“Our 16 year old is off to their first festival this year with some friends. They are all pretty sensible but I can’t help worrying.
Letting our kids spread their wings and explore the world is something all parents will wrestle with at some stage. Teenage years are tricky – everyone tells you so. We want to give them space to grow and freedom to develop, but most importantly we want to keep them safe.
For parents who have never been to festivals before, the whole idea can be daunting. Without first-hand experience, the idea of 100,000 people partying in a field somewhere can be very scary. Hygiene, safety, losing their belongings and even worrying if they will remember to feed themselves could all be on your mind.
For regular festival goers or parents who have grown up in the ‘rave’ generation, the idea of allowing their little babies loose in this crazy world can be even more worrying.
The fact is your teenager is probably safer at most festivals than on an average high street on a Saturday night. Festivals generally have a high level of security staff, onsite emergency aid and thousands of other like-minded people looking out for each other.
A few tips from FestivalKidz:
1. Pick the festival wisely. There are so many to choose from. Our festival guide includes info and reviews on many of them and if we haven’t listed or reviewed one you are considering then get in touch. Chances are, one of our readers has been and can give an honest opinion of their experiences.
2. If you or your teenager has never been to a festival before then perhaps suggest you choose one together and go as a family. Let them take a friend who they can hang out with then meet up from time to time. Who knows – you may even love it!
3. If they are going without adults our advice is to go for a smaller event first. The experience of being away and camping with friends is really exciting on its own. Big festivals can be overwhelming for anyone and some festivals now offer day tickets – an idea if they have never camped alone before.
4. Sticking together with one other person is really important. Even as an adult, I always go to festivals with someone else. Make sure you have contact numbers for the friends your teenagers are travelling with and ask for their parents’ phone number too. Tell them to stick with their buddy at all times.
5. We are very lucky now that we can keep in touch so easily. Asking your kids to check in with you at a couple of set times a day by text can be reassuring. Most festivals have charging points for phones.
6. Work out with your kids what equipment and money they think they will need. Some festivals are huge so make sure they can carry their stuff. Help them set a budget for each day and encourage them to leave their valuables at home taking just what they need. An old phone is a good idea.
7. Talk to your kids about alcohol and ask them if they intend to drink. Even if they don’t feel they can be honest with you at least you can explain how they can stay safe, what you consider is a safe amount to drink and what to do if they come across ‘a friend’ who has had too much to drink.
Yes, alcohol, drugs and other dangers can be a worry at festivals but this is true of everyday life. Festivals are also an educational, cultural and enlightening experience.
Our kids will face dangers and challenges every day for the rest of their lives. What we can do is equip them with knowledge and advice. Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll have been part of modern culture for many years. Being open with your kids on all these subjects will allow them to understand the dangers they may face*. But ultimately, just like Rock & Roll, kids will make their own choices and mistakes in life. We can just do our best to guide them.
Sarah @afieldsomewhere (http://afieldsomewhere NULL.wordpress NULL.com/)
We’d love to hear your advice to parents with teenagers and also what festivals you would recommend as a ‘first time’ experience.
*If you do not feel able to talk to your kids about Sex and Drugs then there are some great websites aimed at teenagers including Talk to Frank (http://www NULL.talktofrank NULL.com/) – speak to their school if you need further advice.
Is this your first time?
Don’t worry if you’re a bit nervous about the whole idea of a music festival with children. Even if you went to a hundred festivals before you had kids, the first one with them is a completely new experience!
You can’t just sling a few things in a bag, live on crisps and beer, and wake up three days later in a corner of the dance tent.
Going to a festival with children is of course still lots of fun. But this time it’s not all about you – it’s all about them. If your children enjoy themselves then you will too.
Some Advice for First Timers….
A festival with one child if you’re used to camping really isn’t that hard, especially if there are two of you. It’s fairly easy to keep track of one child, and as long as you take them to plenty of activities in the kids’ field and follow our survival tips you should be fine.
However if you are new to camping, or a single parent, or nervous about it, or have 2 or more children, you might want to consider the following advice…
The most difficult thing about festivals with children is getting your children from one place to the next. Remove the distances and you make your festival holiday so much easier and relaxing.
We have three small children. We love small festivals. Small is fantastic. Tiny is amazing. In the small festivals, your older children can roam around and find their way back. In the tiny ones you can see your children in the play area while you’re queuing for coffee.
If you really want to go to a larger festival, then make sure it’s easy for you to get around. Our festival wagon changed our lives. It’s a safe place for the children to go to. They can snuggle, rest, sleep. They’ll sit in it and sleep in it while you can actually see other parts of the festival so you’re not stuck in the same place. It carries cushions, blankets, books, toys and food (and beers for us!) and a cover to keep them cool and dry. When it gets dark, we light it up with solar powered lights making it impossible to lose each other.
I know most people say pack light when you go away, but I think it’s better to be prepared. If it’s your first time, you don’t know exactly how you’re going to feel when you get there. Will you be cold? Will you sleep ok? Will the children be bored? What clothes will you need? If you take more stuff than you need the first time you can work out what you actually need as a family. Make a packing list before you go, to make sure you have everything important, then when you get back just cross off whatever you found you didn’t need. Of course, always pack waterproofs whatever the weather forecast is like!
If you are going to overpack it’s a good idea to pick a festival where you can drive up close to where you’re putting your tent! Festivals you can do this include *Chilled* in a Field and Larmer Tree – but most small festivals won’t have much distance between the car park and the campsite.
Make sure you read our packing tips too!
GO FOR IT!
Now all there is left to do is look at our factsheets and decide! Make 2014 the year of your first festival. You won’t regret it!
Festival Kidz recommends the following festivals for first timers…
Elderflower Fields is designed with families in mind, so it’s much less ‘wild’ in a party sense than a lot of festivals, and much more ‘wild’ in the natural sense!
With urban woods, sports camps, creative arts workshops, environmental activities and new teen focussed events on site, the Elderflower Fields Festival is designed to keep boredom at bay for kids and young teens for the entire weekend. Although it’s not all about them; with more than 40 bands on two stages, a woodland spa, cocktail bar and family picnic with Sussex produce, the whole family is catered for.
At Wood the emphasis is getting back to nature, and the love really shows. It’s tiny and in a beautiful location in the Chiltern Hills. There’s loads of room for the children to roam around in a safe environment. There’s a woodland play park, some wonderful locally sourced food and lots of workshops from dance to musical instrument making. Our reviewer last year absolutely loved it – see her 2013 review here.
*Chilled* in a Field
With just one stage and a dj tent, *Chilled* in a Field is the smallest festival I have been to, which makes for a wonderfully relaxing weekend, as long as all you want to do is dance to some great djs or sit around the campfire with a local beer and chat. The carpark is right next to camping, and you can even drive to the nearest supermarket if you’ve forgotten something important. There’s a small toddler play area, a sandpit and dressing up, arts and activities, in such a lovely location that horses come up to the fence to say hello. Definitely one for the more laid back families – with the added benefit of being able to dance on the dancefloor while being able to see your children in the sandpit across the field! See the FK review of 2013 here.
Tweet #BestFamilyFestivals2014 (https://twitter NULL.com/intent/tweet?button_hashtag=BestFamilyFestivals2014&text= null@null FestivalKidz%20Great%20festivals%20to%20take%20the%20kids%20to%3A)
Here are our top picks for 2014!
Now is a great time to start thinking about buying your festival tickets – most of the festivals offer ‘early bird’ prices, which means they are reduced if you book them early.
Whether a festival is good for you depends on what music you’re into and what other things you like doing at festivals, as well as the age of your kids. If you are new to festivals with kids, you may want to read our guide to Choosing the right Family-Friendly Festival.
There are so many family friendly festivals in the UK, that’s it’s getting difficult to pick our favourites! And so it must be getting more difficult for you to choose which one will be the best for your family. So what we’ve decided to do for 2014 is create a series of posts – designed to help you pick your way through the choices!
Also have a look at our… Best festivals for first timers
Coming soon…. Best festivals for toddlers, Best festivals for babies, Best festivals for music, Best festivals for creativity, Best festivals for getting back to nature, Best festivals for small imaginations – please follow us for all the lists!
2013 GOLD AWARD WINNER!
3 Wishes Faery Fest – Set on a beautiful hillside with stunning views and gardens. There is a Faery School where your children become little pixies and fairies!
Beautiful Days – Created by The Levellers as a remedy against the increasing commercialism of the bigger festivals, this sells out every year to appreciative fans. There is always a great line up and an exciting and welcoming atmosphere. The kid’s area is set right in the middle of the arena so you can still be part of the festival while you are supervising your kids.
2013 SILVER AWARD WINNER!
Blissfields – Once a small gathering of friends in the Bliss family fields, now grown into a proper little festival, with an excellent children’s area run by Angel Gardens. Boutique yet entirely unpretentious – friendly and fun with an excellent line up of up and coming bands.
Camp Bestival – The king of family festivals – this is one of the largest family friendly festivals in the UK. Great if you want a ‘proper’ festival line up of big names across many genres, however it is a large site and can be crowded, especially for smaller children. So many activities and shows, you’ll struggle to pack it all into the weekend, but great for mixed age kids as there is something for everyone.
2013 SILVER AWARD WINNER!
*Chilled* in a Field – Teeny tiny and organised with passion. Great quality music and incredibly chilled friendly atmosphere. Fantastic place to have a relaxing time – definitely no trudging about here! There’s only one cafe selling lovely grub, but take your own food if your children are fussy – although it’s so small you can easily drive to the nearest supermarket to get supplies!
Cornbury – ‘Posh’, easy to manage, big names on the line up, big kids area and very well organised. Lots for the whole family to enjoy.
Deer Shed – Organised by families with an aim to make the festival enjoyable for all ages. All sorts of nice touches such as kid’s activities in the camping field so they are entertained while you pitch the tent. Children feel included and they are integral to the programming rather than an afterthought.
Elderflower Fields – Oozing quality and celebrating British country-chic… and you can join in a free local produce sampling picnic on Sunday – how lovely is that?!
End of the Road – Intimate and friendly, and a stunning venue. Dedicated children’s and family area.
Feast in the Woods – Not a festival but a family camping weekend with ukulele playing, food and the odd fire-poi spinner. Still, the entertainment’s first class, there’s a small lake for kayaking, there are nature walks and woods to explore – and best of all a sweet dog called Poppy for the children to chase around!
2013 GOLD AWARD WINNER!
Just So Festival – A festival of creativity, arts, stories, fantasy and imagination aimed at families. Super friendly and set in a site of true beauty, this festival is ‘just so’ gorgeous. An absolute must for young families wanting to indulge their artistic leanings.
Glastonbury – If you were lucky enough to get tickets, this is one magnificent party. The Kidz Field and the Green Kids area in the Green Fields offer festival entertainment to kids like no other festival. The line up is staggering and the whole experience is colossal. Go prepared (and make sure you tag your kids!) and this will probably be the best festival you’ll ever go to!
2013 GOLD AWARD WINNER!
Green Man – Hottest acts on the new music scene. Beautiful location in the Brecon Beacons. Great imaginative and inspiring kid’s areas to go above and beyond normal festival expectations. Stay for a week and turn it into a holiday.
2013 SILVER AWARD WINNER!
Lakefest – Great line-up, incredibly affordable accommodations options including bunk-houses, on-site waterpark and a kid’s area make this a good choice for families. And you can even take the family dog!
Latitude – Fantastic Children’s Arena (practically a festival in itself) and a great Inbetweeners Teen Area to keep older kids interested, engaged and thoroughly entertained. A great mix of Literature and Music, and multi-coloured sheep!
2013 GOLD AWARD WINNER!
Larmer Tree Festival – Set in gorgeous surroundings, with excellent facilities including a stunning campsite. Although lacking in an alternative festival vibe, it is friendly and would appeal to families looking for a safe environment. Tons of excellent children’s and adult’s workshops, engaging youth zone, and lots of space. Truly something for everybody, regardless of age.
LodeStar - A great well-chosen line-up of emerging artists coupled with good range of food options and a site as flat as a giant bowling green make this a very relaxing festival to be at. It’s a small festival with loads of space to chill out and play. Winners of ‘Best Festival Toilets 2012′!
2013 SILVER AWARD WINNER!
North Nibley Music Festival – Not-for-profit, family-focused, community event with a relaxed and welcoming vibe.
Penn Festival – Small and friendly with a local feel. Hidden away in a lovely rural location. Perfect festival for those of us who love a throwback to the 80′s and 90′s. And a fab circus area provided by the lovely team at Bigtopmania.
2013 FESTIVAL OF THE YEAR!
Shambala – Truly a ‘festival-goers festival’ – they manage to accommodate and include children in the whole site without removing the festival spirit. The kids’ field includes a fantastic onsite crèche, and there are interactive games and art to climb on across the site. There is separate camping for young families with it’s own entertainment and campfire away from the main festival, and so many workshops, activities and performances your children will be talking about it all year.
Standon Calling – Swimming pool on site. Fantastic music. Fancy dress mayhem. Reasonably small, so it doesn’t get overcrowded. Popular with mixed-age families and has a very loyal following.
Starry Skies - Not quite a festival, but a family camping weekend with a festival twist. Organised by Shambala and includes music and all sorts of back to nature activities for wild free ranging kids to explore.
Sunrise: Another World – With their award-winning kids’ area, the whole family can be entertained with arts, crafts and plenty of undercover activities. Their motto: ‘kids always welcome, adults welcome if they behave!’
Towersey Village Festival – Diverse line up, musicians of all ages hanging out having spontaneous jamming sessions, kid’s playground, and a massive amount of kid’s shows and workshops.
Wilderness – A feast of utter gorgeousness, where nature, art and music come together in a wild yet earthy celebration of our existence. Set in a naturally beautiful site with spas, lake swimming, creative exuberance and expressiveness.
Wild Heart Gathering – Alternative, enchanting and inspirational. A feast of beautiful music, workshops, stories, talks, exquisite nature & transformational learning amongst gorgeous lakes, magical woodlands & wild grassy meadows.
WOMAD (http://www NULL.womad NULL.org) – Stunning and eclectic World Music line up and more cultural education opportunities than you could possibly imagine! Lots of workshops, great festival site and a very warm and music-loving crowd.
2013 SILVER AWARD WINNER!
WOOD – Tiny festival in a gorgeous location. Campfires, workshops, yurts, tipis, music, green grass, trees, compost loos, crafts, talks, yoga…
Wychwood – Laid back and mellow. There are plenty of activities and workshops laid on and there’s a Children’s Literature Festival with lots of top kids authors. You can drive up to the campsite to unload. Copes well with rain due to lots of hard standing areas.
The list could go on and on… and we know you’re all going to tell us we’ve missed some of your favourites off… so come on, what are they? Comment below and share your gems with us!
It’s not only about the activities laid on for kids, sometimes it’s just about a special ethos or particularly welcoming atmosphere… but not all festivals suit all families – it really depends on the age and stage of your kids, and your level of expectation, experience and personal tastes!
If you’ve been to any of the festivals featured on our website, please leave your comments to help other families decide if that festival will suit them.
PS. If you’re a festival organiser and feel you’ve been overlooked, send a family ticket our way and we’ll send a team member down to check out your family-friendly credentials for future lists – if we don’t know what your festival is like then we can’t recommend you!
|Yes, it’s that time again! If you are stuck for gift ideas, here are some suggestions that will be popular with festival loving families…
If you click the pictures on this page and buy from Amazon they will give us a small commission at no extra cost to you, so you will be supporting the Festival Kidz website by helping us with our admin costs. Please note – these are ideas only – Festival Kidz has not tested all items on this list.
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Festival onesies, and other dressing up clothes
These make lovely presents for winter but they can be used year round! My 3 children live in their dressing up clothes, and when you’re a child why not? They can happily go to the supermarket dressed as fairies and no one will think it’s odd.
Animal onesies originate from Japan and are called Kigurumi; they are good quality and made baggy to last your child for a few years. The company Kigs sell them through Amazon here. (http://www NULL.amazon NULL.co NULL.uk/gp/product/B00BBEQV8Y/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1634&creative=19450&creativeASIN=B00BBEQV8Y&linkCode=as2&tag=festkidz-21)
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Get them practising for the festival season now! Diabolos, poi and hula hoops are the popular ones in this house but there are so many different ones to choose from, and they all help development of hand-eye coordination while getting the children up off the sofa.
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Winter is a great time to fly a kite – lots of blustery days and clear skies. There are quite a few festivals with enough room for kite flying too – it was possible at *Chilled* in a Field and Larmer Tree – please write in if you went to any and we can build up a list of best festivals to fly kites at!
Easy to fly kites – for younger children
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More challenging flyers – for older children
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Buy solar powered ones, then you can use them in the house or garden for some Christmas cheer, and also take them away to festivals with you and light up your tent in the summer.
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Buy your festival wagon now and start decorating it ready for when the festival season starts! If you want some more information about this and other festival transportation, please see our guide to ‘Carting kids around festivals‘.
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A present list from us wouldn’t be complete without this – many festivals are offering early bird deals so this is a great time to pick up your tickets for next year. If you want ideas of which to choose, have a look at our festival map and calendar, and check out our 2013 award winners!
All the essential info sheets and tips for taking your family to a festival – all handily linked on one page!
If you are new to the world of festivals, or are taking your children for the very first time, it can be a bit daunting but we are here to help. Here at Festival Kidz, we have a wealth of knowledge and advice to share with families who want to experience the wonderful world of family friendly festivals but aren’t sure where to start…
FESTIVAL BABY! – a Guest Blog by Zarah Ross
“Are you mad?!”… That was the reaction that we got from everyone when we told them of our plan. “You’ll change your mind once the baby comes”, people warned. But what was it that was deemed to be madness by all around us? Simply taking our 8 week old baby to the largest music festival in the world… Glastonbury!
I had always taken my stepdaughter to festivals from when she was 5 years old, and as long term festival goers we were determined that our son should be able to share the festival experience.
We felt that having a baby with us would enhance rather than detract from the experience. In fact we spent a lot of time planning and preparing to go. How many changes of clothes (two per day and one for bedtime), which nappies to take (eco ones), which toys to pack (not enough), stuff for hot weather including the sunshade tent, stuff for rainy days including snow suits and stuff for floods.
As much as you try not to think about it, your children will need to use the toilet at festivals.
Many of you reading this will have no idea how we coped with three small children, and the truth is that I gritted my teeth and thought of all the good times we were having in exchange for a little bit of ‘messy’ work. Isn’t that what parenting is all about?! So we should all be able to cope with this – after all we’ve looked after newborns and nothing will ever be as much work as that!
But still, there are many ways you can make the experience less painful, and for this reason I would like to share with you my top tips for family festival toilet survival. I’ve separated it by potty training stages as you will need to change your approach depending on what stage your children are at.
My little one proudly announced that she was all ready for WOOD Festival next weekend, and gave me this list!
I love how it shows the things she considers important and yet still contains all the practical stuff like waterproofs, crockery and sheepskins!! (more…)
I once read on the old Glastonbury advice page that parents should get a cheap £20 stroller from Argos and throw it away after the festival. WOW – I was so unimpressed by this comment. Leaving aside the obvious environmental issues with that approach, for parents taking babies, a good buggy can make or break your festival experience. Can you imagine trying to get a cheap stroller through 6 inches of mud???!!
Surely we all want our festival experience to be easy and enjoyable?… (more…)
Secrets to enjoying a festival with kids:
Every year we get hundreds of parents asking us how to make a festival with kids fun rather than a weekend of stress.
The reality is that going to a festival with your kids is not such a crazy thing to do any more. There are hundreds of festivals that welcome families of all ages and there’s usually more to do there than at many other holiday destinations so, rather than begrudging being dragged along, chances are your kids will have even more fun than you!
However, if this is your first time, then little a bit of preparation can make a big difference to how smoothly the weekend will go. This isn’t the be-all-and-end-all of everything you need to know (we’re writing a whole book for that) but browse the site, and read the links to related blogs and you’ll be halfway there…
Do festival kids really need ear defenders?…
YES THEY DO!!
I wish I could say, “Nah, they’ll be fine – it’s all just a marketing ploy to make us poor parents spend more money!” but sadly I don’t believe that’s true.
Noise-induced Hearing Loss is clearly the major concern here. But apart from the permanent damage loud environments can do to hearing, I have also noticed that being around loud music and lots of background noise for prolonged periods makes my children quite irritable! However, when they wear their ear defenders they find watching bands at festivals really enjoyable because it reduces the sound to a comfortable level for them.
Can it be done? Should it be done?
If we can enjoy a festival with a five year old and twin toddlers then you can enjoy one with your toddlers too, if you want to!
I read the FestivalKidz website extensively last year to get some tips and it was extremely useful. Now with a few festivals under my belt, I’ve joined the Festival Kidz team myself and I’d like to share some more advice that we have learned ourselves through trial and error. So here are my best tips, starting with…
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The toddler stage is possibly the most difficult age to do festivals, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be done!
For really young kids we recommend small festivals, particularly if you are not an experienced festival-goer or camper. For a successful festival experience with toddlers you need space to run around or relax, less crowds, smaller distances between campsite, arena and carpark, a good selection of child-friendly food and a willingness to take things at your toddler’s pace (see also Naomi’s Top Tips for doing Festivals with Toddlers).
After much debate, we reckon this year’s best festivals for Under 5′s are:
My reasons for going to them have over the years changed and my circumstances have certainly changed. Before it was all about me and my friends, now it’s not just about me and my friends; it’s also about my son and considering my reasons for taking him.
I want him to enjoy going to to festivals and have plenty of wonderful experiences from going, and from those experiences he can hopefully benefit every day.
At the grand old age of 3 (nearly 4) he already talks about and looks forward to his festival holidays. He is unaware of how much he learns from going to them, but such life experiences are hard to find elsewhere.
All this made me reflect on what those experiences can teach him? How can he develop from them?