If you’re organizing an event -- whether it’s a tech conference, a wedding, or a family-friendly party in your home -- and you want parents of small children to be able to attend, you might consider offering on-site childcare so that parents can bring their kids along to enjoy the festivities too. Whether to support diversity or just to increase attendance, it’s a trend we’re seeing more and more at Nanno, and enthusiastically support.
Here are 10 things to keep in mind when bringing on-site child care to your event:
1. Location: The first thing you’ll need is a designated space for the care to take place. Pick a room that has enough space where furniture can be moved or removed and with a bathroom close by. Think about removing any expensive or breakable items and covering any tables that will be used. If you’re going to have young kids, make sure to do basic childproofing (gates, socket covers, etc.).
2. Gear: If you think you’ll have a significant number of babies or younger kids, you may want to outfit your space with a pack-and-play or two, and maybe even a few strollers. You can ask parents to supply their own, or rent them through a baby gear rental company. We recommend BabyQuip, a national service for renting all sorts of baby gear (delivered to your door or venue).
3. Activities: The key to keeping kids happy in a new environment is to keep them entertained. Activities vary by age group, of course, but here are a few suggestions. (Or check out our Nanno Daycare-in-a-Box Idea List.)
- Books. If you have kids of any age, chances are you have a collection of children’s books that you can tap into for this, but if not, the public library has plenty!
- Games. Uno is our favorite -- colorful, compact and suitable for a very wide range of ages.
- Dress-Up Clothes. It’s crazy how much little kids love dressing up.
4. Art Projects / Materials: You don’t have to go crazy with high-end craft ideas. Here are some household “art” materials that kids go nuts for.
- Paper Plates
- Coffee Filters
- Egg Cartons
- Paper Cups
5. Snacks: Kid-sized snacks are easy to come by and always a crowd pleaser, but just remember: (a) leave the tree nuts at home, just in case there are allergies, and (b) whatever snack you are considering, imagine it being smashed into the carpet by an enthusiastic toddler. Choose wisely!
6. Tech Tools: Bluetooth speakers are great for ambient music, but can also be put to use for impromptu dance parties, singalongs, lip synch battles and musical chairs. At about $200, a pico projector is a (relatively) inexpensive way to create a wow-worthy instant cinema experience if you have a blank wall.
7. A Quiet Place: If you’re going to have babies and little kids, and they’ll be there for more than an hour or two, you might want to set up a separate nap area with blankets and sleeping mats.
8. Labels: Nobody likes labels -- but sometimes they’re necessary. We like blank rectangular name tag stickers, where you can write the child’s name and other important information, like their parent’s cell phone number and any allergies they have. If they’re under age 3 (or so), put the label on their backs to prevent removal.
9. Prep the Parents: Expect an enthusiastic response when you announce that you’ll be providing on-site child care at your event -- but that’s not the end of the story! We recommend having parents let you know at least one week in advance whether they’re bringing kids (and what ages). The goal is getting an idea of the number and ages of the kids who will be there, so you know how many sitters you’ll need. If it’s a big event, you may want to have attendees register their kids online. Either way, you should have parents sign their kids in when they arrive at the venue, and sign a liability waiver for everyone’s protection. (If you book your sitters through Nanno, we can handle this for you.)
You’ll also want to give parents a list of things to bring for their own child, including
- A change of clothes
- Something warm to wear (in case it gets chilly inside)
- A water bottle
- Snacks, if you won’t be providing them or if their kids have eating restrictions
- A nap mat or pack-and-play (if the kids are little, the event is long, and you won’t be providing those things at the venue)
If your event is going to be more than a few hours, it’s a nice touch to give parents an idea what to expect, especially if you have activities planned.
10. Book the Sitters: Having good sitters is key to this endeavor being successful. Yes, we’d be thrilled if you booked your sitters through Nanno, but if you have volunteers you trust, that works too. Here are our suggestions for managing event sitters:
- Make sure the sitters know they will be working at an event outside the home. In our experience, a lot of sitters really enjoy this kind of work, but you don’t want to take them by surprise.
- Have at least 1 sitter get there early and stay late, to help you set up and break down.
- When you have 3 or more sitters, make one the “lead” organizer, who will be the central point of contact for parents and event planners. (If you book through Nanno, we can do this for you.)
- Make sure the sitters have at least one reliable cell phone they can use to call parents if there are issues.
You want to make sure to have the right number of sitters for the number and ages of kids you will have. Here are the ratios we find work well:
- 1:2 ratio for infants & babies (ages 6 to 18 months)
- 1:4 ratio for toddlers & preschoolers (ages 2 to 4 years old)
- 1:6 ratio for older kids (ages 5 and up)
Note that if the only available bathroom is not directly connected to the child care space, you will probably want at least 2 sitters, so one can make bathroom trips while the other is behind with the rest of the kids.
Congratulations on bringing on-site child care to your event! We at Nanno are thrilled to be part of this movement, and look forward to supporting you in every way we can.
If you’d like our PDF guide to bringing on-site child care to your event, including a sample liability waiver, sign-in sheet, setup checklist, and more, just click the link below.