Age is no barrier when it comes to having fun and, with so many international acts joining the stellar line-up for this summer’s feast of festivals, neither is language. With theatre, music, dance, crafts, circus acts, storytelling, nature trails and much more, there is a show to entertain every heart, young and old...


Saturday, May 25 to Sunday, June 2

Part of the wide-ranging suite of Edinburgh festivals, the Edinburgh International Children’s Festival is delivered by Imaginate. This is the national organisation in Scotland that develops, celebrates and presents theatre and dance for children and young people.

Across the space of a week, there are 14 productions – taking in circus, dance, music, storytelling and theatre. These come from nine different countries and explore topics that are engaging and entertaining but also – in a way that’s appropriate for children – look at the environment, consumerism, war and racial discrimination.

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Noel Jordan is the festival director and says the programme pushes the boundaries of what’s expected of children’s theatre and dance, adding: “There are themes of curiosity, connectedness and care for the environment, and characters learning to communicate across languages, cultures and borders to establish friendship and play. 

“We also investigate what to do with our nightmares, our losses and witness the impact of racial discrimination.”

Diversity is explored by Teatrodistinto from Italy. In Kish Kush, two characters are separated by a three-foot-high paper wall. One speaks English, the other a mix of Hebrew and Arabic, but through symbolic objects, shadow games and sounds, and in a gentle and humorous way, they get to know each other, tearing apart the delicate wall and emerging more accepting. 

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Over the past 10 years, Teatrodistinto has presented Kish Kush across the world in dozens of languages.  

The environment is the focus in TRASHedy, which uses humour to look at consumerism and choice. In the show aimed at 11 to 15 year olds, the German performing group asks questions and encounters an ever-growing mountain of rubbish. There are animations, dance and sound collages. The show is humorous but honest and presents the subject in a way that allows us all to reflect on our actions and the impact they have.

The subject of sibling loss is treated very gently and capably in An Ant Called Amy, presented by Julie Sharkey Productions from Ireland. This is the story of Amy, the aunt, her brother Andy and a Brown Spider.

Amy is as hard-working as all ants and awards make her work harder. The Brown Spider guides her towards happiness and helps her to celebrate her brother’s memory.

The festival does have experiences for all ages. The Engruna Teatre from Catalonia had a sensory experience for up to two years in Univers and the Emilie Weisse Circustheater, from the Netherlands, has Be Kind for those aged six to 18 months. Here, among the sound, colour and movement, the children can see acrobatics and juggling up close. 

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The wonderfully engaging performance follows a day, from early bird song to luminous juggling at dusk. After the performance, when a dialogue begins to happen between audience and performer, the audience can have fun crawling in, out and along the special materials on stage. 

Also on Saturday, May 25, from 10am to 5pm, the National Museum of Scotland will host Family Encounters – a free day of pop-up performances and artist interventions for families. 

The full programme will be published in mid-May but there will be walk-about characters, Chinese pole performances, musical explorations and hands-on arts activities, as well as new commissions in partnership with Merchant City Festival and Aberdeen Performing Arts.

The Herald:


Wednesday, May 22 to Saturday, June 1

This festival has gained a well-deserved reputation for the quality and diversity of the programme – from classical to dance music and from classical theatre to stand-up comedy.

This year there are particularly strong family-friendly events. On Saturday, June 1, there is a special screening of Wallace and Gromit: The Wrong Trousers at Perth Concert Hall, with the soundtrack performed by a live brass band. Alongside there are also model-making workshops on May 31 and June 1 with Aardman, the creator of Wallace and Gromit.

Suitable for eight years and up (parental supervision required), the tickets include the clay and craft materials as well as the expert tuition over an hour in the Norie-Miller Studio at Perth Concert Hall. Kids can take home their very own Shaun (sessions on May 31 at 6pm and on June 1 at 10am and 11.30am) or Gromit (June 1 at 1.30pm and 4.30pm).

Also at Perth is Children’s Classic Concerts and this year it features Big Top Brass. Ideal for four to 12 year olds, it has musical acrobatics from brass quintet Thistle Brass and live magic. The circus begins at 1pm and 3pm on May 25 in the Perth Theatre Studio.

The Herald:


Kelburn Castle, Fairlie, near Largs, Thursday, July 4 to Monday, July 8 

The surroundings of Kelburn Castle are superb for any festival but the Kelburn Garden Party has established itself as one at the forefront of family-friendly events. The music stages are always wonderfully eclectic and the whole event is suitable for families ... but there are some events that are particularly suitable for the little ones.

The Secret Forest Project is a labyrinthine trail through the woods above the main festival site, and at the Spinning Jennies, youngsters can learn circus tricks, such as riding a unicycle, juggling, hula-hooping, plate-spinning and making giant bubbles.

The Lullabies Collective is there for the very youngest – Sing Along in the morning, Bubbly Baby Bath after dinner and finish off the day with Songs and Stories for a real festival bedtime. The idea is to keep the little ones busy. There are workshops to make a suncatcher and many more games to make the most of the setting.

The Herald:


Errol Park, Perthshire, Friday, June 14 to Sunday, June 16

Solas has always been known as a laidback festival and perfect for families. Set in an estate overlooking the Tay, there is glamping and camping, with a small number of caravan and campervan pitches. For the adults, a great selection of culture leans to the bohemian side. Aside from music, there’s dance, philosophy, literature and even politics.

For the children, there’s the Silent Knights silent disco. A slightly noisier event is with Mr Boom, who children always love singing and dancing along with. There’s the Little Fawn Theatre – a puppet theatre in a Cheltenham Fawn caravan from the 1960s.

There is also the chance to make apple bird-feeders with the RSPB, play nature bingo or join the experts on a bug tour of the estate. Add to all of this traditional Ghanaian and contemporary folk tales storytelling with Gameli Tordzro, using musical instruments, words, action and movement, and also colouring for kids with Tawona Sitholé, a renowned Unesco Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts artist in residence.

The Herald:


Friday, August 2 to Monday, August 5

The popularity of MugStock means that it will be moving to a new location this year, over to Strathallan Castle near Auchterarder. It will still be a small, intimate festival and children have always made up a third of the audience. The singing spaceman from the Moon, Mr Boom, will make an appearance too. He’s been on Earth since 1984 with his songs, dances and musical games, so he might also offer a lovely nostalgia trip for the parents too.

The little ones will love the energy of Regia Anglorum, who are bringing the Vikings to MugStock. They’ve been recreating all aspects of early mediaeval history for decades and will share authentic Viking living history and combat displays throughout the weekend.

There’s also the chance to dance at the Poppins Party. This children’s disco also has sensory circus toys to dance with and bubbles to dance under.

The Herald:


Moffat, Dumfries and Galloway, Thursday June 13 to Sunday, June 16

On the Raehills meadows close to Moffat, the Eden Festival is closer to the big cities than you might think, being little more than an hour’s drive from Glasgow and Edinburgh. It has a bohemian, laidback vibe, with 12 stages of entertainment of all kinds – but there’s a particularly thoughtful offering for the younger guests.

In the Shellycoat Kids Tent there is sustainable, environmentally friendly arts, crafts, performance, forest skills and play. It’s free of charge for all children and promises to have something for all ages and stages. There’s a yurt for the younger ones, too, plenty of outside space of course and a forest skills area.