Music festivals offer you the opportunity to hear your favourite bands live, sharing the experience with like-minded individuals and revelling in the atmosphere of the event. It is understandable that when you have children, you want to continue to experience this as well as sharing it with your family.
While the festival experience can be amazing, there are aspects which aren’t quite so pleasant. These downsides to the music scene can all too easily be overlooked when looking back on fond memories, but how will children cope with these situations?
We take a look at some of the issues a parent needs to consider, to work out what is the right age to take your child to a music festival?
Do Children Enjoy the Festival Experience?
Music festivals have a lot to offer children. With sounds, sights and smells they won’t have experienced before. Some of these may be good and others, not so much. Either way, these things can have a beneficial effect on the development of a child.
Festivals can allow kids to interact with others and be introduced to crowds, which can otherwise be very scary for a small child. This should give young children more confidence in themselves if done correctly.
However, a child who gets lost in a crowd isn’t going to benefit and may have a lasting negative memory of the situation. It is a good idea to establish with your child what they should do if they get separated from you, which adults they can trust and where to go.
Taking Young Children vs Taking Teenagers
There is clearly a difference between what a teenager and a young child will get out of a festival experience. The teenager may enjoy the music whilst the youngster is more interested in activities away from the main stage. It will likely be a far easier experience for the parents of a teenager, and more in-line with what they themselves want from the music festival.
Being Around Drunk People
While drunk people can be very entertaining to children and sober adults alike, there are limits. Do you really want your young child to be around a large number of adults with loosened inhibitions and all that comes with that?
As a music and festival fan yourself, you will realise that drunk people are a fact of life. The good news, however, is that aggression and violence are quite rare at music festivals so it should be safe for young teenagers to roam freely.
Exposure to Industrial Language
Many festival experiences will lead to your child hearing a lot of swearing as well as sex and drug references, whether from artists or other festival-goers. People’s attitudes to swearing differ greatly and you will have to think about what is right for your child and whether they are mature enough for you to have a conversation about it.
Whilst younger children aren’t really going to notice swearing and older kids may find it exciting and cool, you will probably need to address it if you don’t want them repeating what they’ve heard when they get back home.
My son’s first rock gig was a Foo Fighters stadium tour date a few years ago. He was 12 at the time. Before we took our seats, I explained that Dave Grohl likes to swear a bit but it’s all part of putting on a rock n roll act. He nodded and gave me a what-do-you-think-we-do-at-school-all-day look. I knew it was going to be fine. He seems to have grown up into a respectable citizen, despite much exposure to gigs and festivals since that first outing, and has never been tempted to swear in front of his Gran.
Changing What you Normally Do at a Festival
Having a kid changes many aspects of your life, probably more than you were ever expecting before your bundle of joy came into your world. This will naturally change what you do when attending festivals.
Whether it is missing an act you wanted to see to take a certain small person to the toilet, or trying to find things to keep them occupied when you would rather be relaxing, there will be many differences to your festival experience. These won’t all be bad, with the experience creating a better bond within the family as well as the shared happy memories of the event.
Not All Music Festivals are the Same
If you are committed to taking your child to a music festival some will certainly be better than others depending on their age and tastes. Taking young children to a heavy metal festival or a hardcore dance festival, for example, just because it would be your first choice, probably wouldn’t be appropriate for your child or anyone else’s for that matter.
We took both of our children to Download Festival when they turned 14. This was about right for us. They were old enough to go off and have a bit of freedom and they absolutely loved it. Much younger than that and I think it could have been stressful for them and, more to the point, for us.
There are now many family-friendly festivals where children are welcomed and events put on especially for them. Festivals like Standon Calling, Camp Bestival and Deer Shed are designed with families in mind. They will put on activities and games to make sure kids have fun in safety. Some even offer babysitting and childminding so that you can have some time to yourself.
Are Parents Really Thinking of the Children?
You may be of the opinion, that having children isn’t going to change what you do or who you are. You may have been a frequent festival-goer in the past and don’t want to change that. But is taking your young child to a music festival really right for your kid?
You may have the best of intentions, but are you putting your wants ahead of the needs of your child? If you are taking your child to an event that isn’t suitable, your child isn’t going to make it easy or enjoyable for you. They will soon become bored by the music sets you are into and could even damage their hearing by being too near loudspeakers.
It Isn’t All About You
It isn’t only your family you need to think about when considering going to a music festival. What about your potential neighbours in the tent next door? Don’t expect people that have been partying into the early hours to be considerate of your family when they return drunkenly to their tent. And these same people aren’t going to be happy being woken up early by a screaming child.
Situations like this seem fairly inevitable unless you pitch your tent in a family area, and most festivals won’t have such a provision.
Taking your child to a festival can be a great experience for them and you as well. You need to make sure that the festival you choose is right for the age of your child if you want them, and yourself, to have a memorable and happy time.
Your child, and the other festival-goers for that matter, won’t thank you for dragging them to an event which is completely unsuitable for kids. Just because you had great memories of past events doesn’t mean they will be right for your child.
The right age to take a child to a festival depends, largely, on the event concerned. With the many family-friendly music events now offering enough to keep them amused, this should allow you a more relaxing time as well.
If you don’t feel your child is quite old enough to go off for the day on their own, then maybe leave Leeds, Reading, Download, Boomtown etc for another day and stick to the family friendly festivals for the time being.