Thoughts on Reenacting with Children

This is a topic that is near & dear to my heart. Maybe more so than first person interpretation & you know how much I talk about *that*!

As a mother, and a reenactor, incorporating my kid into my beloved hobby has been a constant issue, something I ponder on long drives and late at night especially. I didn’t discover reenacting until L was already 5, but thanks to many friends, I have gotten the chance to enjoy reenactor children of all ages & in all time periods. Heck, after a decade in the hobby, some of those children are full-fledged adults even!

There are four distinct stages of children in the reenacting hobby. Each requires a different focus but they all share the need for flexible parenting skills, the patience of a saint, the creativity of an artist & if you’re lucky, the help of a few friends.

Babies: Comfort

Your comfort as a new parent, still stumbling around half awake at all hours of the day and theirs as a tiny new human still adjusting to life in the open air is all that really matters. If that means wearing a modern bra because it makes nursing easier and more comfortable, do it. If that means only day tripping to an event, or staying at a hotel at night, do it. If that means they wear disposable diapers or suck on a modern pacifier, fine. The only thing that matters is that you & the little one are comfortable enough just *being* at an event. Bringing your infant to a reenactment helps them integrate into the reenacting world from day one & expands the concept of living history into every aspect of life.

There is always someone willing to hold the baby.

There is always someone willing to hold the baby.

Sure there may be some people, inevitably those without children, who criticize the comfort measure you take because they “aren’t authentic”. You have my blessing to tell them to stuff it, especially if they don’t have an infant depending on them for every need. Frankly, the fact that you are even considering venturing out to an event with an infant in tow, deserves a reward.

Toddlers: Creativity

The terrible twos and trying threes are tough in the modern world, throw in different clothes, funny food, new people and it could be the recipe for disaster. Some of the comfort measures you took with a baby at reenactments, might still be needed for your toddler as well.

L2 at 1812 2013

Everything is a toy with a toddler in camp.

Now is a great time to start introducing your little one to all the special things that only happen at an event. Maybe that is a special necklace like the one with a large goat bell that my daughter used to only get to wear in camp (which also helped me find her when she would wander off!). Maybe it’s a special, period correct toy like blocks or a wooden gun that only come out when you are at an event. Maybe it’s the special dessert of s’mores, cooked over the fire before washing up and heading home for the evening.

Using a little creativity and being prepared with a few special, camp only surprises, can add an extra level of enjoyment to a toddlers camp experience. Those surprises can also give his parents a little leverage against melt-downs & other unforeseen issues that pop up at the worst moments.

Kids: Cooperation

The school-aged years are some of the best times to be reenacting with kids. They are old enough to be interested in history & actively learn from the reenactment environment, can entertain themselves with newly made camp friends easily and can even begin doing their own historic demonstrations. This is the golden age if you ask me. These are the years of cooperation, when they really get involved in everything we are doing at events. There is nothing quite as fun as introducing a fascinated 7-year-old to archery, or seeing a 10-year-old explain the process of churning butter to her friends.

Event friends mean both fun & freedom.

This was the most we saw of them the entire weekend.

The best thing that a parent can do is to help them find their unique interests and encourage them in every way possible. This might mean building child sized armor, investing in craft supplies, taking them on endless museum and library trips (not that any reenactor parent isn’t going those places anyway!)

Just be prepared, their interests can be fleeting. They still want to run free with their friends, or sit and throw rocks at the river. If you are lucky, they will get just as excited about an event and all the activities available as we get. They are the future of the hobby after all.

Pre-teens & Teens: Compromise.

Just when you thought you had reenacting with your kid down pat, puberty hits & everything goes out the window.

As if it wasn’t hard enough to keep them in historic clothing while they grow! Sometimes keeping up with their changing attitudes can be just as difficult. On top of it all, this is the age when outside activities start to take precedence. Sports, school projects, friends and everything else outside of reenacting can make it hard to even find the time to attend events regardless of their attitude.

Attitude is universal no matter the time period.

There is only one way to survive the pre-teen and teen years: compromise. It might be something small like letting your 14 yr old daughter dress as a boy because she doesn’t “do” dresses anymore. It might be big like bringing, & dressing, their friends so they aren’t the only teen in camp. It might even be the biggest compromise of all, letting them stay home.

Rest assured, even if they stop being interested in living history as teens, there is still a chance they will come back to the hobby once they are young adults. I’ve seen it happen with a few friends, once adult life hits they suddenly remember how much fun reenacting was & want to recapture that feeling.

If worse comes to worse & your grown kids never return to the hobby, there are always the grandkids!

What is your biggest tip when it comes to reenacting with your kids?

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Title image:
Thérèse Schwartze. Poor Yet Rich. 1887.

One thought on “Thoughts on Reenacting with Children

  1. I don’t have kids (yet), but being a kid that grew up reenacting and still really enjoying it, I feel like I have come valid tips. I don’t remember much from the baby years, but as a toddler/school aged kid, my favorite thing about reenactments was the people we camped with. Regimental camping was super fun because I got to regularly see the same people at each event, and the regiment we were a part of was like one big family! I loved that feeling, and when we started doing more independent camping, I was still social enough to go make new friends that I could expect to see from event to event.
    In high school, sports did start to conflict, and then college it was more transportation/distance related that kept me from going to all my usual events. But once I graduated college, I was more able to get to events. The reason I wanted to go back? It was like a second home, even though each event is at a different location. There are familiar events that we’ve been going to for years, but the atmosphere and often even the people are the same, so even if the location or layout of the campsite is different, each event feels like home. A vacation that also feels like a stay-cation. Modern worries, modern stress, work, none of it matters. It’s just you in your funny clothes, with your goofy friends, dancing like snooty people, making tasty open-fire food, laying in grass and having a good time.

    Sorry this was a long comment, but I love reenacting!!

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