Mardi Gras may have developed an unfair reputation as an adult-only holiday, but here in Louisiana we know it’s an event that the whole family can enjoy. Kids look forward to the excitement of Carnival season all year long as they join their families and classmates on the parade route or participate in the parades themselves in school marching bands and local dance troupes.
For younger revelers — think toddlers and preschool age children — there’s no reason why they should miss out on the fun. With a little advanced preparation and a few essential parade route supplies the whole family can tag along.
When it comes to the question of what throws are appropriate for younger children, we’ve outline below the different types of items you can expect to come off the floats and what you may need to be aware of in terms of safety.
Mardi Gras Beads
Mardi Gras beads are one of the most common and popular throws at parades. However, these strands of plastic or glass beads are not safe for very young children because they pose a choking and strangulation hazard. Long beads on small children can also get caught on things, making it easy for children to trip and fall.
If you are chaperoning small children, it’s important to be on the alert when parades are passing in case you need to block a throw that is too heavy for children to catch or that they won’t see coming. If your child is accidentally hit in the facial area or head with a bag of beads, this can cause head injuries including concussions, eye injuries and dental injuries.
Depending on where the Mardi Gras beads were made, they can be contaminated with lead and other toxins. For this reason, do not allow your children to suck or chew on any Mardi Gras beads! Additionally, beads that light up may have button batteries in them which can be very dangerous if they are swallowed.
Children might detach Mardi Gras beads and stick a single bead or small throw in their nose or ear and sometimes these must be removed by a physician. What should you do if you think your kid has swallowed a Mardi Gras bead or part of a throw? If your child exhibits any of these symptoms, they may have swallowed a Mardi Gras bead or something else and will need immediate medical attention:
- Choking or drooling
- Abdominal pain
- Inability to eat or drink
If your child swallows a single Mardi Gras bead without a button battery and is not coughing, choking or drooling AND is also able to breath, eat, and drink normally and not complaining of any pain, then you can have your child see their pediatrician and wait for it to pass in the stool.
Toys and Stuffed Animals
Some Mardi Gras throws may have small parts that can become choking hazards when separated. A good rule to remember is that anything that fits inside a toilet paper tube, or has small parts that if separated would fit inside a toilet paper tube, is a choking hazard. These are the types of Mardi Gras throws that children less than three years old should not be allowed to play with it.
The plastic bags that throws and soft stuffed animals may be wrapped in can also quickly become a suffocation hazard and should not be given to young children. Swords and foam footballs are a popular catch for older kids, and they’ll often take advantage of these new acquisitions by tossing and/or sword fighting. Keep an eye on any little ones who may be hit or knocked over accidentally by the older kids who are playing.
Remember, not every throw is safe for your child. Check the throws that your child receives prior to allowing them to play with it. If you aren’t comfortable with something your child catches at a parade, try to “trade” the throw for an age appropriate toy.
Accidents Can Happen. Learn when to seek emergency care for your child.