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With warmer weather on the horizon and mass vaccinations underway, it seems the season of outdoor concerts may be back in full force this year! If you’re like most, music festivals and outdoor concerts are the best part of your summer, but the experience is totally different when you add kids into the mix.
Maybe you’ve been attending Lollapalooza for decades or you follow your favorite band on social media and see they’re headlining Firefly. You’re ready to buy tickets but what will you do with the kids while you go to outdoor concerts? Don’t get discouraged and throw in the towel on attending because you feel it’s not an appropriate environment for children. While, yes, there are some aspects of outdoor concerts that aren’t kid-friendly, there are a whole host of other reasons that outdoor concerts are perfect for children.
Fantastic Fabulous Feelings
The first reason being the mental health effects of music. Listening to music brings on happiness. The brain releases dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter. It also decreases the stress hormone, cortisol, which results in relaxation. Could your temperamental toddler benefit from decreased anxiety, calmness, and an overall better mood? Same. Outdoor concerts may provide a great environment for loud, rambunctious toddlers and may even help them chill out.
Enhance Childhood Development
Music also strengthens learning and memory skills. It activates parts of the brain that help to improve focus and stimulate visual images. There’s a reason why you can walk by any preschool at any time at any place in the world and you’re sure to hear music emitting from the building. Have Ivy League dreams for your child? A festy summer of outdoor concerts may put them on the path to success.
Now, you could get tickets to a regular concert—this will provide all the aforementioned benefits—but typically, they’re scheduled to begin around bedtime and usually held at 18+ or 21+ clubs. Not to mention the assigned seating at a lot of venues. Try constraining your child to one seat for three hours, while attempting to prevent them from kicking the seat back of the person in front of them or knocking over someone’s beer.
The benefit of music festivals and outdoor concerts is that they usually start mid-morning and last well into the night (or meld into the following day’s lineup if you’re enjoying yourself!). You can load your kids and your cooler into a Radio Flyer and head into the festival grounds at 11 a.m. After a full day of music, art, and fried food, you can leave before sunset and make it home in time for the bedtime routine.
If you’re brave enough to camp at a music festival with kids, a bunch of them have family-friendly camping sections. You won’t be disturbed by revelers at 3 a.m. and vice versa, your early risers won’t wake other festival-goers before their hangovers have kicked in.
Another benefit of outdoor concerts and music festivals: the price. Why spend $60 per person on concert tickets to see two or three bands, when you can spend a little more for a single-day pass and have your choice of 10-20 bands? Bonus, a lot of outdoor concerts offer free admission for kids with a paying adult.
Read More: The Correlation Between Music And Learning
Keep This In Mind
If you’ve made it this far in the article but aren’t sure what type of outdoor concerts to attend, this is the section for you. Personally, I can’t think of many genres or festivals I wouldn’t be comfortable with my kids experiencing, except for maybe the Gathering of the Juggalos, but with Faygo and face paint galore, it actually sounds perfect for children.
Bluegrass and folk are probably the tamest genres and their festivals tend to be very community-oriented. The Kutztown Folk Festival in Kutztown, Pennsylvania, has a petting zoo, pony rides, craft tables, sing-alongs, and more. Jam band festivals are also a good time for the whole family. At Mountain Jam Festival in Bethel, New York, families can participate in a multitude of activities such as face painting, jam sessions, and nature walks in the Family Fun Zone.
Some of the largest music festivals in the U.S., despite their budget-breaking ticket prices, might be the most fun for everyone with their plethora of amenities and activities. Austin City Limits in Austin, Texas, hosts an Austin Kiddie Limits section which features karaoke, a rock star photo booth, and a hip hop workshop. And another perk: families have their own entrance that shoots you right into AKL!
Whichever festival you decide on, the earlier you arrive and the earlier you leave, the less chance you have of exposing your kid to something you, and they, may not be prepared for. As the old saying goes, nothing good happens after midnight, and outdoor concerts are no exception. You should anticipate the possibility of your child hearing bad words, seeing drunk adults, smelling pot smoke, and maybe even witnessing a little nudity. Outdoor concerts get a lot more “fun” after the sun goes down.
If these things are new for your kid and depending on their age, have a game plan ready. Will you explain to them the local area’s marijuana laws or suggest that a skunk is nearby? Your call. The final piece of advice on the topic: don’t let your kid eat anything off the ground. Who knows what substance fell out of someone’s pocket as they walked by your blanket.
What To Pack
Ok, so you’ve pulled the trigger on music festival tickets. Now, let’s put together a list of the gear you should bring. The first step you’ll want to take is to check the website for the list of things you can and can’t bring with you. Bring your Hydro Flask and picnic blanket; don’t bring a knife or fireworks. Seems logical enough, however, you’ve been warned—it’s not.
Make sure to read the festival rules carefully because the do’s and don’ts are different for every event. For example, Telluride Bluegrass Festival allows shade tents; Coachella does not. At Bonnaroo, you can bring in a totem if it’s less than 7 feet tall and made of light material, but you cannot bring in a selfie stick. The devil is in the details, folks! Know before you go. After you’ve read the rules, pack the essentials listed below, in no particular order. And note that compiled with only a day trip in mind; not a full camping experience.
Seating. The best part of outdoor concerts is the seating. There is plenty of it! That is, as long as you don’t need to be in spitting distance of the band. For a tired mom or dad, being able to bring a blanket or tapestry, lawn chairs, sometimes even a tent is the bee’s knees. Reminder: check the festival rules to see if you’re allowed to bring chairs and if so, if there is a height limit.
Sun protection. Make sure your sunscreen is in lotion or stick form; many events have a ban on aerosols. Don’t forget hats and sunglasses for everyone too.
Extra clothing. Bring a change of clothes or at the very least, a sweatshirt if you’re planning to stay after the sun goes down. Should you forget this item, you can guarantee your child will tumble and smash a plate of cheese fries onto your flowy white blouse.
Practical footwear. Wear comfy shoes. Those strappy leather sandals might make you look the part of hippie earth mama, but after schlepping a few kids and a backpack from the parking lot to the spot where you spread your new mandala-covered tapestry, you’re going to wish you were wearing your Brooks. This goes for the kids too. Outdoor concerts usually have a ton of open space for kids to run around and since you’ll want to wear them out, make sure they are prepped for adventure.
Ear protection. This can be in the form of earplugs or noise-canceling earmuff headphones. It isn’t necessary if you plan to sit far enough away from the speakers, but if you have a kid who’s sensitive to loud noises, it can’t hurt. Pro tip: Check out the hunting section of your local outdoor store. You can often find hearing protection earmuffs for half the price of the brands targeted to concertgoers.
Reusable water bottles. This not only saves the planet, but it saves your bank account too as most music festivals have a portable water fill-up station (though they’ll happily charge you an arm and a leg should you need to purchase a disposable bottle of water).
Snacks. I don’t need to explain this one. You’re reading this because you have kids. Just remember to double-check the festival rules to make sure you’re allowed to bring in a few granola bars.
Cash. This might be one of those “duh” items to some people, but it will be a welcome reminder for others. Depending on the music festival you attend, there may not be card readers available at the merch tent (you didn’t think you were going to take your kids to outdoor concerts and leave without band tees and stickers, did you?). Sure, there will be onsite ATMs but do you really want to hear your husband complain about the five-dollar service fee?
A few more items:
- A mask and hand sanitizer since we’re in the age of coronavirus.
- Baby wipes or toilet paper because port-a-potties at outdoor concerts run out quickly.
- Glow sticks or light-up accessories for the ambitious festy family staying past sunset.
- A sharpie to write your phone number on the inside of your kid’s wristband in case they get lost. To this point, upon arrival, it’s not a bad idea to designate a meeting spot for the whole family should anyone get separated from the group.
Read More: 6 Ways To Get Your Kids More Into Music
You Can Do This!
Like most often, there will be a few downsides to your outdoor concerts with kids. For one, outdoor concerts usually book the headliners toward the end of the day’s lineup, think 8 p.m. or later. If you aren’t camping at the festival, you may be long gone by this point. Make sure to check the festival schedule if you’re attending solely to see a specific artist.
On another note, music festivals go on rain or shine. If wet clothes and mud aren’t your things, check the refund policy before you purchase tickets. If these drawbacks don’t bother you, you’re sure to have an amazing time attending a music festival with your kids! A little planning goes a long way and can result in some awesome memory-making.
Instead of reminiscing about the good old days when you went to three-day festivals without children or a care in the world—and you will reminisce, especially when you’re dragging your crew out at 6 p.m. while the younger 20-somethings are just getting warmed up—remember that these are the experiences your kids will recall when they’re older (and cooler than all the other kids whose parents didn’t take them to outdoor concerts).
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