Why a festival with kids isn’t as bad as you might think

May 31, 2019

Goodbye nightclub, hello nappies

In the early days of motherhood I couldn’t imagine ever going out again. Sleepless nights and feeding took a toll on my energy levels, but if truth be told, I just didn’t really want to. A night in the pub seemed out of the question, never mind a festival with kids.

However, I now have a 2.5 year old and life seems a bit easier. He has fairly good sleeping patterns (most of the time) and is at the age where he can engage with other kids and have a good time.

I also feel I’ve reclaimed my sense of self and no longer have that rabbit in the headlights feeling of being a first time mum. And one thing I now really appreciate (because the chances are so limited) is spending time with friends.

My husband and I are in the sad position of not having much in the way of family support. We only have my mum left as a grandparent and she lives hundreds of miles away. Weekends away as a couple are impossible. We do get babysitters for nights out but that adds on to the cost of the evening and so we can’t do it as often as we might like.

So when our friends asked if we wanted to join them and their kids at Shindig festival, of course we said yes… My husband had been before and loved it. We’re also reasonably experienced family travellers and so the thought of camping for a few days didn’t seem overly daunting.

Turns out a buggy makes a great festival chair

Shindig festival

Shindig is a boutique music festival in Bruton, Somerset. It’s small and in a beautiful setting surrounded by green, gently rolling hills.

It’s a family friendly festival with lots of kids around. It seems to attract similarly minded parents who want to spend time with their children but also aren’t quite ready to hang up their disco boots.

Shindig festival has more than enough to keep little ones happy. There was so much on offer including a theatre tent, a circus, a climbing wall, hoops for acrobatics and a brilliant DJ in an ice cream van to keep the parents entertained in the kids field.

The food was great and I heard all locally sourced. You could bring a few cans in with you into the entertainment area (no glass bottles), which helped to cut down on costs.

There was a camping area for people with disabilities and also a big wellbeing area. I can’t say I took part in any of the early morning yoga classes but I appreciated they were on offer.

There was a big emphasis on cutting down on waste with composting toilets and recycling facilities. Festivals are notorious for litter and the damage they do to the land and I thought it was great the organisers were trying to limit this.

There’s a brilliant music policy with small dance tents so you feel close to the action. I particularly appreciated the kids hammocks outside one of the tents because it meant we could tag team each other and have a dance to LTJ Bukem.

I imagine it’s great for people without kids. However, I wasn’t out late enough to see the action after hours and I don’t think my husband really remembers…

Being thrown in the air is the best fun ever

Why take your kids to a festival?

It may seem a bit mad to go to a festival with kids, however, not everyone has easy access to babysitters so it’s not as straightforward as that. I also think it’s good to have fun with your children and introduce them to the things you enjoy.

I spent a lot of time as a child travelling with my parents and some of my greatest memories are sleeping in a hammock across the front seats of our van. I think children enjoy a break from the norm and stepping out of their routine.

It’s also great to be able to introduce your kids to live music. Admittedly, there are other ways to do this than paying for a festival. I live in London so there’s often free events taking place and I like to think my son benefits from listening to music – maybe it’s just me who does…

Top tips for surviving a music festival with kids

Choose a smaller boutique kid-friendly festival. Shindig takes about 15 minutes to walk across and wasn’t crowded, which gave me peace of mind. I think most parents worry about their kids bolting (or is that just me?) and it was open enough to be able to see them easily.

Ear defenders are a must. My husband is pretty deaf (although sometimes I think selectively) after years of working in sound. Younger ears are even more susceptible and it’s just not worth the risk for something you can buy pretty cheaply. We have these Peltor ones. Sermon over.

Take tons of wet wipes for you and your kids. I took biodegradable ones to try and cut down on waste. Some festivals have shower facilities but most of the time I don’t bother. Let’s face it, everyone else is in the same boat.

We took a toddler sling and buggy. We didn’t end up using the sling but it didn’t really matter. The buggy was great for afternoon naps and for shoving all our stuff underneath. Other people had carts and they looked great for smaller kids that need to nap.

We froze milk in advance so it slowly defrosted while we were there. For smaller bottle-fed babies, you could bring steriliser fluid and cartons of milk?

Having a camper van was a game changer. Now, before I sound ridiculously over-privileged, please hear me out… We don’t have a car so needed to hire one and buy a lot of camping equipment such as a tent. We worked out that hiring a van would be cheaper overall, particularly as we cooked meals there. We had nice breakfasts, cups of coffee and best of all, dry clothes when it rained.

Bring lots of food and snacks. ‘A hungry man is an angry man’ once sung Bob Marley and never was a truer word spoken.

We also took a potty because we’re going through the joy of potty training. We also relied pretty heavily on nappies.

If camping’s not for you – and it’s not for everyone, then think about a day festival. We went to Jam on the Rye back in 2018 and Rudy had a great time bopping around.

My best tip though is to go with other families. It helps to have other people to keep an eye out if you go to the loo or the bar. Plus when you’re back in the camping area at 9pm because your kids need to sleep, you can hang out with your mates. Winner.

What are the best festival for kids?

Where can I find out more?

The Festival Kidz website reviews festivals with children in mind.

My personal opinion is smaller festivals aimed at a broader audience are probably a good place to start. You can always build up to a bigger one as your kids get older / you gain confidence.

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