Twelve Tips for Navigating a Corn Maze with Children
by Katie Beltramo
It's a brainy puzzle to solve, a chance to get active outside, a family-bonding, community-building extravaganza. Whether this is your first corn maze or it's an annual tradition, these tips will help you get lost in fun.
1. Consider Your Options and Ask Ahead
Scary? Simple? An old favorite If you're checking out a new maze, check out the website or call ahead to see if it's the best option for your family. If you have little ones, is there a simpler maze? If it's a Halloween maze, will it be too scary or too childish? Keep in mind that mazes are usually redesigned each year, so if you had a favorite outing last year, you'll likely love it again and still find a challenge.
2. Consider an Aerial Photo or Map
Many corn mazes offer up an aerial photograph or a map of the maze either on their website or as a hand-out. Some folks consider this cheating, while others applaud it as an excellent method for teaching map skills. Whatever position you take, the grown-ups should decide whether or not they'll use these sources for help and, if so, make sure that they're easily accessible. Old-fashioned print-outs make it easier for kids to help navigate.
3. Pack Food & Water to Bring Along
Of course you don't want be lost in a maze. . . and hungry. Stow enough easy snacks and water that everyone will need if you happen to be in the maze twice as long as you expect. Not that you'll be there that long, but it's good to be prepared. But don't advertise the tasty snacks if you think at least one child will want to begin picnicking immediately--just have provisions available in case.
4. Dress for the Weather
Like spring, autumn can be a changeable season. Boots are often a great option because if it's been even a bit wet everywhere else, it's likely to get muddy in the maze. If you don't need boots, choose sneakers over flip flops. Wear layers in chilly weather and keep in mind that your days are getting shorter. Consider sunhats or other sunblockers because it won't be shady.
5. Check in Advance: What Happens if You Get Lost?
Whether you call ahead or inquire when you arrive, it's a good idea to ask about the procedure for if you get really, really lost. At some mazes, a member of the team holds up a flag, or there might be a number to call, or some other distress signal. It's good to know this ahead of time, and if you're choosing between corn mazes, the ability of staff to answer this question with confidence might help you choose a better-run place to visit.
6. Decide on Rules Ahead of Time
Will your group split up? Does your child have to stay near a grown-up? How do you define "near," exactly? Set the rules ahead of time so you don't get separated accidentally. You might tell kids that they need to hold a hand, stay with each other, or be able to see the group. You might choose a call-and-response game that signals that your child should freeze and respond until you've reconnected.
7. Respect the Maze
You should also review any other rules ahead of time. A couple of corn-maze-specific suggestions: Don't stamp down the corn, because that ruins the maze design for everyone else. And don't eat the corn! Sadly, this rule is born of bitter experience.
8. Go To the Bathroom
Yes, it's obvious, and you're likely to remind your kids. . . but the adults should do this, too.
9. Play the Game
Many corn mazes include trivia games or scavenger hunts as part of the adventure. You should go in planning to play the game. It's fun, and if you skip the first few stations, you're likely to regret it and wish you could go back. If the kids aren't having fun, you can always abandon it later.
10. Be Social
A corn maze is a great opportunity to connect with others. When you encounter other maze-goers, ask if they know if that left turn is a dead-end, compare notes on the maze game, and offer greetings. It's not just because you want to model civility to your kids (although of course you do). . . you'll all have more fun. They don't say the more, the merrier, for nothing.
11. When All Else Fails
Feeling lost, but you're not ready to give up? Follow these instructions from Suzanne Stokoe, Stokoe Farms in Scottsville, NY: "Look to your left, and follow that wall of corn continually until you find your way out. Don't touch the corn, stalks can be sharp!"
12. Use this Opportunity to Make Your Children More Brilliant
Why does Stokoe's technique work? Check out this awesome article from Perfect Parenthood.com that explains the technique (again, we don't think you should touch the wall itself, though), which is actually a terrific example of mathematical thinking. You might choose to explain the trick and show kids with the string how and why this technique works.
Follow our tips, and you'll be ready to conquer the corn maze. Get started this weekend with a site in your local area (click here to find your local list)! Your adventure awaits!
© 2016, Katie Beltramo