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Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

How to kid-proof festival season in Chicago

Whether the kids join you for a neighborhood celebration or a big-time music fest, here’s how to prepare.

Morgan Olsen
Written by
Morgan Olsen
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The four steps to child-proofing fest season

There comes a time in every fest-loving parent’s life when the question arises: Should we bring the kids along this year? While some summer scenes are just too rowdy for little ones, there are plenty of safe, low-key opportunities to get the kids to an event this summer. Here’s how to make it happen.

1. Choose wisely

Not all festivals are created equally, and parents must first decide which are the best fit for their family. Two important factors to consider are crowd size and focus. Chicago festivals range in size from cozy and quaint neighborhood affairs to massive gatherings in Millennium Park. Factor in how your child does with crowds and how you plan to get around the festival with a little one. Then be sure to pick an option that meshes with everyone’s interests. Are the kids picky eaters? Don’t blow a paycheck on tickets to a food event. Do they sing along to every song they hear on the radio? A music fest may be your best bet.

2. Read the fine print

Before you buy tickets and mark your calendar, read the FAQ page (available on most festival websites) to figure out your game plan. Some fests even have specific information about children that outline ticket pricing and accessibility. Lollapalooza, for instance, has a special feature called Kidzapalooza, and children under 10 are granted free admission with a ticket-holding adult. Plus, keep an eye out for items that aren’t permitted on festival grounds—especially when it comes to strollers, backpacks and outside food.

3. Accessorize accordingly

Now that you’ve decided on your summer lineup, consider what your family needs to feel comfortable while you’re out and about. That may mean bringing those adorable child-size headphones for Lollapalooza, a collapsible blanket for Pitchfork Music Festival or sunscreen and extra layers at the Chicago Air and Water Show.

4. Final touches

Before heading out to enjoy the festival, discuss expectations for the event with the other adults in your group: How long will you stay? What happens if the kids throw a fit? Answer these questions before you go so no one is caught off guard if you have to leave suddenly. Finally, be sure to establish safety procedures with your children, and decide on a meeting spot should anyone get separated from the group. With all of these things in mind, you and your young’uns are sure to have a festive summer.

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