From the Society Seneschal's Handbook:
The guidelines presented here exist to provide a means of structuring youth programs within the Kingdoms of the
Society for Creative Anachronism.
The Children’s Office, frequently known as the Ministry of Youth/Children/Minors, exists to provide safe, fun, and educational activities during scheduled and structured sessions at events, meetings, and/or other SCA functions. Children’s Officers are not babysitters, but instead are coordinators or teachers who offer age-appropriate means for learning and involvement within the scope of the SCA.
Some information included relates to other officers (specifically, parental responsibility for children at events and waiver requirements), but is added here due to Children’s Officers often being consulted or included in such decisions or discussions. Children’s Officers are not responsible for mandating crossover policies or determining consequences for infractions of said policies.
For the purpose of this document the following definitions apply:
Minor: persons who have not achieved the age of legal majority in the state, province, or country in which the function is being held.
Adult: persons who have achieved the age of majority in the state, province, or country in which the function is being held.
I. Parental Responsibilities for Children at SCA Events
A. Parents or legal guardians (or temporary guardians as recorded on the “designated adult in charge of a minor form”) are responsible for children brought to an event. Parents/guardians should be aware of their children's location and activities at all times while attending SCA functions.
B. Parents must not expect other adults to supervise or control minors who are wandering unaccompanied at events.
C. Because different levels of supervision are necessary for different age groups:
1. Children below the age of 5 should not be left unsupervised by the parent/legal guardian at SCA functions, even at planned children’s activities.
2. In some Kingdoms, a "Sight and Sound" rule is in effect at all SCA functions. Generally, this states that children less than 12 years old should be in eyesight/earshot of the parent or a designated adult or teenager (as determined by the parent). As a guideline, it is suggested that children in this age range are supervised and not be allowed to wander freely at official events (to include demos, meetings, etc.), and if in the care of an adult besides the parent/guardian (designated babysitter, attending activities, etc.), the children should be checked on periodically by the parent/guardian to ensure their safety and suitable behavior.
3. Children 12 years old and younger are not considered suitable babysitters for younger children.
II. Waivers and Parental Consent Forms
A. In most Kingdoms, two forms are used for parents who allow their minor children to attend an event without them. Minors may not attend SCA events alone, so paperwork transferring parental responsibility is necessary.
1. A "designated adult in charge of a minor" form (temporary guardianship) allows a responsible adult to act for the parent on behalf of the child. In some Kingdoms, this form must be notarized, and in all cases, it must be signed by the parent.
2. A "medical authorization" form allows medical treatment to be provided in the event of an emergency.
B. These forms, as they concern entry to the event and not children's activities, are generally available at the gate or via the website. They can be requested, depending on the Kingdom, from the Seneschal's office or constabulary.
III. SCA Children’s Officers
A. Children’s activities are offered as a positive means of encouraging children’s participation in the SCA and encouraging fun learning about the Middle Ages and our organization. Children’s Activities are NOT a baby-sitting service for members of the populace. It is expressly forbidden for any officer in the SCA to accept responsibility for minors other than their own children or those for whom they are temporary guardians as recorded on the minor waiver.
B. Children’s officers should encourage, organize, and/or implement activities and encourage others to include minors in all SCA activities where appropriate. They should advance classes, guilds, page schools, and other opportunities for young people to get involved in the SCA. Children’s Officers should demonstrate an ability to work well with all ages of children, in addition to possessing the people skills necessary to work with parents, event coordinators, and other officers or volunteers. C. Local children’s officers must maintain a yearly membership in the SCA (sustaining, associate, or family), and should meet all rules or laws as outlined by their home Kingdom. Some Kingdoms require warrants and/or specific applications for the office, and most require regular reporting. Please speak to your Kingdom Children’s Officer or Seneschal for specific information.
D. Kingdom children’s officers also must be paid members and follow rules or laws as outlined by their Kingdoms regarding warrants, applications, and reporting (quarterly reporting is recommended). In some Kingdoms, the Kingdom Children’s Officer is also responsible for overseeing planning and/or implementation of Children’s Activities at Kingdom-level events. Reporting to the Deputy Society Seneschal, Children’s Officers Coordinator, is not a requirement but is encouraged, as is participation in the Kingdom Children’s Officers email discussion list. Please do keep your contact information updated with your Society Officer.
IV. SCA-Sponsored Children’s Activities at SCA Events
A. Official SCA groups must ensure all SCA children's activities are approved by the local group Seneschal and/or Event Steward and by the Children's Officer, where applicable. If the group has no children's officer and a volunteer plans and implements the activities, it is the responsibility of the Seneschal to ensure that volunteer is fully aware of all relevant policies and guidelines concerning minors and the running of activities.
B. SCA Children’s Officers or other adults supervising children’s activities have no authority to discipline or restrain children other than their own, unless the children are in immediate danger of hurting themselves or others. Children’s Officers will not be held responsible for correcting the conduct of children attending activities. Likewise, as parents and children must follow rules attendant to participation in events, Children’s Officers are not responsible for children who leave activities unsupervised.
1. Children exhibiting lewd, violent, or otherwise severely problematic behavior at organized activities should be returned to parents. The Event Steward and/or Seneschal should be notified of the problem if such actions must be taken.
2. Official SCA groups must follow the “Two Deep Leadership” model of supervision at all SCA Children’s Activities as outlined in a Society Seneschal policy:
“For all organized SCA functions for minors, a minimum of two adults (persons who have achieved the age of majority in the state, province, or country in which the function is being held), unrelated to one another by blood or marriage, must be present. This policy does not relieve parents or guardians from their primary responsibility for the welfare of their children. This policy is not subject to granting of variance or 'grandfathering' of existing activities.”
C. Children’s Officers must ensure that sufficient leadership is provided for all activities, and have the right and responsibility to cancel activities if requirements cannot be met.
D. Children’s Activities should be located as near to main activities as is possible and practical, and where consideration can be given to minimizing noise, traffic, and safety issues. Caution should be exercised when activities are hosted in a private room of an event facility.
E. An SCA Children’s Officer should not accompany an individual child to the bathroom. Groups of children may be escorted to the facility building by the Officer. Parents are ultimately responsible for seeing to the physical needs of their children. Additionally, children who are ill must remain in the care of their parent, guardian, or designated caretaker and should not be brought to Children’s Activities.
V. SCA-Sponsored Children’s Activities Away from Events
A. When planning Children’s Activities for fighter practices, meetings, workshops, or any other official SCA function, parents and officers should be aware that these activities are subject to all SCA policies, Kingdom laws, and the above guidelines, and are covered by SCA waivers. Any activities planned “unofficially” at private residences are discouraged, as they reach beyond the jurisdiction of the SCA.
B. If exceptions are made and official activities must be held at a private residence, the permission of the local Seneschal (and in Kingdoms requiring it, the Kingdom Seneschal) must be obtained. The following guidelines must also be implemented:
- Children younger than the age of 12 must attend the activity with a parent or guardian.
- Children 12 years and older may attend at the parents’ discretion.
- The Two Adult Leadership model is still to be followed, with two unrelated adults in attendance as long as the children are present.
C. Parents should be cautious when offered activities away from events that are not SCA sponsored or don’t meet with above guidelines. Unofficial activities are not regulated or mandated by the SCA, and thus, are not protected by waivers or regulations.
VI. Other Activities
A. Children should be encouraged to participate in a variety of age-appropriate activities within the SCA, not only structured children’s activities. Depending on age and maturity, children may enjoy helping in kitchens, serving feasts, water bearing, youth combat, archery, and more. Policies vary by Kingdom, so parents will need to check supervision requirements (whether parent or designated adult should attend with the child) and any other rules related to the activity.
VII. Planning and Running Organized Children’s Activities
A. Children’s Activities vary in nature, and can include classes, hands-on activities, games, and more. Depending on the size of an event, activities may be only an hour or two, a day-long adventure, or even a week’s worth of learning and fun (as at larger wars). Children’s Officers and Activities Coordinators should consider resources, such as volunteer assistance, funds for supplies, and available location when determining size and structure of activities, and should try within those means to meet the needs of a given event.
B. Some idea of the type of activities, along with a tentative schedule, should be determined before the event for better planning and for purposes of publishing the information. Determining whether or not to attend a particular event may be an easier decision for parents who know in advance that there will be opportunities for their children to participate, so adding information to your Kingdom newsletter event flyer or to your group’s website will be very helpful for attendees.
C. Also, if possible, include Children’s Activities information and times to your event’s program/site book. A schedule, basic details about classes or individual activities, and any applicable rules will be beneficial for everyone. D. Work with your Event Steward concerning location and resources. The best location for activities is near enough to the main activities to be convenient for everyone in attendance, with considerations such as available water and bathrooms in mind, and attention given to safety factors. Be sure to plan in advance for needs such as tables and chairs, art supplies, and gaming equipment.
E. Children’s Officers, when planning, don’t limit your creativity! Don’t presume you must stick to a list of “typical activities” when there are so many learning opportunities available. Some possible ideas are listed below to illustrate variety, but please feel free to expand on examples or try new things! 1. Outdoor games can include activities such as bocce, blind man’s bluff, quests, scavenger/treasure hunts, running games, and archery. These outdoor options can provide a fun opportunity for children to enjoy their boundless energy between indoor or stationary activities. Indoor games like chess, checkers, or mancala provide great opportunities for socializing and offer a nice change of pace from more structured activities.
2. Volunteering opportunities can be a lot of fun, especially when children can offer services collectively. Some ideas are water bearing, list running, kitchen help, feast service. Ideas for younger children include planning entertainment for feast, making decorations for high table, or making gifts for the Crown.
3. Performing Arts make for wonderful activities but can also provide entertainment for an audience. Kids may enjoy basic music classes, such as learning the recorder or drums, European or Middle Eastern dance classes, learning to sing period songs, puppetry, theater (which can be expanded to building sets and props, costume making and performance), or story-telling.
4. Static Arts and Sciences in the SCA are nearly limitless. Young people can make jewelry, learn calligraphy and illumination, embroider and cross-stitch, try their hands at leatherworking, woodworking, or sewing, or learn age-appropriate variations of mosaics or stained glass.
5. SCA-appropriate or medieval history classes can easily be juiced up with fun activities. Kids can learn the different areas and functions of a castle while building a scale model, learn precedence and protocol through play-acting or by creating “crowns” and other regalia, or study a culture though specialized activities (Viking classes could include making a model longship, playing the Viking game Hnefatafl, or enjoying a “pillage” quest, for example).
F. Don’t be shy of asking other individuals who enjoy teaching all adults to share their knowledge with your young attendees—guest teachers may be able to offer new learning experiences in their particular area of expertise.
G. Plan for volunteers ahead of time, when you can: ask for help on e-lists (Kingdom, local, or for other children’s officers), talk to your local group, advertise in your local group’s newsletter, or work with parents who are willing to help. Older kids may want to help out with the younger ones, so consider letting them plan an activity, offer ideas, or provide some hands-on help. Also, you can ask parents to give some time in assistance if their children are attending activities.
H. Finally, be flexible, prepared, and easy-going—the key element is to have fun! Bring back-up activities along in case one or two don’t last as long as you had planned, and be open to allowing an activity to run longer if the kids are really enjoying themselves (just keep in mind the end time for the session so parents know when to retrieve their children).
Yseult de Montagu (Audrey Epple), Society Children’s Officers Coordinator