""Mastering the fine art of doing Mardi Gras with kids can lead to a tear-free, giggle-filled day. Children love the process, so let them assist in getting ready for any parties, help decorate the house and plan what costume they want to wear, explaining the custom and ritual of Mardi Gras.

Know your children’s limitations and understand that they may not have the stamina to last all day on the streets. Make it a short day, if possible, so they’ll have time to unwind before bed. Read your child’s signals, and know when they’re ready to go home. Then go.

  • Find a place to make a home base, away from the throngs of parade-watchers and if possible at the home of a friend or relative who lives along or near the parade route. Or even back at the car. Crowds can be overwhelming to children, and they need a place to rest periodically.
  • Take along a stroller, a playpen for naps and simple outfits for quick and easy changes.
  • ""Take along healthful snacks, such as fruit, fruit juice, cheese and popcorn, to balance out the junk food that virtually everyone eats on Mardi Gras. All that sugar tends to make kids cranky.
  • Take along extra beads, trinkets and other throws to toss to your children if they don’t catch anything. Throw it to the kids yourself as the float goes by.
  • Take along toys, books, dolls or games to keep your children occupied while waiting for the parades. Take a blanket for them to sit on. Once the parade starts, the blanket can be used to wrap them in if the weather is cold or damp.
  • Be safety-conscious. Warn children early not to get too close to floats, fight with others for throws or bend down to pick up anything lest they get their hands stomped on by overzealous parade-goers. Be wary of what your children catch, particularly toddlers and infants, who could choke on broken beads or the eye of a stuffed animal. Most things you catch aren’t safe for young children.
  • Be alert to aggressive float riders, who in the process of tossing throws may inadvertently strike a child, particularly one on a ladder. Parents should stand on the backs of ladders to protect children from fast-flying objects and anchor the ladder. If you put your children in a ladder, use one with a seat and a bar in the front and make sure it is standing on level ground a safe distance from the curb. Children under 2 should not be placed on ladders because it could scare them. Try not to place your ladder too close to people with nets or other bead-catching paraphernalia.
  • Costume as a family if possible to show who the children belong to and attach a note to their costumes identifying them and the location where you’re standing. Police "blue light" corners on parade routes generally are designated for lost children.
  • Be aware of your children’s physical needs, such as use of a bathroom, and be aware of how scary a portable toilet can be to a recently potty-trained child.
  • Costume masks are OK if the child’s vision is unobscured. Face paint is better.
  • Watch the weather report and dress children accordingly. They can suffer from exposure more quickly than adults.

To make sure they use good judgment, adults should avoid drinking heavily or not drink at all. Firm control of the children is a must. Adults who don’t want the hassle of worrying about their children should leave them at home with a baby sitter.