Spring has officially sprung. What’s a festival-loving parent to do? According to Mia Quagliarello, the head of curation at Flipboard, communications volunteer at Burning Man, and the blogger behind Disco Nap, it’s bring the kids with you! Here, she breaks down her own experience of festival-hopping with the family in tow.
When bringing your kids to a music festival, don’t let them disappear into a teapot. That’s what I did while wandering around Lightning in a Bottle with my son, then 7. As we explored the festival grounds, we came upon a ladder that led to, yes, a kettle in the sky. My boy climbed up and then in. I followed behind, only to find him seated amongst some heavy-lidded punters who seemed pleasantly surprised by this new visitor. But the thick haze inside of that tiny teapot set off my Mama Bear 1000 Warning System, and we left as quickly as we appeared.
And so it goes when exposing your kids to music festivals—which, of course, are about so much more than music these days. They are multi-day experiences, filled with art, food, lectures, camping, yoga, and plenty of new friends to be had. It’s a lot for adults to take in, never mind little people with wide eyes and a nap schedule. The pride that you’re doing it (hey, you’re here!) can quickly change to the guilt of: what am I doing?!
Having taken my kids, now ages 10 and 8, to Lightning in a Bottle twice and Burning Man three times, I can attest that it’s an emotional rollercoaster—and a physical one, too. You’ve got to be prepared for long days of outdoor living and noisy nights of earth-shaking bass (at least at the festivals I like). There might also be extreme heat, dust storms, terrain that will eat your stroller alive, and, oh sweet Jesus, the Port-a-Potties.
It’s a certain kind of family adventure, to be sure, but if you’re lucky, you come out the other side with good memories, new friends, and maybe even some expanded horizons. For example, in our house, you’re more likely to hear Odesza than One Direction. I’d call that a win any day of the week.
If you’re thinking of bringing your own kids along for the ride, here’s my best advice:
Find an event that is family friendly. There isn’t a family zone at Coachella for a reason—it’s not the best place to bring kids! Look for events, like Lightning in a Bottle, Symbiosis, and Burning Man, that celebrate inclusivity and have family camping and/or activity areas. It’s great to be surrounded by other like-minded people and not have a bunch of bros partying at the tent next door all night long.
Go with people you know and trust. The number one rule of Kidsville, the Burning Man family camp, is “This is not a babysitting camp.” In other words, you are still responsible for your children. But, by going with people you already know, you can take turns keeping watch over the kids at night, freeing different configurations of parents to go out and play. Commune life will suddenly make a lot of sense!
RV it if you can. It’s definitely a luxury, but to me RVs are 100% worth it—hard walls and a door create a clearly delineated space for rest and recharging. Bring earplugs and comfy bedding to enhance that cocoon-like feeling.
Prep your kids. Talk to your kids beforehand about what they might see and experience. Listen to some of the bands playing and go to YouTube to see footage of what the event is like. Especially for Burning Man, talk about the 10 Principles (things like Leave No Trace, Participation, and Radical Inclusion), which put the event in greater context and offer invaluable teaching moments.
Bribes. Yes, they work anywhere! There are gonna be times when you’ll have to resort to bribery just to get through the day. Remember the comforts of home and use them as pick-me-ups for tired little festival goers. Bring favorite snacks, stuffed animals, coloring books—anything for familiarity and fun.
Get creative with hydration. Drinking water is really important, but it doesn’t have to stop there. Add natural flavors, try coconut water and juices, bring fun cups and straws—you want your kids to enjoy drinking liquids so that they won’t wilt.
Embrace the spirit and have fun. At Burning Man, we set up a whole tent full of costumes, accessories, and makeup. The kids are free to go in there and emerge however they please—mom’s makeup smeared all over their faces and all. I love seeing how they choose to express themselves in an environment where anything goes. It’s pretty cool.
For more on Mia, check out Disco Nap, which is “about emerging from the hibernation of having small children and learning to roar again through music and dancing, connecting with people, trying new things, creating memories and having fun.”