We recently had our first theme park experience. The first thing that struck me, and with a heavy force, was the entry fee (my husband attributed this to my Eastern Bloc upbringing, as I suppose he must follow the Jesuit stance that you give them a baby and they will show you the person at the tender age of 7). I was also unprepared for the meal situation. We packed lunch but one insufficient for what ended up being a whole day around the park and were forced to grovel at the trough of what indubitably contained the grand makers of heart disease. There's also a lot of waiting around in lines in which wearied parents on the brink of capitulation try to tame their hyped up kids with weak threats and scuffles (a brilliant training exercise in patience).
The whole experience is really an interactive marketing campaign for the park owner's products including a shop that is delicately placed right where one must exist with children's keen eyes ever ready to pounce on their new merchant conquest. Sometimes being a good parent means swallowing your ideological stance, and as much as I didn't want to pay for advertising that was directed to me, I couldn't wait to see how my 2 year old would act when his favourite activity, apart from reading and spinning around in circles (which is the gateway act to seeing how fun altering your reality is), Lego, surrounded him. Lego dinosaurs! Lego rockets! Lego cars! Lego robots! Well, he still talks about it. Admittedly, we had a lot of fun too.
The one issue with our two year old, apart from digesting and accepting the concept of waiting for a ride, was the fact that he could not touch the Lego structures. If we let go of him for a second, we would see him run to a Lego plane and we would have to catch him before we would get kicked out of the park. We took photos in front of the city where we live, SF and the city where our first son was born, NY, smiling all the while I was secretly sad that while the cities looked impressive, they were not geographically correct. If you're going to put in all the effort of having someone do a Lego New York, at least put the buildings in the right place! Maybe the dark dirty secret is that the Lego structures are hollow.... I also made a fool of myself by complaining that they must have simply smashed different European cities together in a crude way as a prelude to making a comment about insular modern American culture until it was pointed out to me with an appropriately raised eyebrow that I was looking at a depiction of Vegas. I'm going to blame it on my maternal diminished grey matter.
How did we avoid the Lego store on exit? Distraction. I cannot emphasize how much of an effective tool distraction can be - at least it works with our son. He can be so intensely focused on one thing, recursively repeating a demand, that to negotiate directly against his wish becomes futile and the only saviour becomes distraction, by delicately attracting his thought to another object and/or subject, his previous mantra is discarded in favour of the new new. Boom.