Music Festivals and Kids: A Guide

Happiness Parade at Grassroots

Grassroots Festival Happiness Parade!!

Does the thought of music festivals and kids give you hives?

Festival season is in full swing, and as I prepare to take my family to the 21st Annual Grassroots Festival of Music and Dance, which I do every year, I’m feeling a little like a pro at this. I mean, we are leaving in a few hours, and not only am I still working, but I haven’t even started packing. Of course I have made a list, but a seasoned festival goer like myself can put this all off at the last minute. So naturally I decided to put this off a little longer and share with my loyal friends and readers the guidelines of taking kids to festivals. Note: this list is for families who are NOT camping on festival grounds, but are going from off-site camping or driving in from somewhere else every day. Camping on grounds is a whole other list!

What to Bring

Ear protection of some kind, if your kids will keep them on. Which mine don’t, so we just try to stay back from the stages.

Sunscreen, and lots of it! I always have extra because not only do you not know how much you or a friend will need, but there is always at least one parent who has forgotten their sunscreen, and they really appreciate it when you non-judgmentally ask them if they need some. I mean, who hasn’t forgotten an essential once in a while!?

Plenty to drink. Not only water, but make sure your kids have something special to drink. Perhaps something you wouldn’t always buy them. It will make them feel special, and it will save you on the $5 a cup fresh-squeezed lemonade.

Snacks. But only enough for the day, and only what you KNOW your kids will eat.  Again with the money saving (and see my what to expect below). And I will reiterate: buy things that are healthy but are treats for your kids.

Squirt bottles. They are fun for kids! And they keep them nice and cool. Be prepared though, to set some rules, while also letting go a little and not caring about getting a little wet.

Glow Stix. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, kids love ‘em. And there WILL be people there selling way overpriced glow stix. Save yourself the hassle and stop at the dollar store and grab a few packs. You will thank yourself later when you are super mom and you bust ‘em out.

Clothes that you don’t mind them getting super dirty in and then sleeping in. Save yourself the hassle of carrying around a lot of clothes. Grab one light, and extra set for real emergencies. Unless you are very particular about your kids being dirty at a festival, believe me, no one else cares if your kid is dirty. We all are.  As for sleeping, let them sleep in their clothes – they will love it! Bring a sweatshirt and a very light blanket (think an oversize swaddling blanket) for when it gets cold at night and call it good.

A stroller or a wagon. While the amount of crap you have to carry around does decrease as your kids get older, you still have to carry crap. This is why I insist on my stroller. I can hang our cooler bag from the back, put our bag of extra clothes and a blanket for sitting on in the bottom, and we are good! Plus, I have a place to put a sleepy/hungry/rampaging around kid when I or they need a break.

A survival kit. Probably the one totally essential element to this whole deal. Of course this kit should include sunscreen and diapers if you need them. It should also include:

  • Wipes for messy cleanup
  • A first aid kit so you don’t have to walk to the first aid tent for a little boo-boo
  • Medication – for adults and children
  • Paper towels – these are great for obvious cleanup but also just in case there is no toilet paper in the porta-potty
  • Hand sanitizer and sani-wipes
  • Plastic bag – for dirty diapers, clothes, garbage, anything!

What to Expect

Things will not go as planned. It will be fun, yes, but stressful (as it usually is for mom). So keep these guidelines in mind, and I promise they will help you enjoy your festival.

Plan to eat one meal a day on the festival grounds. I used to pre-make a lot of food, as we would stay close to the festival grounds at a house where we could use the refrigerator. That is no longer the case, so I’m having to adapt. Also, my kids want to eat festival food, so it works out. What it boils down to is this. I spent more money making sure we had good food than when I budget for everyone to have one meal they really want at the festival. We eat a good breakfast and pack hearty snacks for lunch. Then we scour the festival for what we really want to eat. It’s less stressful, more adventurous, and everyone is happy.

Your kids will want to do more running around and playing in the kids area than you want to. If you have a spouse/partner with you, take a look at the schedule and see what music you each want to see, and make a plan for who is with the kids and when. Of course there will be a lot of time all together, but sometimes everyone will have something else in mind. Everyone really needs to give and take in order for everyone to have a good time.

Regardless of the full sun forecast you see before you leave, it will rain. No, it won’t. It will POUR. Have a plan for shelter wherever you go on the festival site, and plan to meet in a more central location when the storm has passed. Also, all those diapers and extra clothes in your bag? Pack them in large ziplock bags. Also, having a plastic poncho or something you can throw over your stroller isn’t a bad idea either. You won’t be sorry.

Expect to lose things. It will happen, especially if it is meaningful, so leave it at home or in the car.

Everyone will be super tired and grumpy by the end. But you will have had a blast and it will have been worth it!

Do you take your kids to music festivals? What is on your “must have” list? If you don’t go to festivals with your kids, would you ever consider it?


About Laine

Elaine GriffinElaine Griffin (a.k.a. Laine) is a freelance WordPress designer, content creator, and speaker. She brings her background as a sociologist, advocate, and educator, to her work and her writing, which has been featured on BlogHer and The SITS Girls. On The Laine List she spills her guts about life, motherhood, and balancing work and family. She also sprinkles in some fun recipe and cocktail posts. On Elaine Griffin Designs, she writes easy to follow tutorials about WordPress, social media, SEO, and blogging.
Working from her home office in Finger Lakes Region of NY, Elaine, a wine lover, also enjoys the beauty of living in wine country!

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  1. says

    Great list of things to prepare for any all day event with kids. I could have used this 20 years ago. But you know us dads – we just load everything mom packs! We’re the muscle. hehehe

  2. says

    excellent tips! i will be sure to return to this page when we are planning our first trip to an all day (or overnight) music festival. i hope you guys all have a blast at the Grassroots fest, and be sure to share any afterthoughts/amendments to the list upon your return!!
    p.s. i think nys is in for really beautiful weather over the next few days, so i hope you may be able to avert the inevitable pop up storm this year! i hope! :)

    • Laine says

      Dvora, I know you are a big packer like I am, so I hope you found this really useful. It did rain on Thursday night and Friday for a good part of the day, but we needed it so bad it’s hard to complain. BUT, we also found a new hang out spot, out of the rain and/or sun, and with a view of a stage! Rock!

  3. Jenn Adams says

    We have taken our now three year old to festivals since he was six months old. Great list! Things that I would add are as follows:
    -something “special” to use as a bribe to get them to go where you want to go…example- yogurt covered raisins or a (gasp) lollipop. Manipulation and bribery is sometimes the only way to see what you want to see! Don’t judge!
    -some sort of kid carrier even if they seem too big for it. Ergo baby/backpack. Something to get them up off the ground if it is crowded. Also allows you to dance without actually holding your little one!
    Wish I could go to Grassroots! Enjoy your time!

    • Laine says

      You know, I thought about bringing the sling, but I know that Gen wouldn’t have it anyway, so I didn’t. Jenn, my bribe was ice cream. “Let’s go to the dance tent! I’ll buy you ice cream while we are up there!”

  4. says

    We’ve never done a music festival, but we’ve done other festivals and your list is perfect! I want to take a wagon even though my kids are teenagers….but they tell me that would be embarrassing, so I dole out the supplies and everyone is responsible for packing something with them. It’s working out well so far, but my bag is by far the largest!

    • Laine says

      Wagons are the best!! I agree that when they are at that age, they should carry their own stuff! But then as mom, I know we would just carry it all “just in case” anyway!

  5. says

    I have never taken my kids to festivals *hanging head in shame*. We’re sort of crowd-phobic at my house, and when too much of humanity is pressed too close to me I tend to start feeling like an animal in a cage. However, the girl is showing some interest in music and gymnastics – she’s especially excited about the idea of performing for people. So, there are crowds in my future. And potentially festivals. Which means I am going to bookmark this page for later referral such that I am (somewhat) less likely to lose my mind. Thanks, Laine!

    • Laine says

      Ha! LOL at humanity pressed too close. That is how pretty much my whole family feels. We tolerate it for this Festival though!
      Good luck with future crowds. They can be tough to deal with!

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