Prep + Pack for a Day at the State Fair with Children

I received a really flattering compliment one day at the Iowa State Fair and it was all because I reeeally thought out what to bring to the state fair. Yes, I have an embarrassing amount of pride about my state fair system and I figured it’s time I show it. Now that I’ve said that, I’m sure I’ll experience some sort of fail this year.

Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.

Pr. 16:18, KJV

Anyway. We’ve been die-hard fair attenders since my son was a year old. I’ve breastfed there. I’ve changed lots of diapers there. I’ve desperately tried to get little ones to nap in their strollers there.

And you know what? I have NO regrets. Going to the state fair, even while juggling an exceedingly large amount of stuff PLUS two little ones has always been worth it.

Sometimes the best outings with those kiddos are the ones that seem the most difficult to pull off.

This will be our fifth year going as a family. So here are my best tips, moms!

What to Bring to the State Fair (Rockin’ Mom Life Edition)

The system I created means carrying a large bag, diaper bag, or backpack with several smaller bags inside. Backpacks can be hot, so if you know you’ll be using a stroller or wagon, attach or stow your bag with it if you can. If it’s not a sweltering day (lucky you!) a backpack is actually a great idea.

I take gallon baggies, label them, and fill them up like so…

The Outdoors Bag

The Food Bag

  • napkins
  • wipes
  • veggie snack packs for having with lunch
  • for little ones: sippy cup/bottle, pacifier, spoon, plastic bib
  • empty non-spill drink bottles for all!
  • an emergency change of clothes, including underwear. Depending on the age, you can stash this in the car (for older kids and even adults) or bring it with you (for little ones who could easily have an accident/spill etc.) One year we went through THREE changes of clothes for Sylvie!

The Oh-Snap! Bag [First Aid]

  • band-aids and antibiotic cream
  • tums
  • ibuprofen

The Well, DUH! Bag

  • your id
  • printed tickets if purchased ahead of time
  • cash
  • your charged phone
  • bracelets with phone numbers for kids (more on this below)
  • diapers, etc. for baby

Look up your state fair rules online and find out if there are restrictions on what you can’t bring. Most of them frown on outside beverages and food. (Milk for your baby is, of course, allowed!)


More Reading on Parenting Preschoolers and Toddlers

10 Crazy Useful Tips for a Staycation with Kids

10 Tips for Peaceful Road Trips with Preschoolers

Potty Training Your Toddler on the Go (12 Hacks!)

Make Every Day Awesome with Your Child’s First Calendar

How to Face Your Child’s First Day of Kindergarten


What Moms Should Find Out Before Going to the Fair

Our favorite things to know about the fair is where the bathrooms are and which buildings are air-conditioned. 🙂 It’s so helpful for the whole family. We also check out parking locations and prices.

Before you take your kids, learn about the child-friendly activities. Also make sure you look up possible carnival rides for kids and what the height restrictions are. Trust me, you don’t want to buy tickets for a ride only to find out that your child isn’t big enough to be allowed on. (I’ve never done that, of course.)

Your Fair Research List

  • parking locations/prices
  • renting strollers/wagons
  • bathroom locations
  • which buildings are air-conditioned
  • child-friendly activities
  • ride restrictions for kids

The Iowa State Fair is kind of a dream for moms. There are loads of activities for kiddos, including my favorite, Little Hands on the Farm. There’s also TWO different air-conditioned buildings with private nursing areas, rocking chairs, and changing tables for your babies. Research your fair before you go to see if it has something similar.

Going to the Iowa State Fair, Mama?
Good move.The nursing/changing stations are in the Animal Learning Center and the Walnut Center. Visit the Kid-Friendly Activities page to learn about having fun with your kiddos at the fair.


Safety for Kids at the Fair

Teach your kids in general about staying with you and what to do if they get lost. We like Little Critters book, Just Lost! to help start that conversation. This book is super cute and talks about getting lost from a child’s perspective with a bit of humor. It’s sweet and my kids love it.

It’s a great idea to buy an “if lost call” bracelet for your kids just in case. You can write your phone number on them and I bet your kids will love wearing them!

It also doesn’t hurt to know where to go in the event that your child gets separated from you. Every fair will have a procedure to follow and a place for you to go if your child wandered away from you.

Ry and I try to talk about this with the kids occasionally so that we don’t freak out our kiddos on the day of the fair. A casual little reminder to stick with mommy, daddy and/or grandparents is all we do.

My Favorite Tip For Moms

Here it is: If you can manage, go for a half-day at the fair.

This tip has been a lifesaver for us. When we go to the fair, we get there first thing in the morning, have our fun, grab a lunch, do one more thing, and before 1:00 hits, we leave!

Doing this lets our tired kids get the naps they need. We’ve been able to go two days in a row this way, and it’s saved our family from total exhaustion and the tantrums that can result.

Moms Unite!

So are you dying to know what I loved hearing at the fair? I was in the *glorious* changing area when I heard a mom ask the staff for a band-aid because her little boy scraped his knee. They didn’t have anything, but I gave her one of mine (Paw Patrol, of course) and the woman working there said it was “so nice to see moms helping each other out.”

I hope you have a wonderful trip and that you enjoy being ready for a day of fun! If you see a mom in need, share whatever you can. It’s worth it, and I’m giving you permission to let it go to your head.

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