Creating a Family-Friendly Festival Experience: Your Complete Guide

Photo by Redlite Photos

Photo by Redlite Photos

Festivals are a place to explore, express and step into your highest self - so it’s not surprising they’ve become the playground for children as well as adults, with family camping taking off for an experience that is challenging but beyond rewarding. With many parents in the festival community contributing as performers, dancers, builders, and co-creators, children are natural witnesses to the hard work and dedication that goes into creating a festival. Bringing your kids to the festival is a chance to give them perspective beyond what they learn in the everyday world - and build community among fellow parents with similar interests at the same time!

Family camping builds community - of parents, as well as children, who can continue growing up together with fellow free-spirited creative young friends who can look forward to spending festivals together, year upon year!

This year’s Gratitude Migration “Mini-Migrators” family camp will be co-created by Stay and Andrew Long, along with KennyBlunt and OksanaKissallover… and their own brood of Mini-Migrators. Active members of the Burner community, this formidable team of Family Campers feature a combined four decades of festival experiences, as well as family camping creation at PEX Summer Fest. These veteran burners - and their kids - shared with us some of their tips and learnings from family camping to make every festival family-friendly, getting ready for Gratitude Migration: Summer Dream 2017!

Family Camping Tips from the Pros

1. Arrive Early

You’ll have time to adjust to new surroundings and to get to know the festival site before it gets crowded. You also won’t have to miss any of the action while setting up camp. Plus, you get better “real estate” options for tent placement. - Andrew long

Photo by RedLite photos

Photo by RedLite photos

2. Light Up!

Keep a well lit camping area in the evening. That way if a child gets lost, they’ll have no problem finding their way to the camp from wherever they are. (This year’s family camp will be lit up with tall light-up flags for precisely that reason) - Stay Long

3. Don’t Over Plan.

“We’ve taken our kids and curated camps at PEX Summer Festival and Gratitude Migration for the past 4 years. Each year we do more and we have learned that taking on only what you can is best. Try not to plan too much. We let the children guide the experience. When we have a hard timeline such as performance schedule or a planned activity we find that getting ready prior to the event is best. This is a community and we engage everyone that we can to make it happen.” - KennyBlunt and OksanaKissallover,

4. Leave the Toys and Electronics at Home

Be creative and simple.  Children have lots of fun with planned activities at festivals. And if they, don’t they'll tell you and you can simply move on. Don’t bring expensive electronics that you might worry about or damage. The children have enough fun exploring and interacting with one another and the festival.  

5. Feed and Water Your Children Regularly!

Kids don’t communicate well about basic needs in general, and at festivals that’s just multiplied. Create a schedule for meals, and keep snacks on hand all the time. Children are grazers, their stomach is only as big as their fist and they are very active.  Pack healthy snacks and also special treats that diffuse any potential meltdowns  

6. Expect the Unexpected

Remember unexpected things will happen, activities might be missed, you may not experience what you have planned for and what matters is your response to the unexpectedness - ease into the uncertainty because it is almost guaranteed that what is happening is far more better fit for the here and now.

7. Self Care is As Important as Child Care

It's ok to to slow down and take quality time for yourself and your partner.  This is another great reason to camp among friends and other families, so you have each others interests in mind.  Nurture and love yourself, your partner, the children, the parents, the participants, and the community.  You're all here to have a fabulous festival experience!

8. Let the kids help out!

LNT (Leave no Trace) is a core value in our community and the children absolutely love to be of service! Make picking up trash into a treasure hunt and give them MOOPing tasks. It benefits everyone at the festival!

9. Keep Your Existing Routine.

The kids will expect to wake up when they usually do. So expect that even though it doesn’t line up with the festival. Set times for meals as well, to prevent "hangry" tantrums!

10. Be Sun Smart

Sunblock and long sleeve clothing is a must to protect from the sun and any bugs. 

11. Keep Clean!

Festivals can get pretty grimy! Keep wipes and sanitizers around and wash hands frequently.

12. Protect Your Eardrums

Good quality ear sound blocking headphones are an absolute must. Children have very sensitive ears and prolonged exposure to loud music can cause permanent damage. (That goes for adults, too!)

13. Monitor your Surroundings

Remember that having children around isn’t a part of the festival experience that many people are aware of - when approaching a new camp/area look it over for things that may be unsafe that children could get into.  For example, be aware of smokers - they may not notice your children nearby, and can often be animated with their lit cig all over the place.

14. Have Fun!

Kids will first model their parents in an unfamiliar area.  Kids love seeing their parents let go and have fun, be silly, let go of stress and relax, your kids will follow your behavior.

The Best Things About Camping with Family at Festivals

“Getting to meet other parents and spend time hanging out in a safe atmosphere. Creating a safe place at the festival lets us enjoy the best parts of being a parent while actively participating at a festival.” - Kenny

"Costumes! We are very much looking forward to dressing up, which is highly encouraged for both parents and children. Body and face painting is another highlighted feature at Gratitude Migration, and it’s an exciting way for children to express themselves."

We always have positive feedback from participants that stay near family camp and get to spend time with us. Its especially exciting when someone who decided not to have kids gets to spend time with young ones. They get a sense of joy that we get to gift during a short interaction.

Watching the children become inspired by the art and creativity the festival experience offers.

Children will have a transformational experiences and will also have the opportunity to touch the lives of many just by being present

Children have this wonderful opportunity at such young age to learn values such as radical inclusion, self expression, gifting, community, leaving no trace and participation.

As for Gratitude Migration 2017 Family Camp...

Lots of fun things are in the plans, including....

  • LED Balloon & Bubbles…. Need we say more?
  • Parent DJs!
  • Karaoke
  • Sand activities - sand castles and sand mandalas!
  • kiddie yoga
  • Face and body painting
  • Drum circle
  • Family camp altar and sacred space
  • Storytime

Reporting by Hesh Donnerstag