With life beginning to return to some sort of normality, you might be keen to get back to some of the events or festivals that will be starting up again over the summer.
With over 28 years experience running childcare at festivals and taking my own children to festivals, I thought it would be helpful to share some of my top tips for keeping young children safe and happy at festivals of any size.
The first thing you should do when, or even before, you arrive at a big event or festival, is designate a place to meet incase you become split up. Make it somewhere distinguishable and clear. For example, telling children "by the ice cream van", might not be helpful if there are 5 vans!
If the event has a lost child point, or a well being/first-aid tent, then tell children to go there if you get split up, that way they will be somewhere safe until you can pick them up. Pointing out the security team in their uniforms is useful as there are often different jackets for different jobs and whilst all site staff should be informed about Lost Child procedures, the security team will know the proper reuniting process.
Big events can be overwhelming for children, especially when they’re young or neurodiverse. Festivals are loud, busy and unfamiliar. It’s important to be aware of this and if your child is feeling too overwhelmed or tired, find a quiet place for you both to sit to calm down. (Some festivals may provide sensory tents to chill in).
The most common time for children to get lost is when crowds are on the move. It can be very disorientating, especially when you’re a small child and all you can see are adults’ legs! Be extra vigilant when crowds are on the move, holding tightly to children’s hands, putting them in a buggy or picking them up.
You may have the energy to party into the night at festivals and your children may not, even if (irritatingly) they keep you up late at home! All the excitement could mean they’re more tired than usual, so be aware of when they need to sleep. If you have a buggy with you, they can always sleep whilst bands are playing. Just make sure you have a sun shield if it’s hot and ear-defenders if it’s loud (you should be able to pick these up from info points at most music festivals) and keep an eye out for over enthusiastic dancers who may accidentally stumble or trip over the buggy!
Did you know that it’s illegal to be drunk whilst in charge of a child under 7? As parents it’s nice to be able to ‘let our hair down’ at festivals and have a few drinks. Whilst a few drinks is probably going to be okay, if you’re planning on drinking more, it’s a good idea to take it in turns and designate a non-drinker who will look after the children.
If you’ve ever camped before, you’ll know that setting up your camp can be stressful - you’re probably already tired from the journey and just want to ‘get it done’ so you can go and enjoy yourselves!
Make it more fun by turning it into a game. Give children a timed test to see how quickly they can put up the tent, or blow up their mattress. Involve younger ones in finding things or unpacking what you need. Children will develop a sense of ownership and pride if they are included in the set up and are more likely to keep it tidy!
Queuing can be really frustrating, especially for little ones. They have the habit of needing the loo desperately just as you are one person away from ordering! Keep an eye out on the queues and buy what you need when the queue is shortest. Have a supply of snacks and drinks handy so if you mis-time and have a long wait, the children won’t be too hungry/ thirsty. Having some small books or toys with you to occupy them during queueing is a good plan, or games to play like ‘20 questions’, ‘eye spy’, first one to spot the funniest hat.
Going to festivals with older children and teenagers can be a balancing act. They may want their own freedom to explore and spend time with friends they meet, and whilst it’s important to give them this freedom, these are large public events with potential risks and dangers.
Agree boundaries with them before you go - this may end up being a compromise of what they want to do and what you feel comfortable with e.g How far are you comfortable with where they can go to explore, do they need to stay with someone else, what time should they check in? NB: Make sure their phone is fully charged and they know which areas of the site have the best and weakest signal.
Going to festivals should be fun for all of the family and you can help to avoid stress and fall-outs by thinking about the points above before you go!