7 Tips for Taking Kids to a Music Festival
I used to be a frequent music-festival attendee. Once I got married and had kids the festivals faded from my life. Recently my four-year-old son started taking guitar lessons and I thought he might be ready to appreciate a music festival.
My willing husband, my enthusiastic four-year-old and I descended upon the Winnipeg Folk Festival in early July. We had a great time and I learned a lot about how to enjoy a music festival with kids in tow. Here are my tips for making your own kid-inclusive music festival experience a great one for everyone.
(These tips are written with my four-year old in mind. They apply to children aged 2-8.)
1) Think Transport and Shelter
When you go to a full-day festival without kids you can get away with carrying nothing but your wallet (sunscreen, bug repellent, a hat and a bottle of water are also good ideas). With kids you add a toy or two, a change of clothes, a few snacks, a camera…. Suddenly your backpack is bulging and you can’t imagine carrying it all day.
At the Folk Festival we managed to get by with one heavy backpack. However, I was envious of parents pushing cycle trailers (the kind that are completely enclosed and have seatbelts inside for kids, like this). These are a brilliant item to take because:
• The kids can ride instead of walk, which is helpful if the festival has several stages or areas to walk between.
• They usually have a trunk to stow gear, thus no heavy backpack.
• The wheels are big so they can handle rugged terrain if the festival’s in a field.
• They provide complete shelter from sun and rain. Kids can even nap inside.
There were also parents with strollers and with wagons. These are sound alternatives but offered less shelter from sun and rain and tended to have smaller wheels making them more difficult to control. If you don’t have or want child-transport, do take an umbrella. If it’s a hot day, the umbrella will provide shade. If it’s rainy, your kids can stay dryer.
2) Snacks As A Tool For Fun
We eat healthily and generally feed our kids wholesome snacks. We therefore took healthy snacks with us. However, we learned that a small treat could buy us valuable music-listening time. Take or buy healthy snacks but find something a bit more fun for when the main act walks on stage (e.g., a bag of cotton candy or a popsicle). It could mean the difference between watching the show and playing yet another game of tag on the side lines.
3) Pack Or Buy Some Fun
It’s a good idea to take a small toy or book with you. However, you don’t want to carry it around all day, especially if you don’t have a cycle trailer. Equip your child with a backpack and tell them that they can carry their toys. Alternatively, leave the toys at home and promise to buy something at the festival. Often there are vendors selling unusual items so this could be the place to find a unique toy. And shopping for the toy will give you adults the chance to wander through the vendor section as well. When at the Winnipeg Folk Festival we got J a Balloon Buddy (a fabric case that turns a balloon into a bouncing ball). While shopping, I simultaneously tried on some cute tops.
4) Research but Don’t Divulge
Music festivals often have entertainment for kids (puppet shows, children’s musicians, face-painting, etc). Find out beforehand what there will be. If there’s a schedule, check it out so you’ll know when and where to go. However, don’t tell your kids too much about these festivities beforehand. Mention that there might be fun things for them but don’t give details. This way, the kids will discover more than they expect and will be surprised and excited when they spot the entertainment. They also won’t be disappointed if you wind up missing something because everyone was enjoying an actual musical performance.
5) Be A Team Player
Our son had trouble sitting through whole performances. When he started to get antsy, one of us would take him to play while the other continued to enjoy the show. If there was a particular performer that one of us wanted to fully appreciate, we had a strategy: The person who wanted to see the show went on their own while the other parent hung out at the kids’ tent. We only did this a couple of times but it allowed us each a brief chance to see a whole show undisturbed.
Alternatively, consider going to the festival with another family. Friends of ours go with a group of families and set up a “home-base” in the shade near the children’s activities. This base is a place to stash coolers and blankets but it’s also a meeting place for the group. Throughout the day there are always one or two adults on duty in the children’s area watching over the kids of the group. The other adults are free to go to the shows.
6) Part of a Show is Better Than None
When you’re at a music festival with kids you should be ready for their short attention spans. Remember that it’s o.k. to leave a show partway through. Getting bits and pieces of the acts is better than not seeing any of them. Also, getting up and leaving is much better for you and for the other attendees than trying to cajole and constrain a squawking little one.
7) The Most Important Tip: Happiness is Key
If your goal is for yourself to see and enjoy as much as possible, you probably should get a babysitter and leave the kids at home. If your goal is to expose yourself and your children to a positive musical environment where they can begin to enjoy live music, then you’ve had success just by making it through to the end without major incident. If everyone has fun, whether they’re watching the concerts or not, then they’ll want to go again. As they get older they’ll pay more and more attention to the music and you will have succeeded in helping them develop an interest in live performance. Pat on the back for you, parent.
About the Author
Christine Pittman is the recipe developer, writer and photographer at Cook the Story, where it’s all about the story (except when it’s about the food!). She’s a Canadian stay-at-home mom who has somehow found herself living in Florida. Her recipes are simple, fresh and from scratch while her writing is simple, fresh and from her funny bone. You don’t want to miss any of her real food, real writing or flavorful pictures so be sure to follow her on her blog, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+!