Five Tips for Attacking an Amusement Park with Three Somewhat-Young Kids

The chaos has ended.

I started to write this post minutes after we arrived home and had put the kids to bed.

I couldn’t do it.

I was physically tired. Mentally exhausted. A little sunburned. My feet were sore.

I had just trekked back and forth across an amusement park that is part roller coaster rides and part waterslides.

And the best part? I did it with three still-somewhat-young kids.

A day later and I’m still recuperating.

NOTE: It’s been a week and a half later and I think I’ve finally recuperated. Lis has told me to relax a bit and not give myself deadlines for my writings that don’t need deadlines, so that’s what I’ve been doing. Plus, I’m attempting this whole digital detox, less screen time, thing. Plus my supervisor said something last weekend about something he read on my blog. I didn’t know he knew about my blog. Turns out when they hire people they do some snooping, so because I want to advance in this career I briefly put my site on private and have gone back to thinking about doing it again, and removing myself from social media. I know it’s mostly just pictures of me and my kids, but nothing is better than something. Back to our amusement park tales …

I’m getting old. A day of fun, and a night of exhaustion, takes me at least two normal nights of sleep to get back to ‘normal.’

In the past I’ve written about tips for air travel with a toddler, and tips with road travel with three kids, one while being potty trained.

Now it’s time for Five Tips for Attacking an Amusement Park with Three Somewhat-Young Kids.

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NOTE: The t-shirts were made by my mom for Fourth of July (thus the red/white/blue theme) but we thought it’d be appropriate to represent at Silverwood.

A little background to our adventure:

Our two eldest (Lukas, 10 and Lia, 6) won free tickets to Silverwood Theme Park, which includes Boulder Water Park. I shouldn’t say ‘won’ as they earned them by reading throughout the school year. Read daily, turn in your monthly calendars and you earn a free ticket to Silverwood Theme Park. We push the reading thing because not only do they earn fun stuff like the free tickets, free Pizza Hut pizzas, Papa Murphy’s cookie dough and more, which we all benefit from, but they also get a little better edumacated (yes, I know I spelled that incorrectly) by reading books. Imagination, bigger vocab and better spelling skills, you know how it works.

Since the kids earned the two free tickets the wife and I thought we’d take the Johnson Five – this includes our youngest, Levi, who is 4 – to Silverwood. It would be our first adventure to any type of park without my extended family joining us. We did Legoland and Disneyland last year, but we had my parents in tow. We had done waterslides, but we had Uncles and Aunties to help out. This time it was just us, and our odd number of family members.

We decided to tackle it on a Tuesday hoping to beat the foot traffic, so I took a ‘vacation’ day and we headed out to Northern Idaho, a nice 35-minute drive, to the amusement park.

After nine hours of walking, riding, sliding, snacking and a little crying, here are my Five Tips for Attacking an Amusement Park with Three Somewhat-Young Kids:

Tip No. 1 – Don’t!
Seriously, don’t. If the kids earn the free tickets next year we’ll pass them on to the illiterate kids who slacked off during the school year.

First, we’re a family of five. There’s going to be an odd person out. And because of their ages, that odd one is usually Lukas (when actually I’m the real odd one). Levi, despite being a ‘good size’ 4-year-old, barely meets height requirements of 44″ (he’s 46″ thanks to having his dad’s conehead), and if he does he only meets the requirements that require him to ride with an adult.

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SIDEBAR: With the first child I liked to measure height, weight and percentile and sometimes would like to compare them to what other kids their age seem to be. Oh, my son is at 95-percent, let’s enter it into the growth calculator online and see how tall he’ll be. We all do this, and now that I’ve had two more it drives me crazy. You don’t know where they’ll end up. My youngest brother was supposed to be taller than me. Everyone in the family believed he’d be taller than me. Well despite his attempts to either stand on his tippy-toes, or take the higher ground when we take pictures, he’s not. Eventually we all stop growing and then we’re able to actually measure each other by height. But then it doesn’t matter and we all want to measure by how much we know, or how much money we make. That doesn’t matter either. I’m above-average in height, below-average in what I know and make, and I’m loving life. So be it.

Where was I?

Lia decides she needs to ride with me, because she’s Daddy’s Girl, and unfortunately a little more persistent than Lukas. Why the two of them can’t just ride together and leave me out of this I’ll never know, so Lukas gets to sit with the strange man.

We knew going into having five that life would be a little different. Well, maybe not going into it, it’s not like we were thinking about that while doing the baby-making process. You have to squish into a booth at the restaurant, you have to snag that minivan with the extra backseat (and then organize them into who wants to eavesdrop into Mom and Dad’s conversation during our long drives – put them in the back. Who tosses chunks and needs to be by the automatic doors – but them on the side), oh and there’s always someone open, oh and you have to have someone ride solo at the amusement park.

This will all be a moot point when the kids are older. We’ll let them defend for themselves and Mom and Dad will finally be able to hold hands while going on the roller coaster rides. How cute! Again, I’m talking about ‘Somewhat-Young Kids’ so we’ll tackle the teenage version of the Johnson Five later down the road. Won’t it be fun?! Actually Lis and I are looking forward to it.

Plus, when you’re rolling with Somewhat-Young Kids there are some rides you just can’t go on.

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We decided to go on a wooden roller coaster called Tremors (click on Tremors for not-our POV of the ride). It goes 63-mph, drops you 103-feet and then takes you through four underground tunnels that are so short that if you stand up you will be decapitated. The signs even told us this, which didn’t help the kids calm their nerves.

As we approached the docking bay Lia and Lukas were already tremoring (see what I did there?). When the cars pulled up Levi finally realized what we had been standing in line for and freaked. But Lis wasn’t going to let him win. As he tried to pin himself to the wall, she snagged him in a, “Not so fast” motion and pulled him onto the ride. A few minutes later and we felt like we had tortured the kids.

Lia and Levi were sobbing and Lukas was a bit sore from being so wound up that every jerk and drop made him ache.

SIDEBAR AGAIN: The below video will probably put us in trouble with Child Protection Services because Lis and I found it funny that the kids were sobbing. Yes, we are those parents. My dad once burned me with a magnifying glass on Christmas Day as a joke. It hurt, I cried, but I learned a lesson that day. Don’t always trust my dad. Oh wait, wrong lesson. Lia fell a day before and scrapped her knee, we didn’t jump out of the park bench and sprint toward her (though a couple other helicopter parents did for us, which made us feel like maybe we were failing). We asked her to stop sobbing and walk over here so we can look at it. She was fine. It’s a scrap, minutes later she was fine, and turns out she still loves us. And because of what I mentioned before about posting stuff online, you can find the video here but I won’t post it on the site. 

The rest of the day it was no more roller coasters. Even the sound of them made Levi run like a frightened dog on the Fourth of July. Seriously, when Lis rode Aftershock and the sound of the coaster started I caught him sprinting away. I asked him, “Levi where you going?” and as he ran off he shouted, “I don’t like the sound of these things.” Funny, he said the same thing about the hand dryers as he sprinted out of the bathroom too.

Tip No. 2 – If You Do Go … Take Your Parents!
Grandparents are great! They come in handy, and often while you’re at an amusement park. Grandma doesn’t like to ride the rides, so if you’re afraid hang out with Grandma. Odds are she’ll take you into a gift shop. Papi gets tired, so as the day drags on he’s ready to escape for a nap, and you can usually pawn the youngest off on him. Plus he loves to snack, so odds are he’ll end up buying ice cream cones that Mom doesn’t want to spend the money on.

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Tip No. 3 – Prepare to Spend Time on the Kiddie Rides!
That’s the breaks man. You have kids. You just scared the living daylights out of them by not easing them into the amusement park, but rather yanking that Band-Aid right off. Remember how much you loved roller coasters as a kid. You didn’t! And you still don’t. Yah, well these kids are your blood, and will have some tendencies like you, and some like your wife. Lesson somewhat learned.

So as Mom enjoyed going upside down while dangling from a contraption, with a drop of 177 feet, or spinning round-and-round, upside down at 104 feet, the kids and I are riding an impostor Dumbo ride, a train that goes in a perfect oval six times or Red Baron airplanes that go up and down.

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Tip No. 4 – Be patient
We spent 45 minutes waiting in line and walking up hill so we can take a giant inner tube back down it – as a family. We all love water, swimming and waterslides. As we approach things are still cool and everyone is excited. Finally it’s our time and Lukas and Lia hop into the tube with no issues. Lis follows and as she tries to help Levi in he freaks. Like freaks! The 19-year-old lifeguard says, “I can’t let you go down unless he says he wants go go.” “I don’t want to go! I don’t want to go!” Levi shouts as he attempts to scurry out of the tube. Lis snags him, we tell the lifeguard he’s OK, he’s screaming he’s not. Finally Lis gives in and decides she’ll take the long walk down, and the rest of us are sent on our way, unhappy because we’re missing two people.

Ugh! Lis and I both wanted the lifeguard to just push us and send us on our way. Back to that whole failing-as-parent-thing. He’ll deal with it when we arrive at the bottom 20 seconds later. Instead we’re both grumpy, feeling impatient and again thinking we’re not doing an amusement park for another 10 years.

So yes, be patient because you might have kids that will back out at the last minute, and be patient because there is a lot of standing in line. Except for that impostor Dumbo ride.

Tip No. 5 – Make It Fun (and bring lunch)!
OK, so I may complain through the first four tips, but it was a lot of fun. As mentioned this was the first time the five of us spent time together and we had a blast. I always love spending time with my growing family, and we definitely had a great time despite the aforementioned tears.

We loved watching Mom ride all the crazy rides. We laughed at the fact that we scared the crap out of the kids. We were excited that Lukas nervously decided to go on the other wooden roller coaster called Timber Terror with me. We had a blast doing the bumper boats together (see video below) and a bigger blast when we were soaked doing the river-rafting ride Thunder Canyon (see picture above).

The weather was a bit chilly, so we didn’t spend enough time at the water park, but it was fun having Lia tow me through the lazy river, Elkorn Creek.

We spent 10 hours there, had a wonderful time and are excited to return … in 10 years, maybe nine.

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