Festivals where ‘The Kids are Alright’

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There was always something that made me slightly apprehensive when hearing folks talking about how they take their kids to Glastonbury and oh, what fun it all is. Somewhere in my imaginings I pictured them crawling in the mud, stumbling across a used needle to entertain themselves with and sipping from an abandoned half litre of Scrumpy Jack. It was a bleak outlook.

Since then, I have been at festivals and met families that have changed my perspective entirely. Bestival on the Isle of Wight, and its friend Camp Bestival in Dorset for example, have entire line ups for kids, fancy dress parades, the lot – it’s a wonder the adults find anything to entertain themselves with! Really, I suppose what it boils down to is knowing your kids and your own limits, and recognising whether, as a family, this is going to be fun times all the way, or a complete nightmare.

Here are a few tips for anyone giving a festival a shot for the first time as a family this summer. For the record, I am PRAYING for sunshine for you. Boy, does the weather make a difference under these circumstances.

Be ready to compromise. Do you really want to take your kids with you? Remember that if you do, there is inevitably things you are going to miss out on. You might have to trade Florence and The Machine for Mr Bumble Live, or miss your favourite headliner because, quite frankly, your merry bunch are shattered. It’s a distinct possiblity. It isn’t fair to go along just expecting to drag them along to everything you want to do and see. It might not be entirely safe to do that either. Reality check, my friends.

Pick the right festival. The best festivals for kids are those which include more than bands alone – so look for events that are more rounded with arts and crafts, comedy, theatre, poetry… Often these events will have specific stuff for kids laid on. Remember that not all festivals are suitable for children. Bear in mind curfews (it might be a relief to know the last band finishes at 1 rather than music running all through the night), camping arrangements (some might not allow caravans), facilities (showers?) – There is LOTS to consider! Generally, smaller festivals can have a more family friendly atmosphere –there might even be one going on in your local area that you could give a try as a trial run for something further afield. www.festivalkidz.com has some great advice and pointers.

Be prepared. Take almost anything you can think of that might come in handy. Now is not the time to leave their favourite teddy on the kitchen table (though bear in mind that it might need a good run through the washing machine when you get home). Remember snacks, wellies, sun-cream, waterproofs, millions of baby wipes, hand sanitizer, a potty (!), a baby carrier/sling (rather than a pushchair to drag through the mud) …

Get your kids into the music too. If there are a few bands you’ve got your absolute heart set on seeing then help your kids like them too. Nothing like a little gentle brainwashing! Play the CD in the car on the school run, have them singing along so that they’ll recognise it and find it exciting when they see it live. Remember that they might not enjoy the noise level as much as you towards the front of the crowd so you might prefer to hang back a little where they can dance and have less opportunity to get beer sploshed over them. Nice. Also, even a teenager likes to get on your shoulders at times. Tis true.

Be safe. There is going to be lots of distractions for your kids and lots of opportunities for them to get coaxed out of sight. I’m sure you won’t have any disasters but be prepared for a worst case scenario – have your phone number on a wristband on them, prime them with what to do if they lose you, and locate the lost children points early on.

Have fun with it! Don’t put too much pressure on the whole thing, have a great time and allow your kids to do the same – they’ll find all sorts of fun things going on too and you’ll most likely discover things that you wouldn’t have without them. Balance things they find fun with the things you do and it should be great!