Meeting professionals be forewarned: This is not child's play. Organizing a program for children attending a resort meeting with their parents is hard work--even when the host resort offers its own program or you are hiring a firm to do so, cautions Diane Lyons, CEO of Accent on Children's Programs, based in New Orleans. Lyons offers these valuable points for planners to consider:
1. Staff Ratios:A high adult-to-child ratio is of the essence. According to Lyons, industry standards in child education call for a staff-to-child ratio of one-to-two for infants, one-to-four for toddlers, one-to-six for three- to eight-year-olds, and one-to-eight for older school children.
2. Staff Training: Whether a plan ner hires child care workers himself or relies on a resort or vendor to supply them, he or she should make sure staff is fully qualified. How much experience do they have? What is their training? Does the provider give them additional training? Are they CPR certified? Are references and criminal records checked?
3. Programming: Planned activities should be creative, educational, fun, and age-appropriate. "The programming should have educational elements tied into entertainment," advises Lyons, who says she "likes to make kids aware of the cultural diversity of a place, because I'm an educator originally." In addition, planners should make sure there are a variety of materials on hand, including arts-and-crafts materials, props for skits, board games, books, and science projects.
4. Security: Check-in and check-out procedures are critical and should be strictly enforced, using signatures, matching wristbands, and photo identification of both the child and responsible parent.
5. Space/Location:Lyons recommends a minimum of 35 square feet per child. Make sure the center is located near emergency exits, but not near heavy traffic, and that bathrooms are easily accessible. The building must have smoke detectors and an evacuation plan should be posted.
6. Insurance: A minimum of $3 million to $5 million general liability insurance is needed.
7. Marketing: An association that provides a quality children's programs is sure to earn accolades from attendees. But if a planner doesn't put any energy into promoting the program, the attendees may not realize that one is offered. In addition, good marketing encourages early registration, giving a planner vital information up front that will help in designing the program. "Promotion is essential," Lyons says.