On Saturday night, we descended upon downtown Toronto with 45,000 other crazies to see Taylor Swift in real life. My sister, her friend and I were taking our girls and my niece to their very first concert, which was pretty exciting — I remember that giddiness of finally getting to see a musician you love so much.
Overall, it was a good experience. Taylor put on a fantastic show, and the girls have fantastic memories of their first concert (even if there were some rocky parts to the evening that they’ve, thankfully, chosen to forget). I was warned by a friend who went to the show the evening before that there were three opening acts, so not to arrive too early, and it was good advice. But we had to make sure my niece got to see Ed Sheeran, and I was actually glad we didn’t miss him. He was amazing!
Would I do it again, with my kids at ages seven and almost-five? Ummm… probably not. I look forward to taking them to more concerts, but that will be way down the road. I did glean some good tips from this experience — hopefully they will help you if you’re planning your child’s first “real” concert experience:
Bring ear protection: Some people told me we’d be fine with earplugs, but I worried that the feel of them would be irritating for the girls, and Anna is quite sensitive to noise. So I started searching out noise-cancelling headphones. They were expensive, but I figured better safe than sorry, but then I forgot to get them and was worried I wouldn’t be able to find any. Then, a friend came to the rescue by lending us hers (thank you S!). Honestly, if we hadn’t had them, I’m not sure if we would have made it through even the first opening act. There’s no way to really prepare kids for an arena of screaming fans, it’s so unlike anything they’ve ever experienced. It was so loud for my kids that they didn’t even want to take the headphones off when they went to the bathroom.
Bottle service: Another great piece of advice from S — bring bottle caps. When you buy drinks at the arena, they take off the caps. (Maybe people use them as projectiles? I don’t know.) So you’re left with bottles of water that you have to hang onto or try to sit on the floor without knocking over. We brought a handful of caps so we could close up our water bottles and make them last the whole night.
Snack attack: It’s almost unbelievable how these places can charge so much at their concession stands. You expect to shell out big bucks for memorabilia, but $15 for a bucket of popcorn? (Who knew that Anna’s $10 spending money wouldn’t have covered it!) And $5 for a bottle of water? It’s disgusting. So I was glad we brought our own snacks, which were almost enough to satisfy our crew. (Look up the arena’s official website for details on what you’re allowed to bring to an event.)
Go homemade: This might not work for older kids who care more about getting the real thing, but my parents had t-shirts made for their granddaughters (OK, for me and my sister, too) when they gave them the concert tickets at Christmas. They are bright red, which made our gaggle of girls easy to keep track of, and cost all of six dollars apiece. We got lots of compliments on them! We also brought lots of glow sticks and bracelets, which added some inexpensive fun.
Plan your route: Getting in and out of downtown Toronto is never simple or predictable. Most times, public transit is the smarter option, but all I could imagine was five tired kids at 11 o’clock at night on a subway platform with thousands of other people leaving the concert. So we drove down, and it worked out OK. I think either choice would have had its drawbacks, but at least our kids could all fall asleep as we inched our way out of the downtown core. Next time, I’d consider renting a hotel room and avoiding transit altogether.
Be realistic: This should be point one, really. Make sure your kids are going to be able to handle the crowds, the noise and the many hours sitting at a concert late into the night. My girls are seven and almost five and, I now admit, my enthusiasm for taking them to their first concert may have overshadowed common sense. They adore Taylor Swift, but I probably should have waited for her next tour. Or the one after that. Avery, my youngest, did dance and sing for a while, but was so tired by the end (we managed to get her to nap that afternoon or I’m sure she would have fallen asleep), but Anna was overwhelmed by it all (and wouldn’t nap, so she was exhausted). After eating her $15 bucket of popcorn and watching three opening acts, she was pretty much ready to go home shortly after Taylor hit the stage. She toughed it out for a long time, but I took both of my girls out to the lobby for the last two songs so they could get away from the hysteria and run around a little bit.
Have you taken your kids to a concert? What are your best tips for making it a great experience? Tweet me @T_Chappell.