In every grownup, beneath the Brooks Brothers, Prada and Armani, beats the heart of a child. But as we grow older, we’re discouraged from expressing that inner child — the one who laughs a lot, is in constant motion and is always up for adventure.
Perhaps it’s time to inspire the kid at heart in your meeting attendees with some elements of child’s play at an upcoming event.
Let go of my Lego
The pandemic led to a lot of new trends, including a return to the toy box. People with time on their hands at home started thinking again about Legos, American Girl dolls, Lite Brites and other childhood toys. Hasbro, Mattel and even McDonald’s, which rolled out Happy Meals for adults in the fall, believe the trend will outstay the pandemic and are designing products aimed at the older set. One exec described it as “kids at heart with grown-up wallets.” So it could be fun to add universally popular toys to a meeting. Imagine a builders’ conference where attendees work together to construct a Lego model of the White House or garden club members clinking plastic blocks to “grow” a Lego orchid. Beyond Legos are some even simpler and less expensive ways to enjoy kid-inspired fun and games — coloring books, Silly Putty, and card games like Old Maid or Go Fish!
Show and tell is an eye opener
The value of this longtime classroom tradition goes beyond teaching us a bit more about those around us and perhaps seeing them in a different light. It also requires public speaking and builds confidence. Show and tell can take several forms, and people don’t necessarily have to drag along their Little League baseball trophy or grandma’s cast-iron skillet. It can start with a simple question: “What one item would you rush to save if your house were on fire?” Or “What one possession is priceless to you and why?” Or, try a rendition known as Lucky Penny. Collect a pile of pennies; have each person draw one and talk about something memorable or significant that happened in their life that year.
Recesses need no monkey bars
Kids need a break from sitting and so do we. That’s what recess is all about. Incorporating what one researcher has called “movement snacks” doesn’t require monkey bars and slides or even leaving the breakout room. How about 10 minutes of yoga or even chair yoga? Musical chairs works well when everyone’s at rounds and peppy music is played. Other ideas requiring little time or equipment are team-building favorite Life Raft, where teams squeeze onto a piece of cardboard or within a taped-off square on the floor. Groups can be timed or race against one another and the competition could be a playoff, with top teams squeezing onto ever-shrinking “rafts.” Another challenge that will elicit laughs is indoor fort building. Supply teams with cardboard boxes, sheets and other oddball building materials and see what they can construct in 10 minutes, then offer tours of each fort or a prize.
We all scream for local ice cream
From our first birthday party, ice cream is a treat we can’t wait to eat. In fact, 96% of Americans say they eat the sweet frozen dessert. Like craft beers, craft ice creams have boomed in towns large and small, so it’s easy to find locally loved ice cream shops wherever you meet. Take Raleigh, North Carolina, with at least seven options including Two Roosters, which started as a mobile ice cream shop but now has multiple stores. Two Roosters will still bring its roasted strawberry and honey, coffee bourbon or other tempting flavors to meetings. It’s a small company with a big sense of humor. On its events form, Two Roosters’ sample answer to the question “Any other information about the event?” is “Our company just got audited by the IRS. No one went to jail … woo-hoo! We’d love to have you treat our team to ice cream.” North Carolina State’s Howling Cow ice cream is another option. Visit the new Dairy Education Center and Creamery for a scoop made of milk from cows at the 329-acre university farm and learn in interactive video exhibits about how ice cream is made. There are also tours.
Class trips transport us
Remember climbing aboard the yellow school bus for an outing to the local zoo or, in my case, a bourbon distillery? Those class trips got antsy children out of the classroom and into a different sort of learning environment. They taught memorable lessons, like “lions can’t purr” and “in early stages, bourbon burbles in vats like a witch’s brew.” Class trips also work for meetings. During a January conference in Florida, for example, Veterinary Meeting and Expo attendees could take behind-the-scenes tours of veterinary operations at Sea World or swim with manatees. Almost every city has options for day trips. In Shreveport, Louisiana, options include a backstage tour at Shreveport Municipal Auditorium, where Elvis performed, and the African American Experience at Southern University Museum of Art. Historic homes, hotels, museums, zoos, sports stadiums, local factories and other attractions often offer tours that can be tailored to a group’s professional interests.