How to Burn Your Kids Without Tears or Visible Scars
If you have decided to take your kids to Burning Man, congratulations! Kids are the next generation so more burners are bringing their children to Black Rock. It’s not a cake walk, but if you prepare properly, you and your kids will have an amazing experience.
I first took my son to the playa when he was 16-months old. He’s now a teenager and has been to 11 burns, so I am familiar with every age of playa-kid.
- If you are a first-timer, know what you are getting into. Consider going without your kids the first time, or camping with a veteran family. Go to the Burning Man website and read everything about preparation, especially the “Kids at Burning Man” section.
- If you are a veteran, don’t assume you know everything. Read everything again, talk to other families and consider camping with other families.
Find your burner-kid community:
- Like adults, children will make friends and bond with other burners. This will give you a break from having to entertain your kids all day. You can also share the responsibility with your tribe by kid-swapping or making play dates.
- Kidsville village offers a safe haven for families to live, where kids can play and interact with other kids. The village is closed off from vehicle traffic and offers common play areas with trampolines and special kid events. You must pre-register with Kidsville by August 1st. Go to BlackRockKids.com for info, which links you to the Yahoo Kids Camp group to register. Kidsville it’s not a baby-sitting service. Families are expected to contribute to the village through volunteering, building, etc. Please DO NOT plan to drop off your kids; unsupervised kids will be reported to Rangers as abandoned.
- Aside from Kidsville, consider areas that quieter if your kids are light sleepers, lower in traffic and away from erotica camps and close to potties. Consider your proximity to the medical center and the ranger station.
Plan on losing things:
- Bring multiples of everything – goggles, face masks (made out of stretchy jersey so they stay on), drinking water bottles, wide brim hats with a cord, lip balm with an eye-hook on the end, spray water bottles for cooling off, head lamps, clip-on flashy lights for night time and small packs of baby wipes.
- Think small; instead of buying a Costco size bottle of sunscreen or lotion, bring several pocket-size bottles.
- Keep your gear organized in camp; hang a clear plastic shoe holder (the kind that hangs over a door) in your tent and one in your kitchen area. It’s the perfect way to see everything and keep it from hitting the ground.
Set up a kid-friendly base camp:
- A large shaded area is absolutely necessary. Kids are mobile, so the larger the area, the more likely they’ll stay in the shade. If you have toddlers, enclose your shaded area with inexpensive garden fencing.
- Bring several spray water bottles for the kids to keep cool with. Consider installing a garden mister in their play area. Bring daytime activities that encourage them to stay in camp during the heat of the day.
- Have a plan for dust storms; if you are not in an RV, keep an empty space in your car for kids to ride out dust storms. Set them up with water, snacks, a pee-bottle, water drinking bottles and activities.
- Keep goggles and face masks easily accessible at all times. Dust storms can happen at any time.
Bring kid-friendly foods:
- In the heat and excitement of Black Rock, kids may not feel hungry, so it’s best to snack them all day.
- Although we try to avoid extra packaging, when it comes to kids, it’s better to go with individually wrapped foods. They are easier to pack and take with you on the playa, and when you kid spills his goldfish, he won’t contaminate the whole container with playa dust or make a huge mess.
- Great kid foods are; Go-gurts, fruit cups, apple sauce, crackers, energy bars, fig newtons, trail-mix, nuts, jerky, juice boxes, fruit leathers, and apples. This means you also have to carry a Moop bag (for trash) with you to collect the packaging as you go.
Protect their skin:
- Start the day with plenty of sunscreen all over. Avoid putting body-sunscreen on their foreheads, when they sweat it, will run into their eyes and burn. Use a face sunscreen or paste stick (looks like a giant chapstick).
- Bring natural almond or coconut oil and Q-tips to swab their noses (and yours) to combat dried-out nasal passages.
- Do your best to keep playa dust off their skin, especially the face. Spot clean with water bottles, vinegar rinses and unscented baby wipes during the day (scented wipes sting). Follow with reapplying sunscreen.
- Tiny feet are particularly vulnerable to the playa’s acidity, so don’t let them go barefoot… EVER! change to clean socks often and bring extra shoes (they get lost too).
- Daily bath; bring an inflatable toddler-size pool, camp shower, a folding stool and small rug for daily bath time. See “How to Build an Easy Burning Man Shower”. Late afternoon is the best time for bathing, before it gets cold. Wash feet and hands extra well, Dr. Bronner’s kid soap is great. Use a mix of vinegar and water in a spray bottle for the final rinse. After bath, lotion them up (or use olive oil) and dress them warmly for evening.
Get out on the playa:
- Read the “Who, What, Where Guide” to find kid events.
- Getting out on the playa during the day is challenging due to the heat. Plan your outings for early morning or late-afternoon, dusk and evening.
- When you do go out, remember that kids tire easily in the heat, so the best way is to use a bike trailer, which also provides a way to carry gear. Build additional shade on the bike trailer and pad the inside for naps.
- Another great way is to hop an art car, but beware that you’ll likely not be dropped off where you were picked up.
- Create a checklist-ritual for outings; water and extra water, snacks, spray bottle, baby-wipes, pee-bottle, hat, mask, goggles, hat, lip balm. Bring a playa day bag or back pack for all the kid gear.
- Use a set of walkie-talkies on a lanyard to keep in touch with your kids, or base camp. It’s fun for the kids and gives them of sense of responsibility for themselves.
- Night time on the playa is noisy with music, flamethrowers and booms. Protect little ears and anxiety levels with padded ear protectors (best price at Home Depot).
- Night outings are best with the bike trailer, outfitted with a favorite blanket and pillow. Little ones will easily fall asleep as you peddle around the playa.
Playa-wear for the kids:
- Pack two sets of clothes per day.
- Bring costumes like capes, animal ears, tails, wings, furry vests, disco shorts and don’t forget the roller skates for Roller Disco camp. * There are great one-pieces sun suits available in fun patterns, which serve as a costume and sun protection.
- Have your child decorate his/her hats, which will encourage them to wear them.
- For night time, one-piece fleece animal suits and footed pajamas make a great top layer. Don’t forget warm fuzzy hats for chilly nights. Write your camp name on his/her favorite things, just in case they get lost.
Burning Man Culture:
- It is the responsibility of the parents to teach their kids about Burning Man culture, compassion, responsibility, respect, self-reliance, courtesy and generosity. Prepare kids for what they will see, hear and experience (nudity, sexual reference, explosions, art cars with giant penises, etc.).
- Don’t worry about the nudity. It’s not “Girls Gone Wild” nudity… it’s artsy, natural and fun. If you don’t make a big deal about it, they won’t either. Children will naturally spend the first few hours pointing at naked people, but they will soon get over it and enjoy the playful, open atmosphere.
- Be prepared to answer challenging questions, but look at it as an opportunity to discuss things.
- Don’t expect the community to change it’s culture to shield kids from things some may consider inappropriate. It’s up to the parents to protect their kids.
- As parents, it’s our responsibility to control our kids and curb their behavior. It’s not okay to let them run wild through camps, on structures, art work or art cars without permission of the owner.
- It’s important for kids to be polite and respectful at all times.
- Make a few laminated ID tags with his/her name, your name, your camp name and location. Put it on a fun lanyard along with a whistle, a toy and lip balm (with the eye hook). This will also serve as a place to clip on pendants they will receive as gifts.
- It is not safe to turn young kids loose without supervision. The ticket states “Death or serious bodily injury can occur by attending this event”. This means kids need supervision and protection more than ever.
- You are legally responsible for your kids. Don’t assume your kids will be safe in someone else’s camp. Don’t expect burners to make their camp, art car or structure child safe. It’s up to you to determine if it’s safe.
- Set some safety rules for your kids:
- Make sure they know how to ask for help.
- Visit the closest Ranger Station to become familiar with it.
- Set physical boundries in camp for them to stay in
- Traffic safety; don’t run into the street, or only with an adult
- Review “dust storm” drills; put on goggles, mask and get inside a predetermined shelter (car, RV or tent). Stay with parents at all times.
- Review the “lost” drill; ask a adult for help. Show their ID-tag with their camp address so they can be taken home.
- If they are old enough to wander alone, set up regular times to check in. Make sure they have a map and know where their camp is.
- Plan for the worst. Make up a “Missing Child” poster of your kids. It will help the Rangers in finding your child if he/she gets lost.
Take care of yourself
- It’s your burn too! A day on the playa is already challenging enough, but add the needs of cranky kids and you’re sure to end up grumpy.
- Schedule a daily nap for you and the kids in the heat of the day.
- Keep yourself hydrated, fed and rested.
- Pack headache medicine, sleep aids, ear plugs, powdered Gatorade and Emergen-C packets and anything else you need to feel your best.
- Bring your favorite adult beverages to be served in grown-up size sippy cups, which keeps the dust out and travels well. This may keep you from snapping at the kids, but of course, don’t over do it. You want to be sober enough to be a good parent.
- If friends offer to take your kid for an afternoon, take them up on it and take a break. Try to schedule at least one kid-free night out with your spouse. You, your spouse and your kids will get along better if you’re feeling your best.
Enjoy your burn!