Like many parents in Canada, my husband and I do our best to expose our kids to a wide range of cultural activities. Since we met through our mutual love of music, it’s natural that we want to bring our kids along to some concerts and festivals, and not just stuff that’s specifically aimed at kids. With music and cultural festival season upon us there are plenty of outdoor festivals to take in all across Canada, but even if a fest states that kids are welcome (or lets them in for free), is it always appropriate to bring kids to “grown-up” music and cultural festivals?
The answer, in a nutshell, is “use your judgement.” As much as you may want to introduce your kids to the sounds of the Indigo Girls at the Winnipeg Folk Fest or Bjork at the Ottawa Bluesfest, you need to consider the comfort three groups of people before deciding if it’s a good idea to bring the whole family along:
1. Your Kids
They’re the most important factor here. As much as you may have fantasies of turning them into discerning fans of the arts, you may have to come to terms with the fact that they might get bored watching your favourite band, dance troupe, poet, or whoever else you go see perform at a festival. Factor in your kids’ ages, their level of interest, and stamina. Check the set times and try to predict how tired they’ll be when your favourite artist hits the stage. Look at the festival website to see if there’s a kids area to give them a break from the regular entertainment. Don’t forget about the food factor — investigate the list of food vendors and if you don’t see anything your kids can eat, ask if you can bring food to the festival site with you.
Don’t ruin your day by setting high expectations for fun-filled day where everyone gets along with no temper tantrums or meltdowns. Ask yourself some honest questions and if you think your kids might destroy your enjoyment of something you really want to see, don’t bring them to the festival. Would you rather be sitting in the beer garden for hours on end rather than watching them on a bouncy castle in the kids’ area? There’s no shame in that — but if that’s the case, pony up and hire a babysitter.
3. Other Audience Members
You’re not the only one excited to experience a day out at a festival — everyone else in the audience paid for their tickets too and they deserve to be able to enjoy the show without being disturbed by some kid who isn’t behaving properly. Yes, unexpected things happen and we all have to be tolerant of other people in an uncomfortable situation, but if you know that your kids are going to cry, whine loudly, throw things, etc, even if you’ve mastered the art of tuning them out you need to be considerate of others attending the event. Try to remember what your life was like before having kids — would that younger version of yourself be bothered by your children’s behavior? If the answer is “yes,” the festival may not be for them.
If you think your children will enjoy the festival, you’ll be able to enjoy the festival with them, and they won’t be too bothersome to anyone else, go for it — festivals of many kinds can be great family experiences! Have a great summer and happy festival-ing!