Many conferences and conventions fail to offer child care to participants, but more event professionals are calling for the service as a standard practice. In a recent Convene poll about child care at events, 30 percent of the 33 event professional respondents said that they themselves had been unable to attend events due to a lack of child-care options.
Accent on Children’s Arrangements, a subgroup of DMC Network, has provided child-care services at meetings and events for 28 years.
“It has to be a partnership between the association and the parents,” Diane Lyons, CMP, said about offering child care at events. Lyons is president of Accent-DMC Inc., a DMC Network company.
Lyons provided the following tips when organizing a children’s program at an event.
- Decide whether to hire an outside firm, use an established hotel program, or run the program yourself.
- Plan well in advance. What kind of activities will be planned? How many children are coming? How old are they? What kind of schedule will you need (half- or full-day child care)?
- Decide who’s picking up the tab. Make sure attendees know what costs they’re responsible for.
- Provide children with registration packets and badges. Their printed program should be included in the overall convention program so parent and child know where the other is at all times.
- Set an age limit on children. Remember that the younger the child, the more supervision required and therefore the costlier the program.
- Divide child attendees by age category: two-to-four-year-olds, five-to-eight-year-olds, nine-to-12-year-olds, and 13 and up.
- Give the younger ones structure; avoid heavily structured programs for teens, and give them a “hangout” place to meet other teens.
- Hire qualified, licensed supervisors. Avoid too many off-property activities to limit your liability.
- Make the program educational. Consider tying in with established programs such as a zoo’s animal programs or science experiments, or local attractions like the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., or the Arch in St. Louis.
- Be careful about religious beliefs, particularly planning activities around religious holiday seasons.
Lyons’ one additional piece of advice: Be transparent. “I am a firm believer, having been in the event business now almost 40 years, that you have to be really honest about anything that happens, whether it’s a child biting another child,” she said. “That doesn’t happen very often, but three-year-olds bite.”
Learn more about Accent on Children’s Arrangements’ child-care guidelines.