Oklahoma City family fun fills our streets, avenues and boulevards this time of year.
Street festivals are a memorable way to welcome warmer weather and more than ever seem to be popping up in Oklahoma City and surrounding communities.
April's sunshine beckons my sons and I outdoors. We try to take a walk most afternoons; they know our neighborhood sidewalk's cracks like the lines of their own hands. Stones and twigs, daffodils and squirrels: we see similar scenery each time we go out. Parks and picnics add variety but a street festival provides the ultimate change of scenery complete with games and refreshments along the way.
"Whoa! Why is that man so tall?" Isaac asks me, pointing at a performer on stilts with his red shirt, striped pants and juggling pins.
"Because he ate everything his mama told him to eat at each mealtime," I tease. "Just kidding. Those are stilts, like Mr. Small in 'Chimpanzees for Tea.'" The real thing has seemingly stepped off the page and into our life from one of Isaac's favorite books.
I love taking my sons to see their world because of those connection points.
We attend Downtown Edmond's free Arts Festival each year and recently checked on Heard on Hurd Street Fest in Edmond for the first time, which is coming up this Saturday. Open Streets OKC was April 3 and their next event will be in October; we hadn't done that before and it was a really cool way to see the progress on N.W. 23rd Street and wander around the Paseo Arts District. I appreciated the chance to get a long walk in and no one was bored, not even a little, for about three hours.
Seeing the community firsthand lets children explore. I'm parenting them at a time when they really can't run all over on their own and free range just doesn't feel safe to me. There's a lot of discussion about that but what I know is I want to see it all together anyway.
The logistics of taking children places isn't easy but it also doesn't stop us. Sam is 8, Isaac is 4, Gabriel is 1 and we're on the move.
Here are seven tips for taking children to street festivals in Oklahoma City:
Leave the big stroller at home: Umbrella strollers are made for events like these. They're so much easier to fold into my car and steer around corners than our double-stroller, which is awesome for the mall but not so great outside. We use a sling for Gabriel sometimes but Isaac wants to walk and that's fine with me. I'd rather see them take turns and also get some physical activity.
Skip the diaper bag: Hands-free, fuss-free, keep it simple is our style. I tuck a diaper with baby wipes into my purse and sometimes throw in a onesie. Extra jackets or items like sunblock stay in the car. My purse is a cross body one that I don't have to worry about dropping and it's intentionally small. There's nothing my children need so much as to merit carrying a larger bag. Oklahoma weather changes quickly; I keep an umbrella stashed in the car all the time. Use your car as home base for a break and to regroup with additional supplies.
Pack baby wipes: We have a baby but even if we didn't, wipes would make it into my purse every single time. Hand sanitizer is always there too and the skin-safe wipes with antibacterial properties are even better. You never know when a child is going to need a napkin or touch something you wish they hadn't and there's no restroom nearby.
Find the map: There's usually a map, sometimes an app, for almost every festival around. Look for it online and scope out what you want to see. Restrooms and sitting areas are also usually marked, which come in handy with kids.
Choose a destination: We all need something to look forward to and go seek out. Snow cones are the answer for us, what keeps everyone walking. We are going to find the snow cones; how long we take getting there and what we see along the way is up to me. My children know that if we attend a street festival, there will be tiger's blood.
BYOB: Food trucks are part of the fun at almost every street festival. Oklahoma City's selection has become really varied and I see a new one at practically every event we attend outdoors. We'd rather try novelty food than spend on drinks that are just plain cheaper other places. My kids bring a water bottle that stays with them on the walk and for the meal, which also cuts down on "I'm thirsty!"
Know where you parked: Sounds super obvious, right? I thought so too until this one time we couldn't find our car again and had to keep walking for about 40 minutes on a sweltering July day with three kids who we were ready to go home about an hour before we actually were able to drive away. If there's any doubt, take a picture with your phone of what's nearby, landmarks, cross streets, etc.