It takes a little thoughtfulness to make your event child-friendly, but the payoff is worth it. The end result is a more inclusive event, and more smiles.
Let me be clear. This is not about how to plan an event for children. This is about how taking care of a few details can make your youngest guests (and their caregivers) feel more welcome when there are maybe a handful of children out of a few hundred guests. Incorporating these tips into your planning will be helpful when you have children aged 12 and under at your event.
I live in Ecuador and children are commonplace at formal events. When my children were babies it was expected that they would attend all family events such as weddings, baptisms, and anniversary parties. And they did attend. Sometimes it was easy, many times it was not. But events that incorporated these three things were much more enjoyable.
So here are some touches you can add to your event planning when you know that some younger guests will be in attendance.
Have a Quiet Room
This cannot be stressed enough. Find and designate a space that is close to the main event where a parent and child can sit and rest for a moment. This could be for a mother that needs to nurse, or to put down a baby that needs to nap. Or it could be a place where the screaming child can not be heard by the other guests. I have paced outside at night under eaves in the rain to quiet my crying baby during a toast and it was not pleasant for anyone.
Parents know their children and are the best at keeping them happy. This is much easier when they have some space. When my kids were less than three years old I would bring their strollers into parties and put them to sleep there when they needed a nap. However, when a quiet space was not available, they napped in the corner of the main room (once was on a pile of jackets). It was not ideal.
For older kids, this space could be used for them to color or read or play on electronics when they need some downtime or the event gets too stimulating. When there are only a few children at an event the parent will typically bring some sort of entertainment for their kids because we know that having your child constantly pulling on your arm to tell you that they are bored can suck all the joy out of you.
Babysitters Keep The Little One’s Occupied
Consider hiring a babysitter or childminder to make your event more child-friendly. Especially if the kids and/or their parents are coordinating or participating (e.g., at a wedding, the groom’s sister is the maid of honor and his niece is the flower girl).
Some parents make take the initiative to have their own babysitter come with to the event and take the kids home or to their hotel room when their participation is complete. But many will just want someone to keep an eye on their child while they cannot. This is something that you as an event planner need to discuss with your clients when asking if children will be present at their event.
Child-Friendly Food Is A Must
Children are known to be notoriously finicky eaters. I was one of them. As a child, I would rather starve than eat something that I didn’t like. I would wipe the sauce off of every noodle with my fingers before putting it in my mouth. I also wouldn’t let my food touch a vegetable. And I couldn’t stand ketchup.
So make sure that there is an option for some simple food to feed the handful of children in attendance. It should be something that children can eat on their own and does not require too much adult assistance.
Also, make sure the portion is reasonable. In my experience, younger kids (ages 4-8) love to stuff themselves with appetizers and dessert and barely touch the main course, but those who are older (ages 9-12) can eat as much as an adult.
Oh, and don’t forget the drinks. Some parents let their children have soft drinks while many don’t. So have some juice or milk available. However, if the adults are toasting with a glass of sparkling wine, a small portion of sparkling juice may be appropriate to offer the children so they feel included.
Parents understand their responsibility when bringing their children to an event. These three simple things will make your event child-friendly. And will make an enormous difference in the enjoyment of both the parents and their children.