Taking the Kids to Burning Man for Your Next Family Field Trip?

Moms, dads, grandparents, and godparents: Are you looking for a special occasion to dedicate to some one-on-one bonding time with your kid? Check out our series of hip happenings that will give the two of you secrets to share and a ritual to return to year after year.

You’ve been camping, taken your kids to art exhibits and outdoor festivals, and now it’s time for the ultimate experience: Burning Man (August 28–September 4, 2017). Although it may seem a bit unconventional, Burner parents have been bringing their kids to this unusual collection of art and culture makers in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert for years.

Consider your child’s age, curiosity level, and survival skills before you continue. While adults love the freedom from conformity, schedules, and structure, your child might feel uncomfortable with none of the structure of everyday life to hold onto. But with the right type of child and proper parental support (this may require a prior research trip to Burning Man solo), it can be an incredible experience.

Teach your child the Burning Man virtues of community, self-reliance, art, and self-expression at one of the most dynamic festival experiences they will ever have. Life-long friendships are forged in the crucible of the playa every year, so why not strengthen your family bond with the intensity of the festival too?

Family Survival Tactics

Tickets to the event sell out in what seems like moments: Get on the ball and get your tickets to the 40,000-capacity event as soon as you can. Kids 12 and under get in for free, but you must fill out a form to get the ticket. Age 13 and older require adult supervision, but must pay full price for their tickets.

Once you acquire tickets, start preparing – it’s never too early. Burning Man provides a Family Survival Guide that you are well advised to read. The general Survival Guide is required reading for all participants, and this family guide is an additional set of guidelines for children and families. Read them both thoroughly!

As you’ll learn, Burning Man’s culture focuses on a “leave no trace” philosophy, meaning that all Burners are required to take everything they need for survival and bring it all back out as if nothing happened. This means food, water, waste elimination, trash, and everything else is the responsibility of each and every Burner. Make sure your child understands their responsibility.

Prep for the event by camping outside and getting your kids used to sleeping bags and tents. If you plan to bring an RV, you could practice sleeping in the RV before Burning Man. Dust masks and goggles are also essentials, so practice walking with both might be wise as well. Bikes are a great way to get around the playa, so make sure your kid has one to ride and the proper protective gear.

You’ll encounter things like dust storms, temperature extremes, people and objects on fire, and moving, shaking, burning, and blowing exhibits, so make sure your kid is thinking about safety first, and never leave him or her unattended. This takes both parents – and a few friends – to pull off successfully. The camp called Kidsville is a great place to find community with other parents and families, but kids are welcome to stay in any camp.

Make sure to have “the talk” with your teen, tween, or child about what to expect (with YouTube videos to get a hint), what unusual or unconventional adult behavior they might witness, and what you deem appropriate or inappropriate. It will be your responsibility to protect them and have the difficult conversation once you arrive.

Black Rock City Basics

Check in with the Family Unification Network (FUN) when you arrive to register your child. He will receive a wristband with a unique number that’s linked to you and the child. If the child gets separated from you, she can show a ranger her wristband and the ranger will be able to track you down.

Set up your camp with plenty of shade, prepare the kitchen, and set up some ground rules while your child still has his wits about him. Once you’re ready to explore, pack a backpack with the essentials that you’ll need wherever you go: water, a dust mask and goggles, earplugs, sunscreen and a sense of adventure. Now you’re ready for an inaugural bike ride around the playa!

The loudest exhibits and adult-themed tents are usually located at the ends of the Black Rock City semi-circle, so stay central if you want to protect little eyes and ears. Make sure the kids know where the medical tent and Ranger Headquarters are. Ask for a directory of camps and figure out what you want to see before taking off into the vast unknown!

To Infinity and Beyond

It’s impossible to predict what experiences, installations, exotic dancing, burning structures, or life-changing experiences your child or teen will have on the playa, but having them together will definitely change your life at home, too.

Keep communication open and honest, and don’t be afraid of the far-reaching ramification of your Burning Man experience. In the end, you two may leave Burning Man, but it will never leave you.

Will you be taking your child to Burning Man this year? Let us know in the comments below!

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