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Family-friendly music festivals

The Instrument Petting Zoo at Symphony in the Flint Hills, Kansas (courtesy Kansas City Symphony)Do you miss going to concerts now that you’re a parent?

Do you like outdoor music festivals, but can’t imagine taking your kids to one?

Did you think that your mosh pit days at Lollapalooza were over?

Well, they probably are, at least for awhile — sorry. πŸ™‚

It is possible to take the kids to hear live music, with some reasonable precautions and a lot of patience.

An outdoor event also gives toddlers room to roam, with rotating musical offerings to prevent the inevitable boredom.

I have a recent article up on Education.com about family-friendly music festivals in the U.S.

Highlighted events include:

All of these festivals, plus a couple of others listed in the article, have music for children in one form or another — kid’s music stages, children’s musicians, kids participation activities, etc.

Obviously, parental judgment is key to success here.

Most festivals are outdoors in fairly warm weather, with all those discomforts that seem so minor when you’re an adult and so major when you’re the parent of a hot, bug-bitten toddler. Plan to attend just one day of a multi-day festival, and leave without pouting if you have to (I mean the parents pouting, not the kids.)

Festivals are a fun way to introduce your child to live music, but don’t expect to catch many of the adult offerings yourself; little ones don’t sit still very long and they will not stand for hours in huge crowds just to catch a glimpse of Radiohead or some other headliner that you’re dying to see.

You don’t want your kids to disrupt the other concert-goers. This is normally not a problem at children’s stages (everyone’s wiggling and chattering) but stay well to the back just in case.

My husband and I took a five year-old to the Newport Folk Festival and the Newport Jazz Festival. The Folk Festival was great, so I think we were overly emboldened to strap on jazz. Lesson — enjoy the victories and don’t push your luck.

As they get older, it obviously gets a lot easier to attend festivals, but start them young with an event or two.

My five year-old grew into a teen piano, clarinet and guitar player who recently went to a Switchfoot concert here in Austin at La Zona Rosa. No parents, just a friend.

Pretty soon she’ll be bugging me for a South by Southwest (SXSW) wristband if I’m not careful.

Update 21 April 2008: Speaking of SXSW, my Austin-based comadre Graceful Parenting decided to take an infant to one of the free outdoor concerts that are offered during South by Southwest, and she wrote about it at SXSW for infants.