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Engaging the Little Ones – Tips for keeping the Attention of Younger Guests

“Tell me and I’ll forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin

Family matters…and when you are a parent with younger children it is essential to keep them engaged. When we first moved to Orlando, we decided to go to Tampa to watch the San Diego Padres play the Tampa Bay Rays. Our older children were both in school, but we took our 4-year-old daughter with us and she was bored to tears. As much as we tried to make the game fun for her, the environment was just not able to keep her engaged. The next day when she woke up the first thing she asked was “What are we doing today? Not another baseball game I hope…” To this day she refuses to go to a game; she has never forgotten her first experience at that very boring baseball game.

When we design new experiences, exhibits, and events, how concerned are we with engaging the little ones? Are we taking the time to place an event here and an activity there which captivate the attention of our younger guests? At a Major League Baseball game events and activities can be – and frequently are – easily interspersed between innings as a way of heightening enjoyment and captivating the crowds. At theme parks, zoos, aquariums, and other attractions we can easily add activities and events that will engage our younger guests and draw them into our overall experience. Here are a few simple and cost-effective ways to engage the Little Ones:

Arts & Crafts Stations: Develop hands-on activities that tie into your theme. At a Zoo you could have different stations that relate to your different exhibits:

  • near your Aviary allow guests to create/decorate a bird craft while learning about the different types of feathers
  • if you have different continents, feature crafts that highlight the culture of each area
  • have a sidewalk chalk area to allow young artists to show off their creativity as they draw their favorite animals

Creating themed Arts & Crafts is a great way to captivate, delight, and educate your younger guests.

Design & Build: Challenge the whole family to work together to build and design and test and solve. Many Science Centers have this down pat. At the Orlando Science Center, one family friendly exhibit challenges families to create and test their own cable-riding creations. Balance is everything and teamwork is key. We spent nearly an hour with my daughter engaged in this activity that teaches physics, patience, perseverance, and teamwork.

Participation: From puppet theater to production shows, from animal interactions to parades, involving younger guests adds another dimension to the experience. I will never forget the time when my younger brother was selected to come up and meet and feed Shamu at SeaWorld. He stood up, smiled brightly, and waved to more than 5,000 other guests as he tossed Mackerel into Shamu’s mouth. What a memory! Design your shows to include child volunteers, designate kids (and their family) as Grand Marshalls in your parade, and allow your youngers to have up-close moments with amazing creatures.

It’s never too late to add elements that will engage your younger guests (and their families). If you are still in the Master-planning stage of your family attraction, be sure to include interactive, hands on experiences for your guests. If your attraction is already built and operating, it is not too late. You can – and should – add enhancements that will engage the little ones and make sure they have fun. The end result is that your younger guests won’t be saying “I don’t want to do that” but rather “when do we get to go back!?”

Have a great week!

Melea Desrochers

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