Activist Mama’s Guide to Taking Kids to a March

This is comprehensive. Feel free to skip to the appropriate age section for your kids. Please add in the comments.

Written as a joint effort with my friend Jenni Mahnaz, of Witness Humanity.

With the Women’s March on Washington only a week away, questions are flooding in on the Facebook pages and forums on the logistics of bringing children to what may be one of the biggest political rallies in American history, in the dead of winter, in the nation’s capital. The official position of the organizers of the march is to “encourage caution” in bringing children under 15.

For many parents, the desire to attend a march is a fire burning in their souls because the issues at hand directly affect the health and welfare of their families, and for many, bringing their children is not just a lesson in civic engagement, it’s a necessity. Not everyone has the luxury of convenient and affordable childcare, and mothers of young children often cannot be away from them for longer than the space of one feeding.

So, what’s the activist parent to do? Skip the march? Bring the kids? That decision is a very personal one, but if you decide to take your children, here’s what you need to know to keep them warm, safe, and happy at the event.

Babies

Co-author, Jenni Mahnaz & daughter

Keeping Warm

***If you get cold, Care Action is hosting a warming station just three blocks from the march, a place where children and nursing mothers are welcome too!***

Babies are particularly susceptible to the effects of extreme temperatures. Keep them warm by layering clothing. Consider clothing made of materials specifically designed for cold temperatures, like wool.

  • Tights or leggings
  • Onesie
  • Long sleeve layer
  • Warm, flexible pants
  • Socks
  • Booties
  • Socks
  • Sweater
  • Bunting, preferably one that covers the hands
  • A Balaclava or other hat that covers the ears and as much of the face as possible

Baby wearing coats can be a lifesaver in cold weather. Designed with an extra panel, these coats allow you to wear your baby in a carrier, next to the heat of your body. If you can’t find a designated baby wearing coat, an oversized man’s coat often works just as well. ** If you choose to use a baby wearing coat, skip the bunting. It’s quite warm inside the coat, which serves as a substitute for all the extra layers..**

Hydration & Nutrition

Many babies are still exclusively breastfed or bottle fed. For those who are old enough to be eating solids, make sure to pack easy, favorite foods that can be eaten in a carrier. Some packable snacks include:

If your baby is new to solids, never give your baby a brand new food at a march. The logistics of finding medical help for an allergic reaction are more than tough and the stress of having foods baby refuses to eat aren’t fun.

Changing Diapers

Finding places to change diapers is a challenge at big events. The tiniest march goers cannot be changed standing up and diaper changes in sub-freezing temperatures are not recommended. If you have a smart phone, consider downloading one of the many apps that points you to the nearest changing table. In general, restaurants, cafes, museums, libraries, and bookstores are good places in big cities to duck into to look for a place to change a diaper. Make sure to pack:

  • One diaper for every hour you’ll be out
  • A small container of wipes in an air-tight container
  • A changing pad
  • A plastic grocery sack for disposing of or storing dirty diapers

If you are a cloth diaper family, consider going disposable for the day.

Pumping, Nursing & Bottles

Nursing is the most march friendly option for hydrating your baby. But if you aren’t nursing, have no fear. There are ways to make pumping and bottle feeding easier as well.

Nursing

Your right to nurse anywhere you choose is protected in Washington DC and most cities across the country.

  • Practice nursing in the carrier. It’s doable, convenient, and a whole heck of a lot easier than finding a place to sit at a march. There are lots of instructional articles and videos online to help you get started.
  • Dress for success. Wear layers that include some sort of undershirt with a stretchy neckline, a shirt that can be lifted or is designed for nursing, and, if needed, a top layer that has a zipper for easy access.
  • A scarf can be useful at keeping the draft at bay while nursing outside and can double as a cover in a pinch. Just keep it out of baby’s face while she eats.
  • If you plan to wear your baby inside your coat, practice nursing this way before you go.
  • If you prefer to sit and nurse, plan to take scheduled stops at restaurants, cafes, and coffee shops. Know that these places can get extra crowded during marches so don’t wait until baby is screaming to find a spot to sit. You may need to make a purchase to utilize some of these areas.
  • Stay hydrated. You need hydration to make milk and you will be doing more physical activity than on most other days.

Pumping

Pumping before and after you march is ideal but, if you can’t, there are ways to make pumping in a public space easier.

**Double check the bag restrictions right before the march in case anything changes related to breast milk or fluids storage.**

  • Bring a hand pump. These are smaller, lighter, and more practical in outdoor spaces.
  • Bring a blanket, in case you get stuck without a private area for pumping, to throw over you while you pump. Many people will assume you are nursing a baby.
  • Pump as many times as your baby would nurse in the amount of time you are separated to protect your supply.
  • Decide whether you will pump and dump for the day or save your milk. If you will save your milk, make sure to bring an insulated bag with an ice pack for storage and transportation.
  • There is no need to wash your pump in between pumping sessions. Keep it in a ziplock bag inside your insulated bag. It will be cold the next time you use it but it is safe to store this way for several hours and will save you finding a place to wash everything multiple times.
  • Be extra vigilant about making sure your storage bags and bottles are closed. No one wants to lose all their milk in their daypack.
  • Stay hydrated. You need hydration to make milk and you will be doing more physical activity than on most days.

Bottles

Most bottle fed babies have Moms and Dads who are pros at the logistics of bottle feeding on the go. Here are a few tips to make things go even smoother at a march.

  • Bring your own bottled water and consider bringing your own thermos of hot water if your baby prefers warm milk
  • Preload formula into each bottle or consider utilizing some of the individual formula dispensers out there to cut down on the mess of scooping out formula.
  • Bring as many bottles as you need for feedings if you prefer to not wash the bottle between feedings.
  • Never surprise a baby with a cold bottle of milk when they are used to warm but you might try offering milk that is slightly less warm or even cool before you go to see if you can cut out a step in the bottle making process.

Carriers vs. Strollers

For the non-walking crowd, a comfortable mode of transport is a must. While we know there are some legitimate reasons for using a stroller at a march, in general we highly suggest baby carriers over strollers. Why?

  • Carriers are more secure and offer peace of mind in a large crowd.
  • Being physically close to Mom or Dad is comforting in an environment that is sure to be somewhat overwhelming for a tiny human.
  • Carriers are easier to navigate on public transit.
  • Carriers take up less room in an already crowded space
  • Babies in carriers are harder for well-meaning strangers to touch, kiss, and otherwise space invade.
  • Strollers have the potential to trip other marchers
  • In an emergency situation, having your baby strapped to you allows you to exit as quickly as if you were alone.

When wearing your baby at a march, it is best to do so facing in. Marches can be very overwhelming, even for adults, and babies need the opportunity to turn inwards for comfort. Inward facing also makes napping in the carrier much easier. There are LOTS of carriers out there but here are some carriers we love for their ease of use and comfort:

Dealing with Noise

Marches can get loud. If you are worried about the noise for your little one’s ears, consider investing in a pair of noise cancelling headphones like these Baby Banz.

Napping

Your baby’s nap schedule is not likely to reflect anything he or she does at home. Let it go. If you can, practice napping the baby in the carrier (or stroller if necessary) before you go. Napping on the go is a skill most baby’s pick up quickly so don’t be too stressed about getting off schedule. Often, the sound of a crowd is one big source of white noise to a tired baby. If your child uses a pacifier for napping, we highly suggest putting it on a tether to eliminate the dreaded lost binky scenario.

Riding Public Transport with a Baby

**Scroll down to the end for tips for riding the metro with kids of all ages**

People ride public transport with babies everyday. Here are some tips:

  • If possible, choose a baby carrier over a stroller. Strollers are not welcome sights on crowded trains and buses.
  • Keep baby in the carrier.
  • If you are wearing baby inside your coat, open your coat once you are on public transportation so neither of you overheat.
  • If you need a seat and no one offers, ask. Most people are happy to let a parent with a baby sit down.
  • In general, babies do not pay fare on public transportation. Double check the locality you are visiting before buying a fare for your child.

It’s Okay to Leave

If at any point your baby or you have had it, it’s okay to leave. If you think you may want to peel off early, consider staying to the fringes of the crowd so that you can exit at the first possible opportunity. You aren’t proving anything by staying until the end. Keep your baby’s and your comfort in mind and give yourself permission to stop when you are both done.

Packing a Day Bag for Baby

Backpacks are banned at the Washington DC Women’s March. The PA Chapter published this on their blog January 11:

“Please note all bags may be subject to search.

Backpacks are not permitted.

Bags should be no larger than 8”x6”x4”.

Specifically for people who would like to bring meals, each marcher is permitted one additional 12”x12”x6” plastic or gallon bag.

For marchers who have medical needs or for mothers who need baby bags or breast pumps, one clear bag or backpack no larger than 17″x12″x6″ will be permitted and subject to search (colored transparent bags are not permitted).”

Clear bags are available on Amazon.com

Pack light. There is nothing worse than a sore back 30 minutes into your day. Bring the necessities and leave the rest at home. Things to consider packing:

  • A change of clothes for baby
  • Bottled water
  • Supplies for diaper changes
  • Snacks for parents and baby
  • Cell phone
  • Wallet, including ATM/credit card, cash, and medical cards
  • Any necessary medications, including epipens
  • A comfort item
  • One or two small toys
  • Lip balm or small salve for sensitive skinned babies
  • Noise cancelling headphones
  • Extra pacifiers, if used
  • A couple of plastic bags for garbage, diapers, etc.

Toddlers

Keeping Warm

***If you get cold, Care Action is hosting a warming station just three blocks from the march, a place where children and nursing mothers are welcome too!***

Warm toddlers are happy toddlers. Here’s your checklist for staying warm at a winter march:

  • Dress in layers
  • Tights
  • Onesie
  • Long sleeve layer
  • Warm and comfy pants
  • Socks
  • Sweater
  • Scarf & Hat combo (a scarf alone is a strangle hazard)
  • Winter jacket
  • Snow pants
  • Boots
  • Mittens are better than gloves for ease of use and for keeping warm
  • Layer socks over hands and under mittens for a really cold day
  • Consider air activated heating pouches (or these reusable ones) to tuck into the pockets of your toddler’s winter coat to warm his core. DO NOT use these directly on skin, or within two layers of clothing of skin as they get quite warm and can burn.

Carry a blanket in your daypack for extra warmth and comfort

Look into babywearing coats. Many are roomy enough to accommodate a toddler, especially if you use the pregnancy insert to make the coat bigger.

Hydration & Nutrition

Staying fed and hydrated are important all the time, but especially important at an all day outdoor event, regardless of the time of year.

  • Pack two refillable water bottles, don’t add to the trash pile up! Refill them with tap water.
  • Pack nutritious snacks and comfort foods. Avoid high sugar junk foods that will cause a blood sugar crash that may lead to a tantrum.
  • Pack several choices in small containers that can be parceled out throughout the day for fun and refueling. Crackers, dried fruit, solid fruit with edible skins, and popcorn are all toddler friendly munchies.
  • Carry warm liquids in a double layer stainless steel thermos style bottle to keep things hot longer.
  • If you are still nursing, practice doing so in a carrier. Pack an extra blanket if you need it for either privacy or keeping warm.
  • If you must pump, consider doing so before and after you march. If you can’t, bring a hand pump, use a blanket if you desire privacy, and decide whether you will pump and dump or keep your breast milk. If you decide to keep it, bring an insulated lunch bag with a frozen cold pack for storage and transport.
  • Consider packing a nutritional drink for your toddler, like Orgain Healthy Kids Organic Nutritional Shake, if you’re concerned about being able to get her to eat weird things on a weird day.

Changing Diapers or Toileting

If you are toilet training your little person, take the day off. Throw on the Pull-Ups, pack plenty of extras, and don’t expect to find bathrooms.

  • DO use the bathroom every time you see one (note where the porto-let banks are along the march).
  • Be prepared to purchase food or drinks to use the restrooms in restaurants or cafes to change diapers or use the toilet.
  • Pack a blanket or changing pad so that if you’re forced to change a diaper on the ground or standing up you’re prepared. DO NOT do an open air change in freezing weather. Delicate skin freezes fast and you don’t want your little guy getting frost nip on his bits.

Napping on the Go

A sturdy toddler carrier is your best bet in getting your child to nap during the rally. It’s entirely possible that the action and the visual stimulation will be so interesting that your child doesn’t nap at all. Be prepared for the fact that you may have to placate a very tired person by the end of the day.

Increase the odds of a nap happening by bringing a favourite blanket or cuddly companion with you. Tether this item with a clip or a safety pin so that it is not dropped or lost in the crowd.

Safety

**Scroll down to the bottom for tips on riding the metro with kids of all ages**

We’re all for freedom of movement for toddlers, but sometimes, in a crowd, it can be dangerous for little person to free range. While we aren’t fans of the “leash” style tether as an everyday parenting strategy, it can be an effective way to keep a wanderer close, while still allowing for some independence. There are two basic types: The wrist link type and the body harness sort. You can even get fancy and make it fun, or make the leash a special backpack too.

Try to avoid strollers as they’ll just add to the congestion. Instead, opt for a sturdy carrier that is meant to support the weight of a toddler safely.

Consider a wearable GPS tracker. Safewise has an excellent breakdown of ten of the most popular, for children, with pros and cons of each.

Tag Your Kid

Every parent’s worst nightmare is losing a child in a crowd. Even with the best and most attentive parenting, things sometimes happen and a child is sometimes separated from her guardians. Plan for this unlikely eventuality by tagging your child in some way. I used a simple conference style tag that clipped inside a jacket, (tag facing the child so no creepy person can read their name and lead them astray if the jacket is off). On that tag I printed the child’s name, my phone number, two alternate numbers and the hotel we were staying at as well as any medically significant allergies.

If you realize, at the last minute, that you don’t have a way to tag your child, you can opt with the simplest, if not most attractive, option and sharpie a name and phone number on your child’s forearm.

I only lost one child, one time, in all of our years of parenting. The fifteen minutes we spent finding him was terrifying. My only consolation in that moment was that I knew he was tagged, increasing his odds of being found and returned safely by a stranger.

Read Traveling with Kids: 5 Tips for Staying Safe. Scroll down to the section on making safety plans; it’s never too early to start.

Recognizing Signs of Unrest

There is always the possibility that a political rally will turn ugly. Have a plan for what you will do if that happens. Try to stay towards the outside of the crowd. Pay attention to the emotional tone of the crowd and avoid angry or riotous groups. Avoid any nose to nose stand offs with law enforcement or other protesters. If your intuition says it’s time to go… go.

Take a Photo

One simple way to make sure you can help find your child if she gets lost is to take a photo of her as she is dressed for the march. This photo could be quickly shared with friends, on social media, or with law enforcement if a child became truly lost.

Making it Fun

It may be that your child will show interest in the march itself. Take the time to explain, in simple terms, why this outing is important. Even though your child is small, she’s absorbing every bit of input. Now’s your chance to encourage her towards your family’s values and introduce her to the differences that exist in the world and her country.

Make the day fun by giving your child a job. Perhaps make her in charge of sharing the fun, or sharing love, and provide a bag of small stickers to hand out to other children she encounters.

Be sure to pack a “Secret Weapon” to keep the day fun. What’s a Secret Weapon? It’s a stash of new or interesting things that your child is not expecting to divert her from an impending meltdown or crisis, to fill the time spent waiting, or to create an adventure. These should be small, inexpensive and low impact items. You might include:

  • Wikistix
  • Gummy candy (the juice kind instead of the sugary kind)
  • Stickers and paper
  • Coloring supplies
  • Bubbles
  • A paddle ball
  • A balloon
  • Matchbox cars
  • A small figurine
  • A book to read

A march day will be a special day for your child. Don’t try to adhere to her “normal” schedule too tightly, it’s a day to bend the rules and make things a fun adventure. Also, don’t feel like you have to do the entire day. With small children, sometimes just an hour or two is enough time in a crowd. You’ll have done your part by showing up and have introduced your child to the importance of standing up for what you believe in. No need to run everyone into the ground.

Packing a Day Bag for Toddlers

Backpacks are banned at the Washington DC Women’s March. The PA Chapter published this on their blog January 11:

“Please note all bags may be subject to search.

Backpacks are not permitted.

Bags should be no larger than 8”x6”x4”.

Specifically for people who would like to bring meals, each marcher is permitted one additional 12”x12”x6” plastic or gallon bag.

For marchers who have medical needs or for mothers who need baby bags or breast pumps, one clear bag or backpack no larger than 17″x12″x6″ will be permitted and subject to search (colored transparent bags are not permitted).”

Clear bags are available on Amazon.com

Remember that you’re going to have to carry this bag (and likely your toddler too) for the whole day, so keep it light and as minimal as possible. You might include:

  • Drinks and Snacks
  • Diapers or Pullups
  • Extra set of clothing
  • Baby wipes, for bottoms and clean up
  • Sustenance for the parent
  • A comfort item that will soothe your child

School Aged Kids

Used with parental permission

School aged children are at a great age to introduce to activism. They are often curious about and personally invested in what is happening politically as they learn about it in school, follow the news and increase in their understanding of the adult conversations happening around them.

Charlotte Mason said that our children are not just our children, but, “It is as well we should remember that the children are a national trust.We are raising citizens and voters, an interest in politics can be cultivated through grassroots involvement.

By all means, take your school aged kids to political rallies and encourage them to make their voices heard!

Keeping Warm

***If you get cold, Care Action is hosting a warming station just three blocks from the march, a place where children and nursing mothers are welcome too!***

School aged kids will want more say over what they wear, let them make some choices from within this checklist for staying warm at a winter march:

  • Dress in layers
  • Tights
  • T-shirt
  • Long sleeve layer
  • Warm and comfy pants
  • Socks
  • Sweater
  • Scarf
  • Hat that comes down over the ears
  • Winter jacket
  • Snow pants
  • Boots
  • Mittens are better than gloves for ease of use and for keeping warm
  • Consider air activated heating pouches (or these reusable ones) to tuck into the pockets of your child’s winter coat to warm his core. DO NOT use these directly on skin, or within two layers of clothing of skin as they get quite warm and can burn.

Hydration & Nutrition

Staying fed and hydrated are important all the time, but especially important at an all day outdoor event, regardless of the time of year.

  • Pack two refillable water bottles, don’t add to the trash pile up! Refill them with tap water
  • Pack nutritious snacks and comfort foods. Avoid high sugar junk foods that will cause a blood sugar crash that may lead to fatigue or a flagging attitude.
  • Pack several choices in small containers that can be parceled out throughout the day for fun and refueling. Crackers, dried fruit, solid fruit with edible skins, and popcorn or cheese bites are all kid friendly munchies.
  • Carry warm liquids in a double layer stainless steel thermos style bottle to keep things hot longer.
  • Consider packing a nutritional drink for your child, like Orgain Healthy Kids Organic Nutritional Shake, if you’re concerned about being able to get her to eat weird things on a weird day.

Bathroom Issues

This gets easier with school aged children than with toddlers. Even so, be sure to take advantage of every opportunity to “sychronize bladders” as a family and avoid a crisis when there is no bathroom.

If your child, even an older one, is in the least prone to accidents then this is a good day for a pair of big kid pants… just in case.

Safety Plan (What to Do in an Emergency)

ID Tags

From the time our children could get out of the stroller to walk even part of a day out, I tagged them.

Simple tags with their photo, name, and pertinent contact information, such as the name and address of the hotel we were staying at and our cell phone number. I printed these on card stock and slid them into conference ID tag holders that clipped to the children’s clothing.

I know there is some debate about printing a child’s name on anything he carries, but we minimized the risk of these tags being used to lure our children away by using a small font (too small to read unless you were quite close to the tag) and by clipping the tag so that the printed side faced the child’s body and the blank side was out.

That kid we lost in the market… he was tagged. My only consolation in the sheer panic of that moment was that he could be returned to our hotel by anyone who found him, and that our cell number was on the tag too.

Consider a wearable GPS tracker. Safewise has an excellent breakdown of ten of the most popular, for children, with pros and cons of each.

When is it Okay to Tether?

Some children have difficulty keeping with the group far past toddlerhood. There are lots of reasons for this, from voracious curiosity, to developmental differences. If there was ever a time to consider tethering a distracted older child, a political rally surrounded by thousands of strangers is a good one.

Discuss the matter with your older child and come to an agreement. An older child should not be tethered against their will, but it is possible that they’ll agree to it for their own safety and increased freedom to roam without a parent constantly calling to them.

Take a Photo

One simple way to make sure you can help find your child if she gets lost is to take a photo of her as she is dressed for the march. This photo could be quickly shared with friends, on social media, or with law enforcement if a child became truly lost.

Metro & Public Transit Plans

**Scroll down to the bottom for tips on taking the metro with kids of all ages**

Every time we enter a metro station, one of my children will loudly announce the memorized safety plan:

“If we get lost, we sit right down where we are, and we wait. You will come back for us. If we get left on the train platform, we sit on the nearest bench and we wait. You will catch the next train back and get us. If we get left ON the train, we go to the next stop, get off, and sit on the nearest bench and wait. You will come get us.”

The take home message: “You will come back and get us.”

Our kids are very sure that we will ALWAYS come for them and so they can sit confidently and wait.

We’ve never lost a kid on a train, but we did lose Grandma once, in Washington D.C., The kids were freaking out because they hadn’t told Grandma the plan! How would she know what to do?!

It is important to have a plan. Memorize it. Stick to it.

Crowd Sense

Be sure to talk with your child before the rally about crowd sense. Discuss the need to pay attention and stick with your buddy, and how to notice when things are not going well. Talk about how to notice when people are getting angry or pushy, and why it’s important to keep distance around yourself at all times.

Talk about escape routes and remind your child to avoid confrontations between marchers and law enforcement. With children at a rally or march safety should always be first. Don’t hesitate to trust your intuition and leave any situation that feels unsafe or volatile.

Secret Code Word

Once in awhile we find ourselves in a situation where we want our kids to listen and act immediately. It’s not the time for discussion, or questions, or a debate, or a demand for the reason why. It’s time to shut up and do what Mom or Dad says. We call these “grasshopper” moments. Grasshopper was our first secret code word.

The children know that if they are in danger, or need us to listen to them for a health and safety alert, they can holler, or whisper, “Grasshopper, Mama,” and we’ll drop everything and follow them without question.

Passwords

If you’re traveling with a group, it’s possible that sometimes the kids don’t know all of the adults in the group well and so devising a password system to help the children identify the “safe” adults is an easy way to get around that.

Should a child become lost when we’re traveling with a group, we have a prearranged password that all of the children have memorized.

If they are lost and an adult they don’t know comes to get them, that adult must know the password. In this way the children can be confident that they are going to rejoin our group with a safe person, and the parents can be confident that their child will not be lured away by someone less than safe.

Rally Point

Be sure that you set an obvious rally point for your children, perhaps an intersection they know well, a McDonalds on a prominent corner, the base of a monument that can’t be missed, something very clear and easy to find. Set regular meet up times, or, make this your, “If we don’t see you for more than a certain amount of time we will meet up here,” place. This is a great strategy for group members of all ages.

Two Way Radios & Cell Phones

We are big supporters of giving kids as much freedom as they can handle. In normal situations we would advise giving kids a cell phone or two way radio so that they can explore their surroundings a bit while still being connected. Unfortunately, rallies are not normal situations. It is not unheard of for cell phone service to crash due to overtaxed cell phone towers or for law enforcement to block off entrance and exit points as the march goes on, making it very difficult to reconnect with little explorers. We highly suggest everyone in your party stay together at a rally, adults included, whenever possible.

That being said, it is still a good idea for kids to have a cell phone or two way radio in case of an unplanned separation. Make sure you’ve programmed the numbers of everyone in your party into your child’s phone and purchase external battery packs to go with each phone so that your child will never be out of juice when you are trying to connect, no matter how many crowd selfies he is taking.

Getting Kids Involved

School aged children are old enough to have some understanding of the purpose of the rally and what the issues are. In the days and weeks leading up to the rally, discuss these with your young people. Encourage them to voice their own thoughts and to share with you what issues are most important to them and why. Brainstorm together how they can best represent these issues at the march.

Read books, watch movies, and engage with other media that will help your child understand the history of peaceful resistance in the USA and the gains that have been made through ordinary citizens mobilizing for the issues they believe in.

Help them to make posters, or cards to hand out, or whatever makes sense to them as an expression of their values and issues surrounding the march..

Make the day of the march fun by encouraging your child to engage with other people at the march, young and old. Perhaps agree to ask interview questions, or encourage your budding activist to take some video clips of the experience, the people and what they learned.

Packing a Day Bag for School Aged Kids

Backpacks are banned at the Washington DC Women’s March. The PA Chapter published this on their blog January 11:

“Please note all bags may be subject to search.

Backpacks are not permitted.

Bags should be no larger than 8”x6”x4”.

Specifically for people who would like to bring meals, each marcher is permitted one additional 12”x12”x6” plastic or gallon bag.

For marchers who have medical needs or for mothers who need baby bags or breast pumps, one clear bag or backpack no larger than 17″x12″x6″ will be permitted and subject to search (colored transparent bags are not permitted).”

Clear bags are available on Amazon.com

Encourage your school aged child to take responsibility for her own day bag and to pack it for herself. Items she might consider including:

  • An extra sweater
  • A book
  • Phone
  • Snacks or drinks
  • A journal to record thoughts or learning
  • A deck of cards
  • Small items to share with new friends

Be sure to pack a “Secret Weapon” to keep the day fun. What’s a Secret Weapon? It’s a stash of new or interesting things that your child is not expecting to divert her from an impending meltdown or crisis, to fill the time spent waiting, or to create an adventure. These should be small, inexpensive and low impact items that your child might enjoy when spirits dip.

Teens

If you have not yet taken your teen to a rally in her lifetime, there is no better time to do it. Teens are that much closer to voting age and, one day, we will turn everything over to them. Learning to peacefully protest and make our voices heard is as important as the act of voting itself. Teens are powerful and they are seeking a way to be a part of community. Creating opportunities for them to positively participate and connect with community makes it that much more likely that they will continue to grow into adults who are invested in our society.

Keeping Warm & Negotiating Clothing Choices

***If you get cold, Care Action is hosting a warming station just three blocks from the march, a place where children and nursing mothers are welcome too!***

Teens can be especially particular about their clothing choices. Discussing the clothing options before the day of the march is important. While some compromises can be made, it’s important to help your teen understand the practicality of some clothing choices and to work with them within the parameters of their comfort zone.

  • Layers- A must on cold days. If there is a very important pair of jeans your teen really wants to wear, let him but compromise on the layers underneath or the leg warmers that go on top. In general, a pair of leggings should fit under jeans and will add a much needed layer of warmth. Interesting or new leg warmers are another way to add warmth to an outfit your teen is set on. What goes under the coat is an easier negotiation since no one can see under the coat.
  • Comfort- This is two fold. Yes, you want your teen to be warm but comfort includes more than that. Be respectful of your teens need for fashion and negotiate clothing with this in mind. You’ll get further.
  • Shoes- Comfortable shoes are essential. Most teens are not used to walking as much as a march requires. Shoes that feel okat walking down the halls of his high school might not feel as good after hours of marching. Try taking some long walks in the shoes your teen has chosen before you go.
  • Warming packs- These are fantastic for teens. For a more eco-friendly choice try these reusable ones.
  • Hats- This has been a bone of contention for more than a few teens. If your teen flat out refuses to wear a hat, insist he at least pack one. If it’s cold enough, he’ll pull it out.

Getting Teens Involved

Teens are old enough to understand exactly what the purpose of the rally is and what the issues are. Never underestimate your teen’s ability to understand and engage on these topics. In the days and weeks leading up to the rally, discuss these with your young people. Encourage them to voice their own thoughts and to share with you what issues are most important to them and why. Brainstorm together how they can best represent these issues at the march.

Read books, watch movies, and engage with other media that will help your child understand the history of peaceful resistance in the USA and the gains that have been made through ordinary citizens mobilizing for the issues they believe in.

Help them to make posters, or cards to hand out, or whatever makes sense to them as an expression of their values and issues surrounding the march.

Make the day of the march fun by encouraging your child to engage with other people at the march, young and old. Perhaps agree to ask interview questions, or encourage your budding activist to take some video clips of the experience, the people and what they learned. If your teen is more reserved, check in with them now and then to see what photos they have been taking, what has caught their eye, or if they have any thoughts bumping around in their head.

Hydration & Nutrition

Staying fed and hydrated are important all the time, but especially important at an all day outdoor event, regardless of the time of year.

  • Pack two refillable water bottles, don’t add to the trash pile up! Refill them with tap water
  • Pack nutritious snacks and comfort foods. Avoid high sugar junk foods that will cause a blood sugar crash that may lead to fatigue or a flagging attitude.
  • Pack several choices in small containers that can be parceled out throughout the day for fun and refueling. Crackers, dried fruit, solid fruit with edible skins, and popcorn or cheese bites are all teen friendly munchies.
  • Carry warm liquids in a double layer stainless steel thermos style bottle to keep things hot longer.
  • Consider packing a nutritional drink for your child, like Orgain Healthy Kids Organic Nutritional Shake, if you’re concerned about being able to get her to eat weird things on a weird day.
  • Include a few favorite snacks (even if they aren’t your favorites) to keep your teen feeling like their opinions on even the little things matter.

Respecting your teen’s privacy

At this age, your teen is able to give and withhold informed consent. Take lots of pictures to remember the day if you wish before posting anything involving your teen to social media, especially something that identifies their political leanings or has the potential to embarrass them, talk to your teen. Respect the answer they give you.

Likewise, have a conversation with your teen about posting images or commentary that involves you as a sign of mutual respect. Remember, your teen is by your side but that doesn’t mean he or she thinks or wants to be represented in the same way you do.

Recognizing Signs of Unrest

Paying attention to one’s surroundings is a life skill any teen would be wise to learn. Not only should you be paying attention to your surroundings but you should be teaching your teen to do the same. Some signs that things may be taking a negative turn:

  • Physical altercations, especially with law enforcement
  • Continued confrontations with counter-protesters
  • More than a few protesters are arguing with law enforcement
  • Any sort of running by a large group of people
  • Threats of any kind
  • Derogatory, racist, or bigoted remarks being made by a group of people towards an individual or group
  • Veteran rally goers are saying it’s time to go

Ultimately, you need to assess the situation in the moment. When in doubt, trust your gut and teach your teen to do the same. If at any time your teen tells you they are uncomfortable or they have a “bad feeling,” listen to them. At the very least, take a break and discuss what they are feeling. If warranted, leave. You never go wrong when you teach your teen that their inner voice matters.

Safety

**Scroll down to the bottom for tips on riding the metro with kids of all ages**

“Teenager” encompasses a wide range of ages and maturity levels. You know best where your child falls on that spectrum. The following are some best practices for travel and safe attendance at rallies with older children with the goal being to have everyone on the same page, safety wise and to know the plan if something goes wrong.

Rally Point

Be sure that you set an obvious rally point for your teens, perhaps an intersection they know well, a McDonalds on a prominent corner, the base of a monument that can’t be missed, something obvious. Set regular meet up times, or, make this your, “If we don’t see you for more than a certain amount of time we will meet up here,” place. This is a great strategy for group members of all ages.

Cell Phones

We are big supporters of giving teens as much freedom as they can handle. In normal situations we would advise giving teens a cell phone or two way radio so that they can explore their surroundings while still being connected. Unfortunately, rallies are not normal situations. It is not unheard of for cell phone service to crash due to overtaxed cell phone towers or for law enforcement to block off entrance and exit points as the march goes on, making it very difficult to reconnect with wandering teens. We highly suggest everyone in your party stay together at a rally, adults included, whenever possible.

That being said, it is still a good idea for kids to have a cell phone or two way radio in case of an unplanned separation. Make sure you’ve programmed the numbers of everyone in your party into your child’s phone and purchase external battery packs to go with each phone so that your child will never be out of juice when you are trying to connect, no matter how many crowd selfies he is taking.

Metro & Public Transit Plans

Make a plan for what happens if you get separated on the metro. For those unfamiliar with the metro system, it’s generally a good idea to tell them to get off, stay put, wait. You will come back for them. If you happen to be from the area and your teen is old enough and mature enough, you may have a different plan. No matter what, make a plan, discuss it often, and stick to it if something goes wrong.

Secret Code Word

Once in awhile we find ourselves in a situation where we want our kids to listen and act immediately. It’s not the time for discussion, or questions, or a debate, or a demand for the reason why. It’s time to shut up and do what Mom or Dad says. We call these “grasshopper” moments. Grasshopper was our first secret code word. If “grasshopper” makes your teen roll their eyes, let them pick a word that they are more comfortable with.

The teens know that if they are in danger, or need us to listen to them for a health and safety alert, they can holler, or whisper, “Grasshopper!” and we’ll drop everything and follow them without question.

Listening to Your Gut

You’ve probably heard the advice to listen to your gut a thousand times. It’s also likely the best advice you’ve ever gotten. Now it’s time to pass this onto your teen. The number one thing that will keep you and your teen safe is your willingness to listen when either of your guts says something is off. If at any moment your teen tells you something isn’t right or they want to leave, take them seriously.

Tips for Riding the Metro With Kids (All Ages)

Riding the metro with young people is something moms in urban areas do quite regularly. For the rest of the population getting on and off of public transportation with kid and gear in tow can seem pretty daunting. Here are some tips to make it smoother.

Allow passengers to exit the train before trying to enter.

Once on, move to the center of the train or bus. Blocking the door is very uncool and will not make you any friends.

Store your metro card in a designated, accessible place so that it you do not need to dig through three bags and forty two pockets when the time comes to use it.

Carriers are more compact and more metro friendly than strollers. If you can do it, choose a carrier.

If you must use a stroller, bring the smallest one possible and keep the basket underneath free of stuff until you exit the metro. You will need to fold and unfold your stroller countless times and having bunch of stuff underneath will make this near impossible. Anything that goes under the stroller should therefore fit in your bag, even if you plan to store it in the basket while marching.

If you need help getting your stroller up or down stairs, just ask. Most metro riders would rather help you than watch you struggle while others try to get past.

Carry the bare minimum of stuff. You do not need 1,000 wipes. Nor does your 5 year old need 3 pairs of shoes. Take the necessities and leave the rest.

Remove your packs when you enter the train and hold them in front of you or place them between your feet. They take up less room this way and you are less apt to knock someone unintentionally.

For baby carriers, front wearing is best. If you have bigger baby and prefer back carries, front is still best for the metro. Being able to see your kid is important as is, again, not knocking someone by accident. If your kid starts screaming on your back, it’s incredibly difficult to maneuver getting them down, from your back, in a packed train/bus.

Pack smart. Keep things you are not likely to need at the bottom of your bag. Snacks, headphones, wallet, etc should be in more accessible places.

Keep snacks close at hand. In the event of a meltdown, offer snacks. If you are breastfeeding and your little loses it, don’t be afraid to nurse on the train. You are legally protected in doing so. If you are bottle feeding, have a bottle with pre-measured formula ready to go, just in case. Adding water is not as hard as scooping formula on a crowded, moving train.

Bring headphones for your kid. If you are going to offer electronics as a distraction while in transit, give your kid headphones. Crowded trains are not the place to blast the latest Dinosaur Train episode.

Finally, please do not allow your two year old to maneuver the stairs alone, even if they insist they can do it all by themselves. They can… but not in the crowds you are going to see. There is a very real need to get down/up and out of the way as efficiently as possible so as not to slow things down even more.

Have you taken kids to a political rally? Share your tips, tricks and advice in the comments? Are you taking your kids to the Women’s March in DC? How are you preparing? Are there groups or meetups you’d like to share? Please add those in the comments too!

Photo Credit: Glenn Halog

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