To many people, the idea of carting their precious offspring off to a music festival is unthinkable. For the non-festival goer it can conjure up images of heaving, sweaty crowds, mud-clogged farmer's fields, staggering drunks or overflowing toilets and salmonella-breeding burger vans.
But, in reality, the majority of today's festivals bear little resemblance to the Woodstock-era clichés of crowds of unwashed, wasted hippies. I would even go so far as to argue that a festival is, in fact, a perfect place to take a child – as long as you know in advance what to expect.
If you pick the right family-friendly festival you should have a fantastic weekend. Your children will get the opportunity to run around outside for the whole three days – and as most festivals sensibly ban dogs there's no fear of the little ones treading in any dog mess as they probably will at your local park. There's usually dedicated kids' areas with everything from bouncy castles to face-painting, crèches and breast feeding areas. There may well be story circles, people teaching circus skills or drum workshops.
And around any festival site you'll usually find plenty to keep them amused including wandering performers, people on stilts or dressed as animals and of course the music. Just invest in a pair of ear protectors for the very little ones – and be prepared to spend most of the day wrestling with them to keep it on their heads!
The main secret to a successful festival with the kids is to abandon any notion of spending all day perched in front of a stage watching band after band like you used to do. It's simply not going to happen – unless of course your children are teenagers – but even then they'll probably slink off to another stage to watch their own bands rather than Dad's boring old music.
My partner and I had no qualms about taking our one-year-old son Krishan to his first festival two years ago. I say first but he had already made an appearance the year before – albeit inside my partner's bump. But that's not to say we weren't apprehensive. Pre-parenthood we'd probably have scribbled a brief packing list together on the morning before we left. This time the planning process started a good month in advance. I'd even swapped lengthy emails with the festival organisers to find out what we could or could not take – such as jars of baby food – and whether there was a dedicated family camping area away from the main arena.
But, as any parent knows too well, even a trip to the local park or a weekend with the grandparents needs to be organised with military precision. Lists have to be drawn up, cars meticulously packed for any eventuality. So planning for a weekend camping in a field or three days at a festival amounts to pretty much the same thing.
The first thing we did was upgrade to a bigger tent – one that we could stand up in, fit a pram in, that was large enough to spend the afternoon in if it rained – and that was easy to put up.
Where in previous years we'd pack as light as we could to make the enforced march from car park to camping site as easy as possible, as new parents this was simply not going to happen. Bigger tents are obviously much, much heavier. And with all his clothes, feeding stuff, steriliser, nappies and toys on top of our own festival essentials there was only one solution: a trolley.
Now I have a confession to make: in the past I might well have mocked the trolley-wielding festival goer, wondering who could possibly need so much stuff at a festival. But now I know the answer – and a trolley is an absolute life-saver. Just make sure that the wheels are large enough not to get caught in any ruts or bogged down in thick mud and you don't overload it. The enforced march magically transforms into a gentle trundle, leaving you a lot less shattered and stressed when you've picked the perfect pitch for your family.
Most festivals now have a family camping area and I'd suggest you make a beeline for it. Let's face it, the average twentysomething is likely to be up to the wee small hours, whereas young children are likely to be awake around 7am. It's best if they are kept apart. From my experience you'll get to meet other families with children and look out for each other over the weekend.
Festivals with children can be done – just make sure you plan ahead – and I guarantee the whole family will have a weekend to remember.Reuse content