Playa Survival Guide for Families

[Judes has been a Burner since 1999 and an advocate for playa families. She first brought her son Dexter to BRC when he was 16-months-old, who has 8 Burns under his belt. For 4 years, Judes hosted Hot Monkey Sox, a popular sock monkey workshop camp in Kidsville. In 2010, she founded the Black Rock Scouts program so kids could attend playa-cational events, volunteer with BRC Departments and learn to give back to the BRC community.]

Surviving at Black Rock City is difficult enough, and now you want to bring your kids? That’s great!

It can certainly be daunting the first time, but children actually thrive in the playa environment. It just takes some extra preparation, planning and diligence. Trying to get a toddler to drink her weight in water isn’t easy, but lots of families have found ways to not only survive, but flourish on the playa. Speaking as a parent, I truly believe that the Black Rock City experience and the Ten Principles provide an amazing educational immersion that can’t be found anywhere else.

So where do parents find the best information on how to prepare for a successful burn?

The Burning Man website’s section on Kids at Burning Man is a great place to start, but it doesn’t have all the info you may want.

That’s why Kidsville parents (myself included) have collaborated on a thorough and detailed guide for Burner families. Jesper from Kidsville has kindly put it all together into a single, helpful, and entertaining Kidsville Survival Guide.

It covers everything from child safety, playa clothes, kid food and taking the kids out of school for the Burn. While it has information specific to camping in Kidsville, it’s got a ton of useful information for all families. Check it out!

About the author: Judi Morales Gibson

Judi Morales Gibson

Judes has been a Bay Area burner since 1999 and an advocate for playa families since 2002. She first brought her son Dexter to BRC when he was 16-months-old, he's been burning ever since. Judes hosted Hot Monkey Sox, a sock monkey workshop camp in Kidsville from to 2007-10. In 2010, she founded the Black Rock Scouts, a playacational program for kids to volunteer with BRC Departments and learn to give back to the BRC community. With Scouts, Judes worked shifts with Greeters and Lamplighters. She was an Earth Guardians from 2011-13, and on Gate/Perimeter from 2012-13. Judes is now on the crew of the Neverwas Haul, mobile art installation based in Vallejo. Off-playa, Judes is a freelance writer, artist, art instructor (kids & adult), designer and maker of upcycled Steampunk fashion and playa-wear. "It's never too late to have a happy childhood."

27 Comments on “Playa Survival Guide for Families

  • ruben says:

    too bad our whole family couldn’t get tickets this year, so we can’t go. but we are making bank off reselling through ebay. every cloud kinda thing – now we can afford to go to disneyland for 2 full weeks!

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  • deluxe says:

    Scalping your tickets for more than face value on ebay it sounds?!

    Great values to instill in your kids. Way to go!

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  • Peace says:

    I’m guessing irony?

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  • Thermal says:

    BMan wasn’t family friendly this year due to their ticket sales “strategy”. It kinda makes them seem anti-family. (Not like the old days, when families could actually go.)

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  • alaskaglacier says:

    I don’t think this years ticket “strategy” was friendly to anyone, it was more like a “tragedy” to all. I pray and hope it goes back to “first come, first served” ticket sales so whole families could participate if they choose to do so. I really enjoyed hearing about the youngsters stories from Burning Man last year, especially the tale woven by the young boy who fought in Thunderdome…

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  • mandapie says:

    Ah, lovely.. more 3 wheeled jogging strollers up on the playa. I’m tooootally looking forward to seeing that.

    Am I the only one that would prefer to *not* see little children at Burning Man? If they’re going to be there, can’t we at least corral them to one section so the rest of us don’t have to worry about it? I come to Burning Man to get away from daily life – and screaming kids are part of what I seek to avoid. :/

    i guess i was just still upset by seeing someone with a newborn in a baby sling while she was partying. ugh.

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  • MoonBunny says:

    Dear trolls, love divine.
    There were indeed many SNAFUs with the lottery, and perhaps especially for the Kidsville set.

    Still, bringing your family out onto the playa, if you belong to a family, is the only natural thing to do.

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  • Hilz says:

    I saw on the website that kids 12 and under are free. Is that new this year? This is the first year that I am bringing my kiddo, so never paid attention to the kid info before.

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  • Judes says:

    Dearest Mandapie, if you were to read the Family Survival guide you’d see that it focuses on parents taking care of their kids, so the community doesn’t have to ‘worry’ about the kids. And yes, there are screaming kids on the playa, screaming with joy and having fun along with the other 50,000+ burners. I’ve seen way more adults misbehaving or having melt-downs on the playa, than children.

    Parents understand that not everyone likes burner-kids, we get it. Please just try to embrace Radical Inclusion. The playa is a big place, plenty of room for all of us. Sure, we’d all to like to ‘corral’ certain burner types like Shirt-cockers, Sparkle-ponies or unprepared noobies… but we are burners, acceptance is what we do.

    If you don’t like kids on the playa, just avoid Kidsville… and don’t worry, we can read body language. If you don’t like kids, we won’t send the little rug-rats over to hug you. :) Enjoy your burn.

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  • Mutant vehicle owners of America says:

    Kids under the age of 12 are admitted to burning man…free. It has been that way for as long as I can remember. The question I have is how does that effect the population count. Are they counted? Are two kids equal to one adult? Do they fall into the porta potties if unattended? So many questions….

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  • Jay says:

    I’m grateful that I can bring my kid to burning man. Outside of burning man my kid asks me why her friends parents can’t marry and way the boy scouts wont accept certain kinds of boys, and how come people are in the streets protesting. At least in the urban environs, glowing examples of intolerance and a total lack of compassion offers fodder for discussion. At least for one weak out of the year she can be exposed to an experimental community of generosity, creativity, and radical inclusion. I respect that kids aren’t some peoples thing. Respect goes both ways and I hope to be afforded some when I arrive with a super cool kid. Burning Man is a big place. If we come across something we don’t appreciate we can simply walk away. I personally like the opportunity to have an honest discussion with my daughter. There are aspects of Burning Man that are adult orientated but I take issue with those who believe that Burning Man is just a bawdy free for all. For me it offers a vision of how things could be and I come home inspired looking for ways to apply the ten principles in my life. Also, despite the perception of Burning Man, the law and our cultural expectations have limits on what is appropriate behavior. Nobody is asked to curve their behavior around children anymore than what is generally expected. I am totally excited about going this year. I can’t wait to see you on the playa.

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  • Fabi says:

    @mandapie…perhaps you need to review the concept of radical inclusion. Even my seven year old understands that it applies to everyone…not just the people who look like you.

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  • nana says:

    I find it both fascinating and pathetic that it’s still relatively socially acceptable to hate children. Some of the comments made about kids in response to this blog and on e-playa would not be made about other groups such as non-whites, gays, people with disabilities, or the elderly. You probably couldn’t even get away with saying those things about overweight people or people you thought were unattractive; yet, it’s repeatedly affirmed among some burners, that it’s OK to want to exclude children. Perhaps it’s for the kids’ protection— after all they are much more physically delicate and more prone to drying out and such—but couldn’t you also say that about older burners or burners with disabilities? (The morality issue is moot as you can see and hear much worse on prime-time TV and on public streets than at Burning Man.) You’d likely get your virtual head bashed in if you said, that you “would prefer to *not* see disabled people at Burning Man? If they’re going to be there, can’t we at least corral them to one section so the rest of us don’t have to worry about it?”

    I suppose that group exclusion has historically worked for various oppressive societies (ghettos, redlining, internment camps, etc.), and still seems to be the de facto situation in much of the default world. Ask anyone who is a little off of “normal”. Ask any teenager or socially-aware child. Personally, that’s the society I escape from when I go to Burning Man. I delight in experiencing diversity (in all its forms) and creativity in my fellow burners, and it’s very important to me that my son sees that, too. After all, I don’t want him to grow up to be a “hater.”

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  • ismael says:

    i consider burning man primarily a kids event.

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  • Shoulders says:

    If we want to improve this world we have to bring fewer assholes into it… my view is that there are few places on this planet where kids can see their parents, and other adult ‘role models,’ model the most important things: the importance of playing, of loving, of being childlike, being inclusive, dropping the stress and trappings of materialism — if only for one week a year –, of not being afraid of other people and, instead, reaching out to them, no matter how ‘weird’ they are… we were all children once, and I submit, if the kid-haters or whatever-kind-of-haters in this community were raised with this idea, let alone events like these, in their lives, they’d probably be a whole lot less hateful and enjoy themselves a lot more… which is, at root, what this is about, remembering that we are a short time here and a long time gone, and we better have as much fun as possible while we’re here!

    The ticket lottery thing completely failed our family this year, and it has, sadly, broken ours, and my super cool, burn-tested, fun-as-hell kids’ hearts. As the result of ‘the lottery (and just that phrase — which conjures up awful memories of Shirley Jackson’s brilliant, iconic and horrible treatise on human nature — being used in conjunction with BM is, I feel, a little sacrilegious) we don’t get to go this year, and that really, really sucks… and so when it comes to Burning Man, and this new ‘exclusive’ phase which it seems to be entering, it has probably ruined it for us, bringing us to our own: “done with fish, fuck fish” moment with the burn, and as a result we may never go again, BUT… that takes nothing away from the years we did do it… and I can tell you, those years have impacted my kids, and our family, in the most profoundly positive ways, and has really helped me towards my lifelong goal of raising two fewer assholes. The years we did the burn (and now as we do other, far less bureaucratic, and more inclusive, events like LIB) have paid off in big ways. I can’t imagine my kids, once they’re grown, ever having such a negative and misanthropic view of the world, or feeling like ‘kids’ being involved in these types of wonderful events is a burden to others, and that mentality will be due, partly, to us exposing these ideas to them, sharing them with the people we love the most and raising our kids right, damnit! Isn’t part of the beauty of BM, et. al., to embrace our inner child? How could some miss the message so profoundly as to waste their time judging others? It boggles the mind.

    Try being loving and kind and laughing and remembering what you were told (or should have been told) when you were growing up: free your mind and the rest will follow… you might like it.

    Another wonderful thing I tell me kids (and therefore myself, because one of the beauties of raising kids is, if you do it right, you get to re-parent yourself and maybe fix some glitches along the way) all the time: ‘just don’t be an asshole.’ And being at the burn showed them why that was an excellent strategy.

    Have fun this year, we will miss the playa and all of you, even the misanthropes, greatly!

    : )

    — A burner family from Hollywood (baby!)

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  • Sir Jj plenipotentiary of Kidsville says:

    I totally understand where you are coming from.
    A parent who disregard their newborn in order to get high does not belong at Burning Man or anywhere else. Unfortunately these parents exist everywhere and not only at Burning Man. Banning families from Burning Man will not solve bad parenting, only punish good parent and rob the kids – heir of the earth – of a formative & lifechanging.experience that is guaranteed to make the world better for future generations.
    Taking drugs is not only illegal at Burning Man, it is dangerous in the hot desert.
    Which is why we in Kidsville call in the rangers when we see a parent who is not quite there. The rangers have the training to differentiate between a heatstroke; dehydration and being high. They have access to the tools to deal appropriately with the situation. And they have a very short fuse when it comes to child endangerment (think sheriff and child services on speed dial). If you see someone again who is an unfit parent find a ranger.
    Sir JJ plenipotentiary of Kidsville

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  • Mermaid says:

    One lost kid could make over a hundred burners miss their flights, by causing the gates to close at the wrong time. If your kid is lost in a mall, odds are, things will be fine. If your kid is lost at the burn, the odds are likely to be even better. BUT OUR WORLD STOPS FOR YOUR KID! (If a kid is lost and then found, that whole family should be asked to leave leave the burn due to their inconsiderate act and its effect on our community.)
    If you really believe kids are people too, then the gate should not close when a kid is lost and they should need a full priced ticked like everyone! The thing is that kids are dependent on their parents, and there are some great parents out there. But there are also a lot of not-so-great ones. If a person gets hurt, it’s sad. If a child gets hurt, It’s “tragic.” Having kids around (and possibly bad parents) specifically requires special safe-gaurds from everyone. Bringing your child changes my burn experience. If you let your kid touch a burn barrel and they get 2nd degree burns, it may be on the News that evening! If I do it, I don’t think it will!
    Kids are awsome, but they do not get to deside what kind of parents they will have, and crappy parenting at the burn can negitively effect the event for a lot of people.
    I love kids. And I do not want them to get hurt. If there was a way to keep crappy parents out of the burn, I would happily sign up for it. But until there is, I am forced to look upon parents who bring their kids to the burn with apprehension, because one really bad parent at the burn could end the event for everyone.

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  • Cyn Ann says:

    That’s awesome. Introducing the kids to Black Rock City and getting them involved in the burning man spirit at a young age is great. Though I really do hope that back in 1999, Judes’ 16-month baby was responsibly dressed.. wearing a dust mask. Harsh environmental conditions not to be played with! Safety precautions go for every child :-)

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  • kiwano says:

    I’m just glad I’ve never had to tell my daughter:

    “So I’m going on a holiday where we’re going to dance, and make things, and play pretend, and share, and there will be cars that look like giant snails, and trampolines, and ball pits, and things to climb on, and people dressed like fairies, and popcorn, and candy, and bacon, and all kinds of multicoloured lights at night, and music, and hugging; and you can’t come with me because children aren’t allowed.”

    I really prefer how instead, I’m able to spend time with her over at our local makerspace, while we make her EL-rimmed fairy wings, decorate/illuminate her bike trailer, get to know more of the people she might interact with when she accompanies me for my volunteer shifts on playa, and listen to the stories she tells me about how much fun she had on-playa when it was her mother’s turn to watch her.

    Also, before anyone gets on too much about kids not belonging on the playa, stop for a moment and consider how many awesome art projects you’ve interacted with may actually have come into existence because at some point, their creators thought that their kids would love them.

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  • tooly says:


    “I find it both fascinating and pathetic that it’s still relatively socially acceptable to hate children.”

    are you fucking kidding? children are worshiped in this society like little kings and queens. if you dare look at one sideways, you could be arrested for abuse if they dare point their finger at you.

    children are hazardous to be around because of society and their parents – not because of the children themselves. it’s totally out of control. adults are second class citizens when these heavenly creatures are around all because you forgot to take the pill or use a condom.

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  • AsOfTime says:

    I would think as parents you would want to spend a better quality time then taking your kids to burningman. A nice family camping trip into nature not some man made art party… But hey some peoples kids and their parents hunh?

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  • erick says:

    This 41 year old kid is super stoked that there are kids at Burning man. I dislike most kids because the have crappy parents that have helped them become crappy kids… BUT the kids at Burning Man are not those. We need them there. They are part of the real world but also exist in the imaginary world. Its the kid in all of us that becomes the place that Burning Man is. Why do you think the real world isn’t like Burning man??? Because it is run by adults. Burning Man is what the world would be like if it was run by kids. HUGS. FLASHING LIGHTS. DANCING. MUSIC. GAMES. ART. JOY. HAPPINESS.

    These things have all been taken out of the real world by adults. I am thankful that 1 week out of the year i have a place to go where I can be the kid i want to be as an adult. The real world is dripping with PAIN, SORROW, DEPRESSION, LAME CLOTHES, CONTROLLED EVENTS, LACK OF FREEDOM. Burning Man is just all big kids. Welcome the small ones and LEARN from them so we can make Burning Man a better place.

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  • nikOpeachZ says:

    @ mermaid.

    Good point. One lost child may cause 100 burners to wait and (tragedy of tragedies) their flight is delayed and through FOMOS happen to arrive late for That Thing In the Desert.

    Did you know that a lost child on playa results in the gates being closed (no ins or outs) until the child is found? A lost parent on the other hand (i.e. a child wandering around looking for their missing parent) permits us as a 60,000 person community to carry on rediscovering our inner child.

    So you miss your flight out. So what? What kind of community are we creating? How would you plan for managing the safety of ALL members of the Disneyman community (especially the small and vulnerable)?

    What is our option as inclusive participants when we see parents doing a particularly poor job of taking care of themselves and their offspring? Do we mutter and mull over it until we have the opportunity to Troll an online forum? Do we speak up in the moment to check our fellow participants when they’re being asshats? It’s really up to all of us.

    nikOpeachZ clear and going off comm.

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  • Momo & Lil' Man Jet says:

    I have not registered my son Jet and I yet for Kidsville….Jet 6 yrs old his first burn was in utero at 5 months preg. this year 2012 will be his 8th, yes 8th year!!! EVERY year it has been SO much to make it all happen to get us “out there” to the Playa. I never really know if we are going to make it happen until we are approaching the gates. And it has always been only the two of us. This year I have lagged with getting registered for Kidsville….I don’t know what to do….we NEED kidsville….can anyone help guide me?????????

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  • Momo & Lil' Man Jet says:

    I have not registered my son Jet and I yet for Kidsville….Jet 6 yrs old his first burn was in utero at 5 months preg. this year 2012 will be his 8th, yes 8th year!!! EVERY year it has been SO much to make it all happen to get us “out there” to the Playa. I never really know if we are going to make it happen until we are approaching the gates. And it has always been only the two of us. This year I have lagged with getting registered for Kidsville….I don’t know what to do….we NEED kidsville….can anyone help guide me????????? Please Help

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  • Spira says:

    @ Mermaid…

    Here are a couple other factors that could close the gate, thus keeping people from catching their flights:

    Dust Storm – have you experienced one of those yet?
    Accident on the Highway – because people are too drunk, sleepy, stupid or some combination thereof.

    Both of those can happen at the “wrong time” and do far more often than a lost kid.

    Here are some other factors that can happen to keep you from entering or leaving:

    Flat tire, ran out of gas, broken vehicle, forgot your tickets at home, as you are packing your EZ up blew out into the open playa and now you must chase that rather large piece of MOOP, medical issues, your carpool mate is no where to be seen, you were sexually assaulted early in the morning and the police will not let you go until you file a report…

    All of those impact your burn in a not so pleasant way. All those happen more often then a child being lost. Don’t blame me as burner parent nor my child for affecting your burn – that is on YOU!

    FYI – I am a volunteer for ESD-Mental Health on Playa, specializing in Child Issues (neglect, abuse, lost children). In the past three years I have been volunteering – one missing child case that was solved in 40 minutes. In those same years dozens of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault cases.

    Just some perspective on what can impact your burn – children are the least of your worries!

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