Either way, the visit needs to be fun. Sometimes it's good to dress up, or to take along your sword and shield. In the past we've made some great shields using cardboard and papier mache, and to be fair, they lasted a year, but didn't survive my decluttering before the move. When I saw plain wooden shields for sale (these ones were from Ludlow Castle - I'm sure I've seen them elsewhere, but can't find them on the English Heritage shop site, or even on Amazon just now!), I thought it was a genius idea, as it gives the children yet another idea to express their creativity and personality.
Bug definitely wanted a dragon on hers, preferably wrapped around its egg. I drew it for her, and we did the painting together. C knew exactly what he wanted on his, and got stuck in straight away. I just drew around the outlines of his design in permanent pen once the paint had dried. Now I'm going to give them a couple of coats of varnish each and they should last for some time - even if they get some wooden sword action. They've got quite sturdy handles on the back too.