Monday, 30 May 2016

Hot Tonight - Guide to Surviving Music Festivals with Kids

This past weekend we took the minions to a music festival.  This is the first outdoor festival we've gone to as a family since they were little babies/toddlers, and easily strapped to our chests. I'll admit it, I was skeptical at first, but Chris convinced me that they were old enough to tag along, and that the CBC Music Festival is super family friendly. It was the ideal venue for a trial run to save some money on a sitter and help "socialize" our kids into a world that includes appreciation for live music. It didn't hurt that kids under 12 get in for free.  Overall I'd say it was a successful day, despite the temperatures reaching record highs for May. The results were solid but mixed: moving forward I'll take Jack to nearly any appropriate kid friendly concert so long as Chris promises to be "in charge" of Molly (don't get me wrong, she did okay, but had an epic tantrum when I wouldn't let her make a river in the sandbox, which forced me to miss the majority of Tokyo Police Club).

Molly & Jack enjoying the TD Echo Beach "Sandbox"

11 tips for attending outdoor concerts or festivals with your little kids

  1. Research the event
    How family friendly is it?  Will there be activities specifically focused for
    children?  The more of these types of events (distractions) the better.  This also means that people will be expecting kids to be there and be more patient surrounding regular kid antics.
  2. Research the entertainment
    Are these family friendly bands?  Do your kids have any interest in the music?  Will you care if someone drops an F bomb on stage? Consider playing some of the music or anticipated entertainment for the kids before hand and encouraging them to pick favourite songs as their interest in the bands on stage is key to a successful day.
  3. Research the venue before packing
    Find out what you are and are not allowed to pack before setting up your event backpack.  Can you bring umbrellas, water bottles, what about snacks?  If there is little input on the venue's site, pack bottles that you're trying to use up/won't care if they need to get ditched at security (just don't forget to slather as much sunscreen as possible on everyone before you have to trash any supplies at the gates).
  4. Check the weather forecast
    They sell rain ponchos at the dollar store and garbage bags can make great make-shift raincoats or seats on a damp or rainy lawn.  We had some really hot weather, thankfully the venue had water stations where we could refill out bottle several times (at no cost) for drinking, pouring on our heads and making better sandcastles.
  5. Plan your mode of transportation
    If parking is going to be a nightmare, or crazy expensive, consider taking transit, plus you know, the environment.  The TTC has trip planners to help you plan your route, and a taxi part way (or all the way) home may be a great alternative to driving yourself, and possibly still cheaper than parking.

    Dad & Jack on the Dufferin Bus
  6. Get the lineup of events ahead of time to ensure minimal waiting around
    A lot of festivals will provide a set order or expected schedule a few days before the event.  Look this up to make sure you don't arrive too early, or too late and can plan your day accordingly.  There is no point in arriving three hours before the first band you want to see goes on stage and wasting good kid behaviour time just standing around.
  7. Check where the bathrooms with the smallest lines are early
    Knowing where the nearest bathroom is before it's "go time" will ensure a smoother day.  If the line is super long and your kid is desperate don't be afraid to ask people to let you in.  People were happy to let Jackie and I in front of them, Jack's shorts and bladder were very, very thankful!  Also, bring some spare clothes, just in case of sweat, spills, chills or accidents.
  8. Have bribes ready
    For whatever reason mints are a huge motivator for the minions.  By giving them a mint if they're good in a line, or happily dance alongside a stage, we can always buy ourselves a lot more well behaved kid time.  
  9. Be prepared to splurge a little
    It was hot on Saturday when we went, and a lot of fruit Popsicles were purchased, but no one got heat stroke, so I'm good with that expense. 
  10. Bring activities
    While there may be a lot to do around the festival it may be nowhere near the band you want to check out.  Consider bringing cards, colouring books, sticker books or storybooks to keep your kids quietly entertained.  If all else fails just hand over your phone so they can play a game or two.
  11. Call it a day about 45 minute before imminent meltdown
    Don't push it.  Know when to pull the parachute cord.  You could push to see one more band, but then you may be carrying a screaming, sleepy mean child out of the venue, and nobody wants that.

    We spent a lot of time at the Sandbox, thankfully you could hear the music and see the artists on a screen if you picked the right bench to sit on.

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