Childcare is more commonly provided by women than men in our culture. In geek communities, this can often mean that women are excluded from activities and events because of their need to provide childcare, or because childcare is not available at those events.
As well as allowing parents to attend, kid-friendly events offer an opportunity to recruit and teach the next generation of geeks. Children's activities related to the adult activites can be a great way to get kids involved.
Events which provide childcare and/or children's activities
Science fiction conventions
Main article: Science Fiction Fandom
- WisCon provides childcare and children's activities
- Arisia provides childcare (2-6) and a track with activities specifically for children (6-12) during the convention.
Main article: Technical conferences
- BlogHer provides licensed childcare
- BarCampBlock in 2007 provided a play space for children
- linux.conf.au 2010 will provide a nursing room for parents and children, all ages welcome.
- DrupalCon Paris 2009
- us.PyCon.org provided childcare in 2014 and 2015
- Open Source Bridge provided childcare starting in 2015
- She's Geeky welcomed middle-school and high-school aged girls to their conference as full attendees
- Many SCA events provide children's activities
- The American Library Association (ALA) conference provides childcare; Andy Lester blogged about it: Geek conferences for families
- Non-geek groups such as churches can give us ideas about how to make kids and their parents welcome at events
- As of 2014, AdaCamp had offered childcare in DC, San Francisco and Portland.
Providing childcare at geek events
Providing childcare at geek events can make it easier for women (and men who care for children) to attend. It can also send an important message about an organisation or event's inclusiveness and desire to welcome women.
Tips for organisers
- Probably the simplest thing you can do is simply to ask, on your signup form or elsewhere or your event's website, whether attendees would be interested in childcare. This will send a message to parents that you are considering their needs.
- If a great many attendees are interested in childcare, then you can try to provide it as an official part of your event.
- "We do fine with childcare rooms at WisCon and at BlogHer. It takes some licensed day care providers, two rooms in the hotel or conference center (one for infants/preschoolers and one for older kids), some toys and snacks and portable cribs, and I believe some kind of liability insurance. At WisCon it’s volunteer run." -- Liz Henry in comments to this post
- Licensed day care providers can be found by the power of Google. http://www.care.com/ provides a service where you can post a job listing for childcare providers in your area (within the US). Professional childcare providers will be able to advise you about carer:child ratios, insurance, etc. Try to contact them early and keep them involved at all stages of planning.
- It is perfectly reasonable to ask parents to contribute toward the cost of childcare. However, if you really want to encourage more women to attend your event, you may want to subsidise all or part of the childcare costs.
- Another option for community/grassroots events is to add an option to the registration, "Donate $20 to help with childcare costs."
- If only a few are interested, you could offer to put them in touch with each other or with external childcare facilities in the area, to help them organise their own childcare.
- "I’ve also had very good luck hiring sitters from craigslist or from services like sittercity.com or care.com, to do childcare in my conference hotel room, take my son out for ice cream etc." -- Liz Henry in comments to this post
- You can solicit volunteers to help organise childcare. The central event organising committee does not need to be responsible for every aspect of it.
- Don't automatically ask the women coming to your conference if they'll be the child care organizers. Especially if you're not planning on putting any resources towards this.
- Even if your event does not provide childcare, you can still make it kid-friendly (see below).
Children at events without formal childcare
See also Women-friendly events
Even if you don't provide childcare, you can still make sure your event isn't explicitly kid-unfriendly. Allowing parents to bring their babies or well behaved older children should not negatively impact your event, and will make your event accessible to people who might not otherwise be able to attend.
Example infant feeding policy
Example child attendance policy
This policy may be used under Creative Commons Zero / public domain, ie free for modification and redistribution without attribution.
Parents and carers of infants and older children are welcome to bring them to EVENT. Children under 12 may enter for free but must be accompanied at all times by a parent or carer. [All children including infants must be individually registered by name using the child ticket option.]
Children over 12 may attend the conference without an accompanying carer but must pay the full rate [or student rate, etc].
As with other attendees, infants or children disrupting EVENT sessions will need to leave or be removed from the session. We ask that parents and carers be prepared to leave a session if their child is causing a disruption. If necessary, EVENT staff may direct you to leave sessions.
Tips for organisers
- If your event is booking blocks of accommodation for attendees, try to get accommodation suitable for parents and children in the same price ranges as the accommodation for singles and couples (at least, on a per person basis).
- Make sure your staff and volunteers are empowered and trained to deal with intrusive kids. Let them know that they are allowed to ask parents to step outside with a squalling baby, or to ask parents of unruly kids to control them.
- A few toys or books go a long way to keep kids amused and quiet; crayons and paper and a few blocks are inexpensive and can be used every year at a conference as part of its basic supplies.
- If it's okay for kids to be reasonably noisy, say so, especially at events where the noise and activity level is likely to be unaffected by a few children playing.
- Consider appointing a volunteer to handle all child/family related liaison. Actually, consider paying that volunteer or giving them a discount.
- An information sheet for parents with kids might be helpful -- have it available at the registration desk, or send it out by email ahead of time. Provide information like: location of baby change facilities, location of quiet space for parents and kids to chill out, contact details for local babysitters' directories/collectives/etc.
- If the venue does not have baby change facilities, or only has baby change facilities in its women's restrooms, talk to them about the possibility of getting some installed in the men's rooms as well.
- People breastfeeding young children, or carers using bottles, should not be discouraged in public areas or even in talks or events unless the child is also making unacceptable noise, although a quiet space may also be appreciated as an option.
- Harrassment of children or parents (breastfeeding mothers are sometimes targets of harrassment when nursing in public) should be treated as seriously as any other harrassment incident.
- Keep your event to the advertised time, so that parents who have chosen to organise their own childcare are able to plan it.
- Pregnant and breastfeeding people have particular nutritional requirements and may also need to eat more than a typical adult attendee. Make it clear which events are catered and to what extent. Try and have some food that pregnant people following the listeriosis guidelines can actually eat (cold deli meats, soft cheeses, and any meat not well cooked won't be edible by people following the guidelines).
- Transgender men and other-gender or non-gender people with uteruses may also be pregnant or nursing, in addition to cisgender women. Reflecting this in your communications will make them feel better welcomed and included.
Ideas for kids' activities
- Programming with Scratch
- OLPC-related stuff
- Computer games
- Watching kid-appropriate movies
- Telling stories with action figures/dolls and toy spaceships and building toys
- Construction and building toys
- Look for open-ended sets that interest a wide age range
- Examples: Erector, LEGO/Duplo, K'nex, Zometool.
- Compatibility with other sets by the same maker are good.
- Compatibility with other materials is even better. For instance, Uberstix is made to work with recycled materials (e.g., popsicle sticks and plastic water bottles).
- Collage: Paper, crayons, paste or glue sticks, kids scissors, magazines with pictures to cut out
- Drawing: Paper, crayons or markers
- Reading books
- Telling stories
- Making up your own stories, with or without toys and dolls
- Organize a walk to a nearby playground if you can find one and there are enough volunteers (but make sure that someone stays behind in case of late arrivals)