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Helping kids get the most out of Expo

THE World Expo is not designed for children - it's not kid-sized - but visiting the sprawling multi-faceted site can be fun and educational, if parents plan in advance.

From their height, what kids mostly see at the Expo Park are lots of legs, crowds of grown-ups towering over them. It can be boring and tiring.

But there is a cool daily parade, a grand theme show and the Abilia Experience Center for children.

That's the message from Luo Haizhou, director of Ugrowup Family Education Center, a Shanghai-based organization providing child development programs and family education services.

"When I asked my son what he saw after a recent visit to the World Expo Shanghai, he answered, 'People'!"

"But if you do your homework properly, World Expo will be a once-for-a-lifetime experience for your child. The intense exposure to creativity, originality and diversity from all over the world is well worth all the investment of your time and energy to take your child to the Expo," Luo says.

"And the benefits will last as long as you can imagine."

The message is clear: Plan before hand, prep your child and march in.

Some of Luo's tips:

1. Be prepared.

All Expos reflect contemplation of important issues facing humanity and participants offer different ideas about solving the great problems. This can be daunting.

So do your research. Collect information on exhibits and decide which places will be most interesting for your child. Discuss the ideas about building better cities with your child in advance - and what it means to your daily life. This will pique their curiosity and raise their expectations.

Ask your child what he/she wants to see.

For many families, this might be one of the few serious discussions between parent and child that does not involve table manners, test scores or personal hygiene.

2. Be positive.

The park covers more than 5 square kilometers and several hundred thousand people visit every day. Long walks and waiting are inevitable. You and your child can easily get exhausted and frustrated, but your child looks to you for cues and will pick up on your negative feelings.

If your child is under 10 years, take a kid stroller or rent one from the information desk near the entry gate. It will probably become handy, even for you. Take along favorite toys or video games so kids can play as they wait in line. It's a carnival, so be upbeat and share your positive feelings with your child.

3. Be potty proactive.

The toilet facilities are numerous and well planned so you shouldn't have much trouble finding the potty when nature calls. But just as Murphy's Law rules, the toilet may seem to disappear when your child needs it most. Always keep an eye out for the potties, wherever you go. Ask your child whether he/she wants to "go" - don't wait for them to tell you.

As with all such summer outings, wear comfortable shoes and clothes that are easy to take off and carry.

4. Don't be greedy.

If you are having a buffet, don't overeat - set a good example for your child. The smart thing to do is to choose the most unusual and tempting dishes for a taste. Likewise, don't try to cover the whole park in one day. Take a map and plan short trips over several days.

If you can only afford one day, visit the pavilions along the river. Even if you can't get inside, the view won't be disappointing.

When you arrive, make several reservations for the Abilia Experience Center, the only place designed for children's career experience. They can learn about different careers and learn social skills through role play - you can take a nice rest.

5. Avoid crowds.

That's what most mothers tell their children at one time or another. And that's certainly right when it comes to crowded Expo. Avoid peak months (October), and peak days - all holidays and weekends. Skipping one day of school won't hurt your child's test scores and the returns are rewarding. Many schools plan visits in late September and advance knowledge of Expo will make your child outshine his/her classmates. Isn't that what most parents crave anyway?

6. Don't miss the show.

There are daily grand parades in Pudong and Puxi sties. The theme show is fantastic - the tickets are worth the price if you only attend the parades and the show. So check out the show times and be positioned on a good spot.

What's more, the pavilions are a show in themselves, designed by the world's most prestigious architects and designers. Their shapes, colors and structure are a feast to behold, and discuss with your child.

Take lots of pictures and you can talk about them later.


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