A friend of mine was very uncomfortable nursing her newborn frequently without a decent place to sit at our town's festival before the fireworks.
Remember that your children may not be asleep at the end of the firework display, and leaving usually takes a while. Your kids will be overtired and may be miserable waiting for the traffic to clear up. Pack something for them to do in the car - a CD to listen to, some books to read, some favorite toys, etc.
Prepare for the noise.
If you have a younger baby, hold or wear him close to you. Keep one ear against your chest and cover his other ear with your hand to muffle the noise. Older kids may want to cover their own ears or wear noise canceling headphones. You should always prepare children for the experience by explaining that fireworks are loud. Sit as far away from the fireworks as possible to minimize the noise.
Don't "force" your kids to enjoy the fireworks if they are not having fun.
My oldest son is extremely sensitive and active. We regularly attend our town's Fourth of July Celebration, which includes a few hours of kid-friendly festivities, and then an hour of waiting for it to get dark, during which time it is extremely exhausting to keep my son entertained and happy. The past couple of years, we have made it through that grueling hour only to have him be too scared to actually watch the fireworks. Although it was hard to leave after all of that work and preparation, it may be damaging to make your child sit through the fireworks show if he is too overwhelmed and scared. Be mentally prepared for the disappointment of having to leave after all of the preparation without actually enjoying the show.
This year we attended the fireworks display with my 9 month old baby, my 3 year old, and my 5 1/2 year old. I was prepared to leave with any of the children who couldn't handle the show while my husband stayed with any who wanted to stay. Luckily, they all had fun. The baby stayed close to me, and looked when he wanted to, and looked away when it was too much. It's very important to follow your baby's cues and never force him to look at the fireworks. I held him close, and let him enjoy it as his own pace. Never force a baby to look at the fireworks if he is trying to look away. If your child likes to nurse for comfort, that may be helpful if they are feeling overwhelmed by the bright lights and loud noises.
Have a plan in case of emergencies.
If you have older children, make a plan in case you get separated. In general, you should teach them about safe people - people in uniforms, mothers with children - that they can turn to if they ever get separated from you. Remind them of this when you arrive at your fireworks display. Try to sit next to something identifiable so if your children wander away, they can either find it easily or tell a safe person where to take them if they get separated from you.
During our pre-fireworks festivities, our three year old wandered away out of sight for a few minutes, and I was terrified. Our plan if we got separated was for my kids to yell "MOMMY" very loudly a few times. If we didn't find them, they were to ask someone in a uniform or a mom with children for help getting to our meeting place, which was a hot air balloon. It was something that was easily remembered for them, and something you could see from the entire field.
Have an escape strategy.
If you make it through the whole show, congratulations! Consider leaving early to be the first one out of the crowded parking lot. If you don't want to leave before the finale, be prepared to fight the crowds walking to your car and then to sit in traffic for a long period of time. If your kids aren't asleep, encourage them to be quiet and close their eyes. If they are upset, whip out those books, toys and CDs if they get upset. This year, my baby was crying in his carseat. Instead of making him cry it out for 40 minutes, we parked our car and I held him. It was better to be patient until traffic let up than to let him cry for 40 minutes just to get out 5 minutes faster.
I hope you have a great celebration! Please share your tips below and let us know how it goes!