Mardi Gras Float Building For Beginners

Mardi Gras season is in full swing. Schools are going on a week long vacation. There are parades every day until Wednesday. I was even in a parade this past Wednesday night! All of this is great fun. But what stresses me out the most about this wonderful time of year is the inevitable school parade. All the schools have little parades that the children march in. Some schools just have the kids dress up and walk around throwing beads. Other schools, though, ask that the children “help” the parents decorate a float for them to ride in. And when they say help, they really mean the parents do all the work and the children ride in the float. Because let’s be honest, what sort of practical construction skills does a 2 or 3 year old have? This is supposed to be a really fun activity for the MG2013family. And watching the kids in the floats is great fun. Building the float? Not so much. At least for me.

Our float building usually goes something like this:

1) Planning. The last two years it’s been something Disney related. We always think, “Oh this won’t be too bad. How hard can it be to recreate Elsa’s ice palace?”

2) Brainstorming. Or the, “Oh crap! How am I going to recreate Elsa’s ice palace?” phase. This year we decided to buy a large cardboard play castle and then paint it. Instead of painting it by hand, I bought a punch of spray paint and glitter spray paint to use. But this approach is not without problems either. Spraying a can for a long time really makes your hand cramp up! And I learned that you should always wear rubber gloves when spraying unless you want paint all over your hands.

3) Constructing. I leave this to my husband because I have zero ability in this department. Last year we used a large garden cart for the wagon. While it worked well to put the child in, it did not work for beads and throwing. The beads kept getting caught in the holes and she got frustrated every time she tried to throw something. In our post parade debrief report, we realized that we needed to lay plywood down and build up the sides to make it easier for her ride. (This is the part where the arguments usually happen because I am a born micro-manager. I feel the need to interject my ideas in every aspect. This usually causes a fight and then my husband and I realize that we just do not work well on projects together and this is the reason why we don’t even try to paint a room together.)

4) Crap-tomorrow-is-the-parade-and-we-are-still-not-done! Every year. Every. Single. Year. The day and night before are pretty much spent finishing up last minute touches to the float such as decorating and gluing. I unnamed (3)realize there still isn’t enough glitter. My husband realizes that we need to figure out how to actually get the two pieces together. Fun times.

5) Transporting gigantic float to school. We own not 1 but 2 Priuses. I love these cars so much. But they are not good for hauling big objects like garden carts or 4 foot tall ice castles. Thank goodness we live very close to school. Last year we were able to walk over with the float. We will do the same this year.

6) Size up what all the other parents did. This is where you realize how homemade your float looks compared to the specially commissioned school mascot float the other girl has or the boat on wheels the other girl is riding on. Or, “Oh my goodness! Does that float have steps and a platform???” Let’s just hope the child doesn’t notice these details.

7) The parade! This is when you forget how much work you put in and stop caring what anyone else’s float looks like because your child is happy and smiling and having the time of her life. She is throwing beads like a champ and screaming, “Happy Mardi Gras!”

Does float building stress anyone else out?


  1. only shoe box floats at our school. Only one out of 2 of my kids did one. I found out 2 nights before it was due because the teacher allowed to kids to pass out the papers and i never got a paper about it. I found out because I had a meeting with the teacher. So no, my son’s float wasn’t elaborate and was very much basic. Oh well, he loved it!


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