Leonete D’Angely is the Chancellor Minor of the East Kingdom. Her job is to work with families to integrate activities for children and families into events, provide experience for children to learn about the history, culture, and customs of the Society, and work with the youth combat and fencing programs to provided a well-rounded experience for the youth of our Society. Leonete is very familiar with the needs of youth in the Society, having been one of those youths for the first 11 of her 20 years in the SCA.
There seems to be a growing interest in families and children in the Society. Why?
As the demographics of our society and kingdom change, it is important to make sure that events do a good job of reaching all members of the society. Family participation in events and activities has grown considerably over the last decade, and in many local groups, families with children can represent as much as half of the attendance of an event. It is important to remember that many youth are active, engaged members of our society, and deserve the same respect and time as any other demographic in our kingdom.
Who is in charge of activities for families and children?
Officially, any activities for children only must be run by a background checked, warranted youth activities officer. Realistically, many activities that are designed for or are suitable for families or children are run by the same people as the rest of the activities at an event or practice.
While having a warranted and background checked youth activities officer in every local group is a goal we as a kingdom are working towards, the reality is that often, especially in the outer reaches of our kingdom, there might not be such a gentle to run youth activities at an event. It is also true, that time and time again, youth, especially the older youth, let us know that what they really would like to get out of an event is the ability to participate in all activities, just like the adults do.
Do you have ideas for groups that don’t have a Chancellor Minor?
My office has collected a list of suggestions from families, teenagers, and Chancellors Minor, as well as autocrats of successfully family-integrative events. I’ve organized them into categories based on the type of suggestion they are. There are ways to improve your event infrastructure, the activities offered, and the volunteerism needed to run a successful event for families and children. I am always looking for additions to this list. (See list below. This pdf from a class taught by Leonete contains the list and other information – Making Events Family Friendly)
How would you suggest groups implement these ideas?
Choose a few ideas that fit in with your local culture, budget, and site infrastructure. Next time your group runs an event, encourage them to add a few more. Use this list to brainstorm at local meetings, and come up with your own ideas. This is not an exhaustive list of all the ways to include families, nor is it a checklist that you must use every idea from. Ask the teens and parents in your area what they would like to see.
It is important to note that not every event needs to have the same level of family-friendliness, or even be family friendly. A tavern event, by nature, might not be designed for those under 21 to attend. An event based on a performance of Beowulf, or Shakespeare, where the main activity is to sit and watch a two hour play, much like a movie theater, may not be the place parents choose to bring their three year old. A Yule event in a shire with many children, or a kingdom level event that many gentles plan to attend, however, is a great place to use as many of these suggestions as might work for your site and event.
Is there anything else that it is important for people to know about activities for families and children?
Parents/guardians remain responsible for their children at all times while at SCA functions. Whether an activity is designated for youth or for all, this is important to remember, and will help people to be willing to teach and welcome children to their activities.
Society has a background check policy for all persons in leadership and supervisory roles that may require contact with otherwise unchaperoned minors. If anyone is considering running a youth-specific activity (minors only), then they need to be background checked through the society and be on the Kingdom Youth Clerk’s roster. This isn’t required for someone running a family activity or an activity where children might be present as long as three or more adults are participating. Anyone who has questions should contact me. I’m happy to explain this in more detail.
Any other words of advice for people thinking about this topic?
You do not need a warranted youth officer with activities planned from start to close in order to throw an event that parents and children both leave excited about having attended. Children and families can enhance the atmosphere and enjoyment of any event, if a little attention is paid to making them feel welcome. I hope the list of suggestions below are helpful for everyone.
Set aside an area in the main part of the event for families to hang out. Make sure that there are chairs for adults, and some blankets or other way to mark off the space. Label it clearly both at the space and at gate, as well as on the site map. If you have volunteers in your area who can provide some toys that are not glaringly modern, great, however, just the space is highly sought after by parents.
Work with your local group to put together a toy box that can be brought to events. Ask those who craft to provide wooden toys, felted balls, and cloth dolls to put in it. There is nothing like someone else’s toys to get kids excited at an event. Make sure the box and all the toys are clearly labeled with your local group’s name.
At a camping event, set out and label on your map a family friendly area with quiet hours that are earlier than the rest of site. Both families, and those who would like to stay up late and enjoy themselves will thank you.
If your event has space for it, a quiet room for parents to go for changes, nursing, downtime, or naps is a great resource. Label it a family room, and make sure to be clear that there is no supervision provided. Churches that have an infant room, or schools with lots of classrooms are great for this type of space at an event.
Make sure that your event has a family cap or family price. Even if it is equal to two adults and 3 or 4 children and not taken advantage of by more than a few, just putting the word family in your event announcement signals that you have put time and thought into welcoming families to your event.
Have a children’s rate at your event. Discounted rates for minors are not subject to the Non-Member Surcharge, which saves the average family $10 on the site fee.
Parents are more likely to take their children to an event that clearly has “wiggle room.” If an event is A&S based, and your site does not have space for a family room, expect that families with young children may not choose to attend. Outdoor sites in reasonable weather are much more family-friendly. When you are touring sites, think about the needs of your local group, and whether a slightly more expensive site with better amenities, might gain you more family attendance.
If you are running a fighting specific event, rope off and set aside a family viewing area, where kids and parents can watch the fighting from a safe distance, without tall people in the way.
If, in addition to these suggestions, you are also having formal children’s activities run by a warranted, background checked youth officer, do everything in your power to make sure that these activities are in a central part of the event. Time after time parents and children have made it clear that they would rather no activities than to be segregated from the main part of the event.
Whenever possible, label classes and activities with recommended ages. If an activity could be youth friendly, but not youth specific, label it in the site or class description as so. For example: Inkle Weaving: Suitable for ages 6-adult, however, those under 12 should bring an adult to help them, or Blacksmithing: Suitable for 14 and up, please bring a parent with you if under 18. This is an easy way to let families know that their children are welcome and will not be turned away. Make sure that you have at least 3 adults present at any class that children attend.
At an Arts and Sciences event, have a children’s choice award. The bead in a cup method of judging works best for this. Give each child a few beads, and have a cup or bowl at each A&S entry. If you want to use less bowls, color the beads. Blue for populace, red for kids, etc.
If your event has dancing, label the first half or full hour “Family Dancing Time” Teach simpler dances earlier, before kids start to tire out.
For any event that has a competition aspect, hold an adult-child version of the competition. Archery could hold a parent-child tournament with combined scores at the end. You could hold a family A&S competition, or an adult fencer and youth fencer could pair up and combine points in a tourney.
Hold a tourney where each fighter has a consort of a child between certain ages. Have the fighter present their “consort” to the royals or Baron and Baroness, and the winner of the tourney gets a prize for both themself and their “consort.”
Actively seek out teens in your local group to help with planning events and day of service. Most 13-17 year olds can participate fully in assisting in cooking or serving feast or dayboard, setting up halls, heralding, list-running, and other needs you may have during the event. Teens can help with gate, but they cannot be in charge. Please check with your local exchequer for specific rules on those under 18 working at gate, as they vary from group to group.
Groom younger members to serve as well. 8-12 year olds can serve at feast with some help/supervision, and are often incredibly excited to be asked to help. Talk to local parents about jobs that their child might be able/willing to do, which could help at the event. The key is to find a job that the child can do, that actually helps out, rather than causing more stress. Some examples could include: running messages across site, stringing site medallions, and providing water for fighters.
Work to find parent-child volunteer opportunities. At Pennsic, Lost and Found has always advertised itself as a great way to introduce your child to service, and often you can walk by and see toddlers “helping” Mom or Dad work. At an arts and sciences event, ask families to volunteer for shifts at the judging table. A 6 or 7 year old can count out voting beads while Mom or Dad explains the rules. An information table or tent can be manned by a family quite easily, and providing water to fighters can be a family task.