Forget enduring puppet shows and face painting, let your children stay up to watch Super Furry Animals under a full moon.

Latitude festival children's arena

This summer, just tell your children that the kids’ area has been washed away. Photograph: Jon Appleyard/PR

On the face of it, children’s areas at music festivals are a good idea. As the rave-ravaged generation sinks into middle age these little worlds of brightly coloured fun should provide a happy Mecca for parents reluctant to give up on their youth. Friendly hippies offer craft sessions. Puppet shows, possibly with a message about caring for the environment, entertain the little ones. Bales of straw and a donkey or two add to the general mood of non-consumerist cheer. All of this and the feeling that you are quite cool because you are at a festival with your family, and not Center Parcs.

In reality, however, children’s areas are one of the most hellish creations to have afflicted the innocent under the bright summer sun. They should offer respite to the hassled parent, hungover and grumpy because they had to miss Leonard Cohen’s headline set the night before in order to get the kids back to the tent. But they don’t because, in a twist worthy of Machiavelli, you’re not allowed to leave your kids in the kids’ area – you have to stay with them. This means suffering the endless queues for face-painting while child-free friends slope off to see the Horrors. This means struggling with making a friendship bracelet while everyone else goes to the beer tent. Speaking of which, the only logical way to get through this is to get drunk. But you can’t even do that. Drinking is frowned on in children’s areas. So is smoking.

Last year, I took my kids to the Green Man in Wales, an excellent festival run by a music-loving couple that typically features a lineup of far-reaching psychedelic folk and rock bands. Most of this was lost on me because I was stuck watching a puppet that looked like a banker attacking a crocodile. Determined to catch the set by a young Welsh singer called Cate Le Bon, I forced my children to accompany me to the tent where she was playing. We lasted three songs, before the nagging to return to that horrible world got too much to bear.

The answer is to avoid children’s areas entirely. My kids loved staying up late to watch Super Furry Animals under a full moon, and they enjoyed headbanging to Chrome Hoof at a tiny festival in Wales called Tapestry Goes West. What they don’t know about cannot tempt them, and for this year’s Green Man I’m going to tell them the children’s area has been washed away, which is why we’ll be watching psychedelic legend Roky Erickson on the main stage rather than a man with a giant bubble machine. Failing that, we’ll be going to Center Parcs.

Posted by: Amy Sikkes