Toddlers are masters of discovery. Every day they’re soaking up new experiences and on the look out for more. So, what better way to satisfy that urge than by absorbing the wonders of Taranaki’s three-day festival WOMAD? Sarah Bunker explains.
The colourful all-ages event celebrates international music, dance, art, food and people at the stunning TSB Bowl of Brooklands in New Plymouth. If the words ‘three days’ and ‘festival’ have you hyperventilating, fear not; the event attracts an open-minded crowd and organisers have nailed the ‘family-friendly’ factor. With the right preparation and planning, WOMAD can be fun for everyone.
Here are a few tips for WOMAD-ing with your toddler
Pop a tent - WOMAD camping makes things easy, so make the most of it! There’s a dedicated family area with well-equipped shower, toilet and wash up facilities (real toilets, not portaloos!) and loads of space. A short 15-minute walk through the gorgeous Pukekura Park has you at the festival entrance. The bush track is shaded and on bumpy ground - perfect for timing your little one’s day sleep on the way in.
Yip, there’s a kid zone - When the colours, music, art, people and large open spaces aren’t quite cutting it for entertainment, head to WOMAD’s Kidzone to keep kids happy. There’s a small zoo, playground, face painting (plant a family member there and swap out to avoid boredom during the long wait), trees to sit under, entertainers, bouncy castle, climbing wall, toilets and free sunscreen.
Come well stocked – The food at WOMAD isn’t super expensive but it starts to add up when you’re there for three days. Bring food you know your toddler likes (easy on-the-go pouches are great) and for yourselves as well – but don’t bite off more than you can chew. What about bringing breakfast, lunch and snacks but eating out for dinner? While your tent is not far, chances are once you get to WOMAD you won’t want to travel back and forth too much. Plus who wants bangers and mash cooked in your less than ideal cooker when there’s more international fare than you can shake a stick at from $5-$15. It’s a chance to try something new – and let your tot enjoy new flavours. There’s always smoothies, pita bread and hummus, or chicken skewers for back up. The venue is smack bang in the centre of New Plymouth so if you forget anything supermarkets are just a 10-minute walk away.
Prepare for rain, hail or shine – the 2015 WOMAD turned it on with bluebird skies every day but it has been known to rain in the past and there’s nothing worse than cabin fever with kids. Bring clothes, toys… the lot for all weathers. The beauty of WOMAD is you’re parked right next to your tent in the family camping area so you can leave a lot of gear in your car for if, and when, you need it.
Break the rules a wee bit – expect that things are going to be slightly different to a normal day at home. While it’s best to keep your little one’s day-time sleeps the same, one late night to bed isn’t going to hurt in the long run. Festivals are extra-stimulating, so getting kids to rest is actually easier than you think, even with the live music.
Protect their ears – earmuffs for kids (that actually work) are expensive at $40 a popbut worth their weight in gold. The music is loud and unless you want to be so far away you’re not really part of the action – these are a vital purchase. #1 tip? Stretch them a wee bit and try them on your child before you go so they get used to wearing them. If you don’t have any luck just ease them on once they’re asleep and party the night away! You can always try Trademe or borrow from friends or family to keep costs down.
Wet weathers – even when it’s sunny, you’ll wake up to dew on the grass and a toddler bursting with the joys of spring who’s keen to explore on foot or knees! Pack a pair of gumboots or shoes (for walkers) and waterproof overalls (for crawlers) so you don’t trash an outfit before you’ve left the campsite.
Tag your tot – while you’re not planning to lose your little one at the festival, it’s a good idea to write your cellphone number on their arm – just in case.
Rally the troops – the more the merrier, so flick an email to friends and family encouraging them to book tickets with you.
Other fest-essentials - water bottles for everyone (they have taps to refill), a low light torch to hang in the middle of your tent for when bubs wakes up early, mozzie net to hang over the cot, baby carrier and/or stroller (having both is great; you can throw everything you need for the day into the stroller), instrument toys so they can get involved, a blanket to sit on…oh, and wipes, wipes and more wipes.
There’s nothing more rewarding than giving your child new experiences and WOMAD has it all – from music, dance, food, art, and people. Taking a young one to a festival does involve more preparation than rocking solo but it's twice the fun and really worth the effort.
- Sarah Bunker