EVENT INTELLIGENCE

7 Ways to Accommodate Parents With Babies and Young Kids at Events

Providing family-friendly services, activities, and hospitality can mean the difference between impressing the right people at events—or losing the chance to even try.

By Alesandra Dubin July 1, 2015, 7:15 AM EDT

Natalie Alcala organized a Fashion Mamas L.A. event in January, at which the Mama Circle provided childcare while guests participated in a meditation session at Unplug Meditation in Los Angeles. 

Photo: Courtesy of Fashion Mamas L.A.

At the Samsung Studio, the brand's long-term pop-up in a heavily trafficked area of Los Angeles, the bathroom offers a welcoming environment for parents of babies and small children. Thanks to a partnership with infant and toddler products company Munchkin, the area offers a changing station with wipes, diapers, changing pads, a diaper pail, and even a wipe warmer. The supplies are available at all times during open hours, for events both public and private.

The setup is just one example that illustrates the ways big brands and events are joining what niche parenting groups and gatherings have long done in consideration of guests with babies and young kids. Accommodating such guests is becoming more common as hosts recognize it isn’t just a nice perk: It can be a matter of whether the event draws its target audience, or loses a chunk of the market it had hoped to reach.

Avoid attrition by providing parents with the services, activities, and hospitality that not only accommodate guests—but actually entice them to attend.

1. Make the bathroom easy to find.
“Much has been made about the importance of changing tables [when it comes to accommodating parents with babies],” says Doug French, the co-founder and director of programming for the Dad 2.0 summit in Washington. “But the actual most important thing for parents of small kids to know is the locations of all the restrooms. A young child's alimentary system can go to Defcon 1 in seconds, and parents need to react fast.”

Although most parents come without children to the Dad 2.0 event, the team nevertheless publishes a comprehensive map of the meeting space, “so that anyone who's in charge of a little one knows exactly where to go when he needs to,” French says.

2. Provide childcare.
For events at which parents will want or need to turn their focus away from their children, arrange on-site childcare. “For past events, I've hired UrbanSitter to host a babysitting room for an hour so mamas can enjoy a grown-up activity, like a yoga or meditation class,” says Natalie Alcala, the founder of the Los Angeles professional women’s network Fashion Mamas L.A.

As an example, Inspired by This blog and Be Inspired PR founder and editor in chief Leila Lewis describes an event she participated in at a bridal salon, “where we invited vendors knowing that they had children, and we had a babysitter and toys and an area for the kids to play while their moms networked,” she says.

3. Expand the timeline.
A two-hour event at a bar or restaurant may not be the most enticing format for a parent who is working around a busy schedule of work commitments, nap and feeding times, and other timing logistics. A drop-in-style event held over a longer window may help accommodate more guests. Of the same bridal industry event, Lewis says, “There was flexibility and parents could come during a window of time [that worked for them], since we know that working moms with kids may be at the mercy of nap schedules.”

4. Create a nursing station.
For events where nursing mothers are likely to attend, organizers should create a place that is private and comfortable for them to feed their children. If the space feels like an afterthought, nursing mothers will perceive it right away—and feel more detached from the experience. On the flip side, a well-considered nursing station is likely to create a lasting impression and sense of connection.

When considering a nursing station, Alcala says, “Just make sure there are lots of comfortable pillows and soft foam mats for mamas to relax on so they don't feel rushed.”

5. Offer stroller parking.
Organizers hosting events in small venues may want to discourage parents from bringing strollers inside, but specifying the ban can alienate guests. Instead, accommodate strollers in a secure and orderly way—outside—and help parents find an alternative for carrying their children inside.

“If your venue is smaller, instead of turning away parents with strollers, offer a stroller check-in area with complimentary baby carriers,” says Alcala. “[That way] they can park their stroller and wear their babies instead.”

6. Set up age-appropriate activities.
Activities can be fun for kids, but one activity may have little value for parents with small babies, while another will bore kids who are too advanced. Make sure activities are carefully targeted to the range of ages in the crowd.

“Face painting is a crowd pleaser. It offers great photo ops and makes [older] kids feel special,” Alcala says. “For younger babies, create a designated play area covered with foam mats and toys so parents can keep the little ones occupied while interacting with other parents. Babies will also enjoy wiggling around and discovering other babies, too.”

7. Cater to the crowd.
Kid-friendly catering doesn't just mean grilled-cheese sandwiches and hot dogs. Frequently, parents are looking for organic, healthy foods for their kids—and will appreciate seeing those items turn up on buffet stations.

Further, parents with babies and kids at events never have an extra hand to spare—if one hand is wrangling a child, the other is used for business cards or hand shaking. So being offered a plate of food could feel like a hardship, not a benefit. “Coming to an event with kids, it's easier to be able to eat with one hand picking up from a buffet or tray pass then it is sitting down for a full meal,” Lewis says.

Disclosure: The writer of this article is a member of Fashion Mamas L.A.

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