Going to a festival with children and young teenagers is a very different experience from going on your own.
Whether you’re worried about keeping tabs on a fourteen-year-old keen to experience their first rave, or contemplating how to navigate the weekend with a three-year-old, we’ve got some pointers.
Babies & Small Children
- Do your research and choose the right event. Some events are not geared in any way for small children but there are plenty of family friendly festivals.
- Arrive early to get your pick of the best camping spots and choose family orientated camping fields
- Consult the line-up and choose the spaces that you take children to carefully – the dance tent at 3am or up front at the main stage for the headliner might not be the most suitable place for little people!
- Prepare your children for the toilets. Even simple things such as the liquid inside portaloos being blue can be confusing.
- Understand that walking around a big site will be tiring for children, especially if it’s muddy. Build in time each day to rest, relax and lie down at the tent.
- Leave the arena just before things finish to avoid big crowds
- Leave the festival before the official closing time if you want to avoid long queues and traffic.
What to Bring?
In addition to our Ultimate Festival Kit List, if you’re bringing younger children, here are a few other bits to consider adding to the list:
- everything you will need for babies – nappies, bottles etc
- ear defenders for all small children and babies
- a potty or bucket for the tent to avoid midnight treks to the loos
- pack lots of extra clothes and bedding in case things get wet - an emergency stash that is left in the car is a good idea
- a purse sized first aid kit with plasters, infant paracetamol, rehydration sachets and other medicines that can be carried around with you
- queues for showers might be long so bring plenty of wet wipes!
- consider bringing a hip seat, sling, off road three-wheel buggy or trolley as normal buggies can be problematic if it's muddy. Read about the different types of festival trolley here
Safeguarding & Chaperoning
It goes without saying that small children should always be supervised at festivals. Relax, have fun, but don’t do anything you wouldn’t do at home.
- Adults should be mindful of how intoxicated they get whilst looking after children!
- Young children should always be looked after by an adult that they know and are comfortable with
- Children looking after children is not advisable. They should be chaperoned by a responsible adult.
- Consider how many children one adult can safely look after at a time - keeping tabs on four young children in a crowded tent by yourself is tricky!
- Always keep any young children that are with you in your line of sight. For toddlers, reins are a good idea.
- Consider what time it is right to head back to camp - certain things that go on at festivals after dark might not be suitable viewing for little people
- Never leave young children unattended in a tent, even if they are asleep
- It can be hard work looking after children at festivals. If you are with other parents you could share chaperoning duties to give each other some adult time off!
Losing your child in a big crowd is every parent’s festival nightmare but there are things you can do to reduce the risk and have a clear plan if things do go wrong:
- dress your child in bright clothing so that you can spot them easily in a crowd
- take a full-length photo of them on your phone every time they get a change of clothes. If they go missing, you have a description you can show to staff.
- write your phone number on your child’s t-shirt (or arm!) with a sharpie but always have a back-up plan in case phone signals are weak
- talk to your child about what they should do if they get separated from you. If they are old enough, show them on the first day what security/stewards/police/event staff look like so that they know who to approach for help.
- if you are in a crowded place, set a meeting spot in case you are separated
- if your child has a phone, make sure it is always charged and that they have your number and a back-up contact stored
- give them a piece of paper with your mobile number and an alternative landline contact to keep in their pocket in case something happens to their phone
- familiarise yourself with the event’s 'Lost Child Procedure'.
The prospect of letting your teenager head off into the madness of a festival without you for the day might be terrifying, but try not to panic! Festivals can be a magical and enlightening experience for them if you equip them with a bit of knowledge and some good advice:
- when exploring festival sites without adults, it’s better that they are in groups or pairs
- set boundaries and identify the spaces that you are happy for them to go to, as well as those you want them to avoid
- have clear plans for the day so that you are aware of roughly where they will be and set agreed meeting times throughout the day for them to check in with you
- make sure that you both always have your phones charged so you can stay in contact
- arrange to meet them away from entrances/exits or areas that can get busy
- after dark, advise them to stay in busier areas and stick to well-lit paths
- talk to them about alcohol, if they are under 18 they won’t be served at official bars but remind them not to buy drinks from people in the crowd
- people sometimes take drugs at festivals. If you feel able to, have an honest conversation about avoiding dangers. Read more about harm reduction here
- explain to them what festival welfare is and where they can be found
- it’s good to remind young teenagers that most festivals are licenced events primarily designed for adults. They might see and experience things that are unfamiliar to them. If they feel uncomfortable or unsafe, they should remove themselves from a situation and make contact with you.