Guest Post by Kirsty
For many years I have treated festivals as a child free treat for myself and partner, a mini holiday, just for us, to let our hair down and live in that festival bubble for a few days before returning to normality.
I have done a few festivals over the years – T in the Park (I would never take young children to this and have let my own all do it themselves as a sort of right of passage when they have turned 17/18), Rockness (no longer exists and was my long time favourite until….) Bestival (truly called Best for a reason!) and two smaller festivals Wickerman and Audio Soup. The latter two I didn’t take my youngest child (he was only 2 at the time, and my older children all do their own thing for festivals now) but I did go with my sister and her 2 boys (aged 10 & 13) and it has made me rethink festivals and taking your kids. To be fair when I went to Bestival there was so much on for kids that I did start to rethink my adults only thinking for festivals but I still don’t regret going ourselves as it was an amazing time and would have been a different kind of amazing time had we taken children! I am considering going back with kids though; Bestival and Camp Bestival are both totally geared towards families. So that has got me thinking of how you can make a festival amazing for yourselves and your kids at the same time.
The main thing is picking an appropriate kind of Festival – there are loads that are brimming with kid’s things to do and there are loads that aren’t. At Wickerman under 12’s were free so that was a big draw for my sister taking her kids and really she treated it as a camping trip with extra’s rather than going to a Festival to see your favourite bands. The best thing she took was 2 x 20ft telescopic flagpoles with pirate flags on top that she and the boys carried about with them everywhere. It gave the kids a little bit of freedom and meant they could always see where she was and vice versa. Wickerman is quite a small festival so this worked well there, maybe not so good at a massive festival. There were rules to go with this obviously – they had to stay together, they had to say where they were going to and they had to report back at timed intervals. They loved this and it meant both the parents and kids had some choice in what they did and saw.
The other things you need to remember to survive a Festival with kids are:
Tent – Your tent needs to be a good one, especially if you don’t get the weather you were hoping for. My sister has a 5ft Bell tent which you can stand up fully in, sleeps 6 comfortably with big blow up beds and has a wood burning stove and chimney which makes it lovely and cosy too. You need to have enough space for sleeping, storing and eating, especially if it’s raining and your tent becomes your salvation. A pop up wheelbarrow or trolley can be good for transporting your gear and can also double up for pushing small children around a festival when they get tired. Of course many festivals also offer pods, yurts, tepees and gypsy caravans already set up and waiting for you, which costs extra but can be a good option. When we went to Bestival, rather than lug our tents, beds and bedding on planes, trains and ferries, we booked a bell tent. It was lovely arriving and not having to set anything up and you get extras like proper showers and toilets and dressing rooms with straighteners, hairdryers and phone charging all included.
Clothes – Even the wettest of festivals can be great fun as long as you are dressed for the occasion. Even when it’s not wet festivals get muddy, so wellies are an absolute essential. Clothes that are easy to layer so you can peel on or peel off depending on the temperature. Onesies might be warm to sleep in but think about easiness of late night toilet trips; it’s best to have stuff that comes on and off easily.
Toiletries – You will need a hand sanitizer, toothpaste, soap and lots of WET WIPES! The latter work wonders on face paint, dirty hands that can’t get to a tap, mud, food splatters and a variety of other kid problems. On top of this you need toilet paper, sun cream AND bags for your rubbish and dirty washing (and to sit on when the ground is wet) and towels.
Food – There is always loads of options for food at festivals but eating nothing but food bought from stalls will cost a lot and when you run out of cash you have to queue for at least an hour to get close to the cash machine and get charged between £5-£10 to use it! Take a camping stove and food and drink supplies, the kids will love cooking outside too, it’s part of the fun of camping.
Kids Play Stuff – It’s a good idea (if you have space) to take some things with you. Festivals can be rip-off central. Take your own face paints and glitter tattoos, even some fancy dress options. Bubble wands, glow sticks, glow balloons and crayons and colouring pads are good too. A pack of cards or some kind of board game are good for if you are really rained in for a bit, but if you have taken the right clothes then even the rain shouldn’t mean you have to stay in your tent.
Extras – Things you definitely need but may forget include a small first aid kit (filled with plasters and insect repellent), a torch each with extra batteries (try finding the toilet or your tent in the dark) and lots of spare pants and socks for kids. Identification wristbands with your mobile number are good for around kid’s wrists, just in case. Also worth taking is a small backpack to put all the many sticks and bits of rubbish your children collect throughout the day. You might want to get ear defenders for younger children and walkie-talkies can be useful too.
Finally, release your inner hippy and try to relax not stress. Not everything will go to plan, so go with the flow, you’re at a festival so let the festival pace carry you, along with the music and vibes.