Kid-friendly Events on the Rise

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Kid-friendly events
Kid-friendly events aren’t for every group. But meetings that include childcare are increasingly popular as more attendees seek to include pre- or post-event family time.

Kid-friendly events have been around as long as attendees have wanted to bring their families along on a business-event trip. While demand for childcare services at meetings dropped during COVID — as did in-person events in general — it now is roaring back. One trend fueling the return of kid-friendly events is the growth in bleisure (business plus leisure), meaning attendees now are more than ever looking to attach a day or two pre- or post-event to enjoy the destination with their families.

Prevue recently caught up with Kelli Alexander, Director of Events with Destination Sitters. The childcare company, which offers both individual and group childcare services for meeting and event organizers, has seen a lot in its 15 years in business, including a resurgence in demand after the COVID pause.

“If their companies aren’t offering childcare for attendees, a lot of parents are looking for private childcare,” she says. “They love having the opportunity to drop their kids off and then go off to have their meetings. Demand is definitely growing but it’s different than it was before.”

kid-friendly eventsPrevue: Are there any particular types of events that tend to need more of your on-site childcare services?
Alexander: We have a lot of conventions as clients, especially medical-related conventions and conferences. We work really closely with several educational rare-disease nonprofits. Because the kids also can have the rare disease, they want the kids to be able to learn and be a part of that community, but also have fun. They can come hang out with us and the go back to the sessions with their parents. We customize our services for each event, but event organizers usually contract us for a full day of childcare.

Prevue: How do you ensure that the children are safe and secure while they’re in on-site convention childcare?
Alexander: We have very strict procedures, and we know every care provider who is going to be in that room. This is important because there are no federal or state restrictions on temporary childcare, as opposed to daycare centers. We ensure that all our care givers are background checked, first aid- and CPR-certified, and professionally referenced. We have about 150 care givers throughout the U.S., and I could give you at least five facts about each one of them.

Also, we will not do an event if we do not have an enclosed area for the safety of the kids. We also must have a restroom that is close by.

In addition, we open an online registration two weeks before the event so we can ensure we staff appropriately. We provide childcare starting at six months, and we have strict staff-to-child ratios for each age group. We also ask about allergies, because that’s becoming more prevalent now, as well as any special needs the child may have.

Prevue: Are there any special requests you’re seeing more of, or other changes from what people used to be seeking a few years ago?
Alexander: In addition to allergens, we also are seeing more requests for different activities. We’re always very entertaining ourselves, but we’ve been having a lot more requests for things like a magician, a face painter or someone who makes balloon animals. Post-COVID, they want to make it more of an experience for kids.

Also, it has nothing to do with kid-friendly meetings, but post-COVID a lot more people are traveling with pets. We do offer a pet-sitting service as well — just individual, not in a group setting — and that has been growing as hotels also are becoming more pet-friendly post-COVID.

Prevue: Do you have any tips for event organizers who haven’t arranged childcare for their meeting before on how best to work with a company like yours to ensure a kid-friendly event?
Alexander: They should start making arrangements three to six months in advance to ensure that we have availability. They should also ask about liability insurance. We always are asked about whether we’re bonded, licensed and insured — but remember that not all insurance is liability insurance, so they should ask specifically about that.

They also should ask how each person in that room is vetted. Some individuals will just say, “Yep, I have the staff to do this.” And then an hour later you’ll see a posting on Indeed for looking for childcare workers in that area.

In terms of budgeting, it will depend on the group’s needs. However, infants and younger children who aren’t potty trained are more staff-intensive, so if you have children who are four and above, you will see lower prices than if most are six months to three years old.

I’d also say it’s important to keep an open mind when we’re discussing it with them. For example, they may want to give the kids strawberries and we’ll say no, because it’s one of the top allergens. And popcorn is a top choking hazard, so we may have to say no to that as well.

Event planners must remember that they may be moms and dads, but they are not that specific child’s mom or dad. So just because their six-year-old likes certain things, it doesn’t mean all six-year-olds will like those same things.

We like to say, “You provide the room, we provide the fun.” So get us the room and the objects we ask in the room, and we will provide the fun and keep the children safe.

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