For the Kids: Child-Friendly Conference Events

Sure, conferences are usually for adults, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any room for “kids stuff.” Here are some ways associations are making children feel welcome at their meetings.

Earlier this week, our Money & Business blogger, Emily Bratcher, wrote about how different associations are tackling workforce shortages in their industries. One of her examples—the American Society of Landscape Architects—recently published a print supplement for tweens called Your Land, which is geared toward 10- to 14-year-olds as a way to introduce them to the landscape architecture profession.

An association printing a supplement for an unusual audience—kids—is smart yet surprising. So is an association offering child-friendly activities and events during its annual conference. But there actually a number of groups out there that do the latter.

Take the American Beekeeping Federation. At its January 2017 North American Beekeeping Conference & Tradeshow in Galveston, Texas, it held the “Kids and Bees” event. This free event has been a tradition at the ABF conference for more than 20 years.

About 300 kids, plus their parents and teachers, took part in about 20 hands-on exhibits under the themes of “The Art of Beekeeping,” “The Science of Beekeeping,” “The World of Beekeeping,” and “The Future of Bees: It’s Up to You!” Favorite exhibits included beeswax candle rolling, bee finger-puppet making, and hive displays. The event also included face painting, a photo booth with costumes, and an ultraviolet “Bee View” demonstration. Conference attendees volunteer to work the exhibits.

Then there’s the National Weather Association’s WeatherReady Fest, which will be put on at its September 2017 Annual Meeting. Sponsored by the NWA Foundation, it’s “about kids having fun while learning basic meteorological concepts.”

Kids can pretend they are flying FedEx airplanes to avoid thunderstorms and make their very own tornado in a jar. They will also get to build a house with solar panels—and actually light it—and build a pinwheel to learn about the power of solar energy.

Like ABF, NWA gives members and attendees a chance to be a part of it. They can volunteer to help set up the event, staff an activity, or show off their favorite piece of weather equipment to the 9,500 that are expected to attend the festival.

And, back in December, the American Society for Cell Biology encouraged local teachers to bring their students to two events during its annual meeting. The first was an exploration of the nearby San Francisco Children’s Garden with a “fold-your-own-microscope.” The second was short talk by an attendee about her education and career path to becoming an academic scientific animator.

What I like about these examples is that they serve a lot of different needs. One, they allow the associations to introduce the next generation to their industries in a really fun way. Two, they offer some free and unique learning opportunities to kids in the local community. Three, they help make meetings a little more family friendly. For example, they may give parents the opportunity to spend some time with their kids while they are attending a conference for their own professional development (and cut down on onsite childcare dilemmas and costs).

What other child-friendly conference events or activities have you come across? Let us know in the comments.

A scene from the National Weather Association's WeatherReady Fest. (Handout photo)

Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

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