“Showing livestock with kids in tow is the mother of invention.” Isn’t that how the saying goes? Or maybe it should? Ask any parent or grandparent who’s had to wrangle toddlers and young kids tagging along on the show circuit and you’re sure to get some fascinating and hilarious stories! Anyone can bring tablets and coloring books, but we know many of you have some genius life hacks out there and we’d love to hear them! Here are a few of our favorites among our RHD office crew. Please add your favorites in the comments section on this post.
- Neck ties for safety: Having a toddler in tow at a cattle show is not only a challenge keeping them entertained but safe as well. It only takes a moment as you’re helping their sibling, for them to wander into trouble or toddle underneath a neighbor’s calf. When my son was little we would loop a cattle neck tie through his belt loop and “tie” him off to the panel in whatever out of the way spot we parked him. He would spend hours with his trucks playing in the sand or shavings and we knew he couldn’t get far enough away to get into trouble.
- Lots of extra clothes: You would think this goes without saying, but…. just when you think your little cowboy or cowgirl is old enough to make it through the entire day in the same change of clothes, invariably fate will come through with a “hold my drink box and watch this” moment. I’ll never forget being at a Houston Livestock Show cattle sale one year when my son was about 4 years old, dressed adorably in his little starched jeans and the works. He was running around with a buddy and just as he planted a foot to turn and spin away – he planted that foot right in a fresh pile of cow poop at the edge of the slick concrete. He did a genuine whole body full length slide right through that sizable pile off loose cow doo. It was a six foot slide into home that would have made the Astros proud! Only it left us trying to clean caked cow poo off him from the bottom of his feet to the top of head with those rough brown paper towels in the restroom. I should have video’d the looks we got in that bathroom!
- Feed aisle forts: We’ve all built the blanket forts at home, but creativity takes on a whole new level in the feed isle or an empty hog or goat pen. Yes, blocks of shavings and bags of feed can be used for something besides nap mats – LOL. Stacked creatively and topped with buckets or feed pans, jackets or blankets, and you’ve got a handy fort of epic proportions. Just don’t be surprised if it attracts every kid in the barn under the age of 8, plus a few stray teenagers who want to join in the fun!
- The magic blower hose: Who hasn’t played this trick on their little one? Teach them to shake the end of the blower hose and it turns on “magically” (from someone manning the switch where the little doesn’t notice). Of course occasionally it won’t work until just when the little looks into the end of the hose to see what wrong and you blast their hair up in Einstein-worthy fashion. This blower trick and an all-over swipe with the blower sure helps clean up the kids after they’ve been playing in the sand, shavings, or feed isle fort of course too.
- Sailing through summer shows: Summer jackpot shows here in the south can be a sweltering nightmare. Since you’re all pretty much soaked with sweat anyway, what’s the harm in letting the kids get a little wet in the water buckets too? Just go ahead and give them a water bucket out of the way and some cups, boats, or toys to keep amused for hours. And if they wind up sitting in the water bucket before it’s all over, try to hide your jealousy and refer to #2 – the extra clothes you brought along will save the day.
- Swinging from the rafters: I’m not saying I recommend this, but I saw it once and stopped to gawk in “that’s genius – why didn’t I think of that?!” mom envy. Someone had brought a plastic baby swing and rigged it up to swing from their end cattle panel (where you would normally mount signs or fans). Their baby obviously loved to swing and was happy as a clam all day.
After all, showing livestock as a family is about more than just the ribbons and banners; it’s to teach kids life lessons. What better lesson can you learn than to take on the “adapt and overcome” attitude and make any day of work fun too? The kids who played in the feed isle forts at age 5 will be the first ones to round up kids for downhill races in the utility wagons at age 10, or set up the world’s biggest slip and slide at summer junior nationals at age 15. By the time they walk across the show ring for the last time, who knows what adventures they will be into?