Have you ever wondered if you could enjoy an event like Leeds Festival with a child? I’ve always thought about the possibility of taking Noah (aged 6) to a major music festival so when the opportunity came to attend for a day we decided to go for it.
Leeds would not have been my first choice for visiting a festival with a child. Scanning the lineup, I realised I knew a total of four of the acts playing. It’s been over a decade since I last attended so I feel pretty out of touch. I’ve also seen blogs about far more child appropriate festivals like Just So (you can read a splendid review here from TravelLynn Family).
Despite children under 13 years being free at Leeds, it’s still an expensive endeavour. Had we been paying for our own tickets (thanks Auntie Ruthie), we probably would have chosen to go to a more family focused festival to get the best value.
But if you’re a parent with a burning desire to visit a major music festival, and have no choice but to take the kids along, here’s our tips for a fun and safe visit.
1. Lower your expectations
To have a great time as a family, your experience is not going to be the booze fueled party that you might have experienced in your youth. It’s very likely you won’t see many acts so choose two or three ‘must see’ bands. Kids can lose interest easily so it might mean for some acts you only get to stay for a song or two. Crowds for some shows can be pretty dangerous for little ones so settle for watching acts from further away. This will be way more comfortable and there will be space for the kids to play if they decide they’re not interested. It’s a long, tiring day, so get there early like we did (between 11am – 2pm it was much less crowded) and expect to leave around tea time, or arrive later if you have your heart set on seeing the headliners. We did from 11 – 6. Both Noah and I agreed on the way home that we couldn’t wait to get all snuggly in our pyjamas!
2. Allow the kids to choose what they’d like to do or see
By compromising and including your child in the decisions when choosing what to see or do, things will run much more smoothly. Noah did fantastic behaviour-wise but I’m convinced this wouldn’t have been the case had we not bargained dodgem rides and sweets in exchange for letting us doing some of the things we wanted to do. We would often ask him what he’d like to do too – his answer was usually shopping so we spent some time doing this. As we walked around the arena, we allowed him the freedom to decide where he wanted to go so that the things we did were born of his curiosity and interest.
3. Be open & relaxed
Leeds Festival in particular is not designed for youngsters so no doubt by visiting with children you’ll be exposing them to sights and sounds you maybe wouldn’t usually. Expect there to be some swearing during shows and of course for people to be under the influence of alcohol. My attitude is that it’s impossible to shield Noah from these things all of the time so we talk honestly to each other about them instead. Noah also noticed a guy in a mankini but rather than being shocked he just thought it was really funny.
Our experience of people at the festival was actually really positive. People were friendly and commented a lot on how much they liked Noah’s outfit (his astronaut suit that he picked out himself and funny glasses he picked up at one of the stalls). Apart from some busy crowds later in the day, there weren’t any situations that we felt we needed to avoid.
4. Talk about safety
Before we went into the festival we discussed with Noah what to expect and the importance of staying with us at all times. We also gave him a see-through pouch to wear around his neck with details of our phone numbers. When you get to the festival, you are also asked to write your name and mobile number on the child’s wristband in case you get separated. If you’re concerned about noise exposure, this festival season I’ve noticed a lot of kids wearing ‘ear defenders’ that you can easily search for on Amazon. It’s a good idea to stand well away from loudspeakers.
5. Bring lots of money and snacks
Check what you can and can’t take in to your chosen festival, but at Leeds you can take your own food and non alcoholic drinks. Bags must be no bigger than A4 though, so there’s really a limit on how much you could take in. We made the mistake of taking no snacks! Expect to pay £6 for a hot dog or a cup of macaroni cheese. The Salvation Army have a kiosk where you can get soup and a roll or hot drinks for £1. You will need plenty of spending money for other treats too like ice cream!
6. Travel light
Bag restrictions mean that you can’t take much into festivals these days anyway. I just took a small pouch with a folded up a cotton shopping bag that could be unfolded later if needed. In an unfamiliar place, I like to have my hands free for dealing with Noah, so if I had taken a bigger bag I would have gone for a rucksack. Check the weather before setting off, dress accordingly. If it’s been raining, wellies will be essential. If the weather is changeable, take hoodies or macs that can be tied round the waist or folded to be stored in your bag.
7. Carry toilet paper
There was no toilet paper in the loos we used at 11 o’clock in the morning so thank god I’d packed a pocket size pack of tissues. You may also want to bring some antibacterial wipes.
8. Be prepared for lots of walking
In our case, the walk from the car park to the arena was significant (15 – 20 minutes with Noah). There was lots to look at though. Noah liked looking at the tents and telling us about how he’d really like to go camping someday. We also stopped to get an ice cream. Luckily, once in the arena, everything is in pretty close proximity but still expect to clock up some steps. By the end of the day, our legs and feet were feeling awfully sore. Take lots of rest breaks and drink plenty of water.
9. Be prepared for carrying / lifting
If you have a very curious child like mine, you may run into this problem. At some of the smaller, less popular stages it’s quite possible to just walk up to the front row. Noah wanted to watch a band from the front row but he’s not tall enough to see over the barrier. This meant myself and Auntie Ruthie taking turns holding him up (not a comfortable way to watch a band!)
Finally, festivals are about relaxing and having fun! Sitting on the grass with a beer and live music is one of my favourite summer time rituals. It’s important to remain vigilant when supervising but enjoy a pint or glass of wine sensibly.
I hope you’ve enjoyed our tips and we’d love to hear about your experiences at festivals with your kids! Do you have any tips to add?
We attend all sort of events as a family, here’s what we thought of Space Rocks! A family friendly space & music festival.