Tips for Taking Children to Music Festivals

How to Make Your Festival-Centered Family Vacation the Best it Can Be!

Taking children to a music festival might seem like a bit of a daunting proposition -- even for those who have done it before!  There are a lot of things to take into consideration before you festivalize with kids, but if you're well-prepared, a great music festival can be as much fun for the whole family as a theme park or other traditional family vacation spot.

Pick the Right Festival

PeopleImages.com/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Not all festivals are ideal for children. When picking your festival choice, take a few things into consideration. First of all, is there music on during the day, and is at least some of it family-friendly? Lots of families prefer world or folk music festivals for this reason; as the general selection of daytime entertainment is a bit more kid-appropriate than it might be at a big rock festival, and truthfully, the crowds can be a bit mellower. Picking festivals where there will be other children is a good choice. If a festival advertises children's activities, especially children's music, that's usually a good sign that there'll be other kids afoot for yours to befriend.

Make Sure the Kids can Roll With It

If your kids hate outdoor activities, get easily overstimulated in big crowds, or don't enjoy loud music, a family trip to the water park might be a better choice for you.  If you're not sure how your kids will do at a big festival, give a try to a single-day festival near to your house before you make a commitment to a full weekend multi-stage music-and-camping extravaganza.  If your kids have a great time, that's a good sign.

Try your hardest to remember everything you might need.  Make a checklist well in advance, and do a double-check when you're packing your bags or the car.  Remember basic necessities (sunblock, first aid kits, medications, etc.), but also don't forget Junior's favorite teddy bear or favorite bedtime storybook.  These objects of comfort make a big difference.  Also, bring lots of extra clothes that allow for various climate conditions, and don't forget at least one extra pair of shoes.  Waterproof summer shoes, like Crocs, Keens, or Waveriders are particularly good for festivals. More »

Set up a Cozy Base Camp

If you're planning on camping at a festival for a weekend, your campsite will obviously become your base.  If you're going to a festival where you'll be staying overnight at a hotel or elsewhere, you'll want to find a little area that you can set up a blanket or some chairs (if, of course, the festival allows it).  It's great for everyone to be able to have a common spot that they can come back to and take a breather.  It's even better if this spot has shade, so if you're allowed to set up a beach umbrella or something along those lines, go for it!  Taking time-outs is refreshing for everyone in the family, and it's great to have a special place just for that purpose.

Be Readily Mobile

It can be tough to move from one place to the next when you've got kids, snacks, toys, diaper bags, and whatever else it is that children seem to "need" at all times, so be ready with some easy-mobility options. A classic little red wagon is great for this, even if the kids are too big for it... you can load the stuff up in the wagon and the kids can walk beside it. If it has brakes, it can make a mobile bench, as well. I know that a lot of families with toddler-age kids like to have a backpack-style baby carrier, as it lets the kid see what's going on, even if they're in a crowd of people. Normal city strollers aren't really "off-road" enough to handle the rough, grassy terrain that makes up lots of festival sites; a good all-terrain stroller should do the job, though.

Stick With Normal Schedules

It's darn near impossible to stay on your regular family schedule in the midst of festival hubbub, but it's worth at least attempting to keep some semblance of normalcy wherever possible.  That is, if your kids take afternoon naps at home, they should take afternoon naps at the festival.  If they go to bed at a certain hour, making that hour a wind-down time at the festival is a good goal.  This will maintain the kids' sanity and make them more likely to make it through three or four days without a breakdown.  Festivals are extra-exhausting, so getting kids to rest might actually be easier than you'd think.

Get a Schedule of Special Kids' Activities

Most festivals these days offer children-specific activities, including music workshops, craft-making, organized sporting events, and free lessons in activities like hacky-sacking or juggling.  Most festivals will advertise schedules of these activities ahead of time, so get your hands on that schedule and mark off some things that your kids are particularly interested in.  Some festivals also offer a lineup of kids music, another thing worth familiarizing yourself with in advance.

Enjoy Some Music

What's the point of going to a music festival if you're not going to hear any music?  Most kids love live music of all kinds, and they're uninhibited about dancing and really enjoying themselves.  If you're worried about your kids relating to the music, it might be fun to get ahold of a couple of CDs of bands who are playing at the festival in advance, so the kids can familiarize themselves with some of their songs before they hear them live.  It's worth remembering, of course, that music at festivals can be very loud, even far away from the stage.  Remember to protect the kidlets' hearing.  Ear plugs are good, noise protection earmuffs (Compare Prices) are better.  

Eat, Drink, and be Merry

It's important for the whole family to remain well-fed and well-hydrated for the duration of the festival, but kids are particularly susceptible to getting over-hungry, and they need to be reminded to drink enough fluids. Many festivals will allow you to bring your own food and drinks, and if this is the case, do it -- bottled water and juice, granola bars, bags of nuts or trail mix, dried fruit, and peanut butter crackers are all good choices.  If you're planning on buying vendor food, remember that it can be expensive and standard kiddie fare is not usually available -- save yourself from throwing away a $12 plate of food by asking vendors for a sample bite before buying, to ensure that the munchkin actually enjoys that particular dish.

Stay Safe

Keeping your child safe is a primary concern for parents bringing their child to a festival for the first time. There are some easy precautions you can take, though. First of all, keep your eyes on your kids. Seems obvious, but in the festival swing of things, things happen. Second, mark your child somewhere with your cell phone number (those child-sized rubber bracelets are the perfect place to write it). Third, always know what your kids are wearing. An easy tip: right after you get dressed in the morning, snap a picture of Kiddo with your cell phone camera or digital camera. That way, if your kid ends up misplaced for a moment, you won't have to be forced to remember, through your stress, if they were wearing a green shirt or a red one.

Tell Your Kids What to do if They Get Lost

As soon as you arrive at the festival, spend a few minutes showing your kid what to do if they get lost. Big kids can often stay oriented enough to know how to get to a security guard post, but small kids might need a bit more help. Often, festival staff wears a specific type of t-shirt, so that can be a thing to look for. Vendor booths can be a good and easy-to-find place for kids to go, as well, as they often have direct contact info for a festival staffer. Also, every stage has at least some staff members and security guards lingering somewhere nearby, and even very small children can find their way to a stage area. Lastly, when in doubt, kids should just find "another mommy," who will likely be glad to help your kid reconnect with you.