Written by Georgina Allen
Festivals can be wonderful with (and for) children, but don't expect to have the same kind of experience you did as a carefree youngster, and accept that you’ll spend more time queuing for ice-cream than beer! Depending on your kids’ ages, and unless you go with friends and organise a babysitting roster if necessary, then the big, crazy bands will probably be out. However, you will get to enjoy all the subtler pleasures on offer, provided you choose the right festival – check out our feature on the most family-friendly festivals, or seek out others that offer more than just music.
Think in Advance
• A First Aid kit (with Savlon/antiseptic wipes, plasters, Waspeze, midge repellent, Calpol, etc) is a must, as are wet wipes - hundreds of them! – which are useful for everything, from your daily wash and wiping hands before eating to cleaning bottoms.
• Bring both plenty of sunscreen and sunhats, and wellies and waterproofs (trousers and a poncho).
• A rug or blanket is essential to sit on during the day and wrap in during the evening (plastic-backed ones are especially good for those inevitable wet spells).
• Get a cheap buggy or a fold-up wheelbarrow to both carry kids around and to transport your kit from the carpark to the camping area. A baby carrier or child rucksack is great for younger kids.
• Bring plenty of carton drinks as the cost of buying them on site will mount up over the weekend. And bring a large bottle of water (5 litres should suffice for three nights’ camping) that you can refill it at the camping area.
• Stock up on tinned and packaged food (glass is banned on many sites). Bring plenty of cereal bars, too – handy for snacks at inconvenient times.
• Sleep-pants are good for little ones at night, even if they are normally dry – one accident can mean a soggy sleeping bag. For older ones, take a potty or a bucket with a tight fitting lid (you’ll find it useful too!). The last thing you want is to rush around the campsite to the festival toilets at 5am in the rain with a tired and grumpy child.
• If you have a formula-fed baby, bring the bottles that use disposable liner bags (the sort you use for freezing breast milk) and a load of ready -mixed formula milk in cartons.
• Play some of the music you will hear at the festival before going so your kids will recognise it and enjoy it all the more.
• Camp in the designated family areas, which are full of other parents – so no one can complain if your child starts screeching at 5am. Some family campsites also have special activities for kids before the day’s entertainment begins.
• Give your children some boundaries – point out obvious markers like a tall, striking building or flag for them to negotiate their way back to the tent if they stray.
• Never ever take your eye off your kids - it'll take a second for them to vanish into the crowd. Hold hands with them, or, if it gets very busy, carry them. Mark them with your mobile numbers – write on their hands or clothes with indelible marker, or better still, bring shop-bought wristbands. Many festivals provide wristbands at children’s areas.
• Educate your kids on what to do if they do get separated from you: not to tell anyone their name, and to not move or go with anyone who’s not a policeman/security guard/steward (usually, those with yellow vests and radios). Tell them they are allowed to show the telephone numbers and ask the person helping to ring it. With older kids, agree on a prominent meeting area to head for.
• Dress your children in striking clothing (I have a supply of orange day-glo T-shirts), so people will remember them and you can describe them more easily.
• Be prepared to spend a lot of time at the children’s area – I tend to try to spend half the time there and half at other things, and that way we are all happy. But don’t overlook other places kids will enjoy – arts tents and the like – even if they’re not specifically for families.
Above all, enjoy yourself, and try not to worry or get too stressed – most children have a ball, and so will you!