No doubt your five-year-old can whip up a passable French onion soup and your teenager is an old hand at emulsifying sauces. Kids today are often quite savvy, food-wise, and count “Iron Chef” and “Chopped” among their must-see TV.
But though you are quite fond of them, does that mean that you want your children to accompany you to the Food & Wine Festival? Well, yes and no, and here’s how to make it work. You have heard us say this before, and you will hear us say it again: Plan ahead. (The 2011 Festival runs from September 30 to November 13 and takes place in Epcot.) In fact, if you do not automatically think “Disney World” and the phrase “plan ahead” in the same thought, then we’re not doing our job properly. So below, here are some tips so you can gaze upon your choucroute garnie—and, happily, eat it too.
- Without or without kids, the Festival will take some research. Events abound, from culinary demonstrations to mixology seminars; book signings to musical performances. Many require reservations; some carry additional fees. If you haven’t done so already, figure out which ones are must-attends, and sign up for the ones that allow advance reservations. Start scheduling the others into your overall trip.
- Figure out which ones your kids can attend. Remember, grownups are occasionally allowed to have fun all by themselves–even those with kids. Do not feel guilty. Everyone will be happier if kids don’t go to events where they don’t want to be and that are not really appropriate for them.
- Make arrangements ahead of time–have another adult agree to hang out with kids during the time you’re watching a demonstration, or arrange for a babysitter.
- When you get to Epcot, go to the Welcome Center and pick up your Marketplace Discovery Passport.
- Many kids love sampling new foods; others never look at anything outside a chicken finger. Before you leave for Disney World, try serving some new foods and get them used to the idea of more exotic tastes.
- At the Festival, select some options in which they can participate. A cheese tasting might not be a priority, but they might enjoy checking out the Cranberry Bog display in front of the World Showcase, for example, or you might let them sample tapas or other specialty foods at one of the kiosks that are set up. (You’ll have to pay for the privilege, so just make sure they’ve eaten a meal first!)
- Let kids have their own food experiences. Have them choose new restaurants or foods to try; have them be a “food critic.” Give kids small notebooks so they can jot down their impressions of foods they eat; or select recipes they want to try. See if you can find cookbooks or other souvenirs so you can recreate your favorites, or plan on looking for a recipe later. (Jot down descriptions of foods you enjoyed so you remember. Or have kids be the official jotters.) Give them instant or digital cameras to use so they can take pictures to accompany their writing. When they get home, have them make an official Disney kids’ cookbook.
- Ask kids to write a food blog or dairy that you can send to family back home.
- Give kids “tickets” that they can redeem for food items. If you’re on the dining plan, save some snack credits!
- If you’re at an event and you’re happily engaged and kids aren’t, don’t despair. You are, happily, in Disney World, not at a graduate lecture seminar at MIT. (However, it will feel like one if you don’t give kids things to keep them busy.) Always keep a stash of small goodies handy. A mix of stuff from home and new Disney stuff works well. Try to keep the food theme going with a kids’ cookbook or food stickers. Or have kids make a food-themed collage with menus and souvenir items. (Tip: in your “kid craft kit,” always carry a glue stick, small colored pencils, and stickers!)
- Have kids choose foods for favorite stuffed animals or dolls and make a mini cookbook.
- Take your child’s personality into account. Some kids will love attending a culinary demonstration; others would rather be taking a math test. If it’s worth the fee, consider letting an older child have a really special experiences. (Call ahead and ask if it’s appropriate, however.)
The secret is to make sure that everyone gets to do something they really want to, and that kids are engaged even if they’re not enthralled. Remember: it tastes better if a five-year-old is not pulling on your leg, asking in a loud voice when this will be over.
Do you have any tips on how to have kids enjoy the Food & Wine Festival? Let us know!