Are Your Little Ones Festival Ready?

26/08/2016 12:38 | Updated 26 August 2016

This year, the question was asked: "Two weeks on, is this the worst Glastonbury cleanup ever?" Photos accompanied the piece showing a vision that, while messy, highlighted the very peak of excitement and indulgence. More than half a million sacks of refuse, over 1,000 tonnes of recycling, and a clear-up operation that was still in force two weeks after the event finished.

Welcome to the world of festivals, where hedonism creates lifelong memories and wet mud is a foundation for fun. Where there is no escape from the blazing sun and the fierce rain, often both within the same day, but no-one wants to escape anyway. Where even the most basic luxuries of running water and flushable toilets seem another world and the same clothes are bonded to the body for days, but you can lose yourself for those days with like-minded people enjoying a freedom away from city pressures and the stresses of working life.

With Reading/Leeds festivals fast approaching, parents will no doubt be considering whether there is any way to prepare young first timers for the living conditions, the wonderful array of diverse people they'll see, the sounds they'll hear, the smells they'll smell, and the memories they'll build.

Is there a way of readying your little ones, or not so little ones, for the festival world, or should you just let them experience it for themselves, warts-and-all? Is it as much about educating yourself, as your children? Whatever the answer, here's how you can prepare:

Do it yourself
An easy introduction to the world of festivals, but also a great substitute; all that's needed is a small garden, a shopping trip for essentials, a little imagination and an AV kit that can blast out anything from Jay-Z to Arctic Monkeys. The festival experience can be modified depending on the age of your youngsters, but mandatory conditions are:

Tents: Built of anything to hand: blankets, rugs, tarpaulin covers will all be fine. For added effect, based on previous festivals, smash a hole in the roof and build the tent floating on water or mud. You've probably let them enjoy sleeping in a tent in the garden before, and this is just a more advanced and memorable version.

Wrist tags: Literally coloured paper. Note: you must be prepared for said wristband to still be in place several days later.

TV: The live coverage of festivals is better than ever. In fact, electrical retailer have found that 63.7% of the UK population would rather watch a festival on their television at home than live at the event. With the BBC covering the Reading and Leeds festivals this weekend, this could be the perfect introduction for your children to the festival vibe.

Fast food: A good barbecue of healthy burgers and hotdogs will do a spectacular job for filling stomachs while the music blasts out. Of course many festivals have now advanced into weird and wonderful culinary tastes, but then where else will you get Ostrich burger towers with vegetable fritters and authentic Peruvian street food (Answer: most supermarkets).

A barbecue where the children must use their pocket money is a good way of teaching them exactly how festivals built on libertarian and non-consumer values can still, strangely, allow the sale of hundreds of tonnes of ludicrously overpriced food.

Toilets: Hmmm...I'll let you decide on this one.

Social media: Take photographs, and lots of them, of smiling and fun and dancing and singing and festival clothing. Maybe the children will play their own tunes, maybe they'll just listen to music on big screens. One day you'll be able to compare their garden festival to the real thing, and reminisce about when they were still innocent and young...*clears lump in throat*

Look for event options
If you have tiny youngsters at a festival you're immediately 'shackled', right? Wrong.

Festival lover and mum of two Nicky (@Supervixen1983) said: "What I love about music festivals is the atmosphere, the ambiance, sense of love, and connecting with nature. No-one is holding a cell phone and people are just enjoying the beautiful outdoors and connecting with each other, maybe because I love the hippie festivals that are more low key.

"Some of them welcome children and others are a bit more hectic. As a mum with two kids I would be so stressed trying to watch them at all times that I wouldn't enjoy myself. The one festival I go to welcomes children under ten and even offers childcare by certified early childhood education volunteers. Maybe I'm just selfish, but it's mummy's weekend away without the kids so that's what I would usually do."

Know the dangers
Accidents happen at festivals. This writer knew of a friend who lost his phone and put a sharp screw through his hand from a broken chair at a Reading Festival back in the day - both while experiencing near sunstroke and a stomach upset from three days of poor eating.

In 2015 Thames Valley Police created a list of do's and don'ts for festivalgoers, covering everything from looking after valuables to how not to light a bonfire. Safety considerations are paramount, especially when alcohol is involved. So at least try to prepare your teens for the worst. It shows you care, even though you'll probably get some raised eyebrows and scorn.

Enlist friends
Irish blogger and festival enthusiast Emma Kelly, the writer behind Amelia's Mum, has recently been wrestling with attending the Stendhal Festival in Limavady with two youngsters Amelia and Adam. Unfortunately her husband couldn't go, and she isn't quite ready "to go it alone in a tent with the two little monsters and a packet of baby wipes for company" without any luxuries.

Speaking of her plans for next year, based on the rising trend for people to bring the kids, muck in (literally) together and all enjoy the atmosphere, music and fun, Emma said: "I'm thinking how I'd get my little ones into the festival mood. 

"Planning a camp-out in the back garden is on my list - to get the kids used to the idea of living in a tent. A friend has offered to lend us his very swanky tent (it has actual beds!) and I think we might make some music playlists, cook our meals outside and so on - I think it would be a brilliant way to get them into the idea of festivals and camping.

"Getting to all be together; enjoying the music, excitement would be amazing. I know the kids would love it. I probably won't even miss the TV remote control!"

Experience it yourself
Despite the mass coverage of festivals since the 60s, and the obvious activities that occur, some parents still remain surprised at what goes on. A blog on Vice joyously regales readers with the tale of parent Lee Taylor, who was surprised that the Bluedot Festival in Cheshire was accompanied by "an almost constant smell of cannabis".

He said: "I would have been within my rights to call the police and tell them I suspected there was drug use in the area but you expect security to handle that. My daughter loves everything to do with space but I would be wary about bringing her next year because I don't want her surrounded by that."

It's very simple; if you don't feel your children are quite ready to be surrounded by this smoky atmosphere, then keep them away for a year or two. Festivals are not places for enforcing strictness; anywhere where a hot dog costs £7 but your accommodation resembles something inhabited by plain-dwellers from the 12th century is not a place for rules. At some point your offspring will probably decide that they want to go, with or without you and there's nothing you can do to stop them. So prepare yourselves, and let them enjoy it!