Taking your child to work when the office is nontraditional

From collaborative workspaces and home offices to university campuses and restaurants—where there are adults working, kids can be hands-on learning. Here’s how

Some workplaces seem more child-friendly than others. Got a big corner office with an assistant and a drawer full of markers and paper? Why not bring your kid in for the day? They’ll be entertained and minimally disruptive. On the other hand, if you’re a university professor teaching undergrads the finer points of microeconomics, it’s fair to assume that your child will be bored sitting in a lecture hall for hours.

But Carolyn McKecuen, executive director of Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day (TODASTWD), which celebrates its 26th year today, believes otherwise. “When this day first started, there were too many kids sitting around offices coloring and being kept entertained—but it’s a lot more constructive today than it’s ever been.”

Every workplace offers an opportunity to learn, says McKecuen. Department-store visual designers bring their kids in to dress mannequins paint, and set up window displays. The children of restaurant workers shadow hosts or servers, setting the tables and working as greeters at the front door. “People get really creative with these things,” says McKecuen, who also counts prisons, hospitals, and government agencies among the businesses who participate in the day. “And the kids get to work a little more closely with staff and with their parents.”

At Widener University in Chester, Pennsylvania, TODASTW planner and talent-acquisition coordinator Michelle Rampmeyer expects 45-50 kids to attend the day’s events on campus. Children of the deans, faculty, support staff—“literally everyone,” says Rampmeyer—are invited to the School of Engineering for a robotics demo and hands-on activity, and to the Office of Teaching and Learning for an “escape the room-style” session. They’ll also go on a trivia-fueled scavenger hunt run by the Greek student honor society.

The goal, says Rampmeyer is to “have the kids be hands-on and get some campus experience.” Plus, she adds, “It makes it so that your child thinks it’s fun where you work when you leave them every day.”

Nicole Centeno, founder of ready-made soup and smoothie delivery brand Splendid Spoon, plans to give her boys, ages 4 and 5, the full workday experience for Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day. “I’ll ride my bike with a bike trailer on the back for them—we’ll make it into a whole little journey,” she says of her commute to Brooklyn’s WeWork 109 S 5th St, where she’s a member. “They like to help by watering the plants in the office, then do an activity from a file drawer of activities, play with the dogs in the office … they have their own spot set up.”

For Centano, it’s important for her sons to understand what she creates. “They like to open our office fridge and see all of our products,” she says. “They’ll each pick out a soup, warm it up in the kitchen, and then critique it seriously, like, ‘Wow, this is really delicious soup.’”

Stephanie Joy Benedetto, founder of Queen of Raw (and a WeWork Creator Awards winner), has set up her 3-year-old son with his own workspace at home and brings him to the office with her so he can understand what she does. “I’m running a marketplace with tools for businesses to buy and sell their fabric waste to each other and keep them out of landfills,” she explains. “I’m inspired by my son—he’s why I am bringing sustainability-in-business solutions to make the world a better place for his future.”

Benedetto says her WeWork 349 5th Ave location in New York has a full day of activities set up for TODASTWD, starting with a group breakfast, and she’s sure that her son will enjoy interacting with other kids and being in the office environment. “He’s used to a community-based office, with the vibrancy and the noise,” she says. “And my co-founder is bringing his child, who is less than a year. At any age, we see the value in bringing them to see what we do.”

The more kids are exposed to different types of jobs across different industries, the easier it will be for them to find their own fit in the workforce. “This is a day that opens kids’ eyes,” says McKecuen. “All the stuff they learn at school, they get to see how it’s put to work when they go to an office or a police department or wherever. It lets kids know there are careers out there they can work toward.”

Four ways to get your kid involved in your day—no matter what’s on your calendar

Let them spellcheck your resume. In between jobs? Help them hone their computer skills by letting them spellcheck your résumé (this task might also spark a discussion about your own background and career path).

Ask them to plan the commute. Taking public transportation? Ask them to check departure times and overall travel time. On the road? Have them preview the route for traffic and construction.

Put them in charge of inventory. Ask your kid to make sure you’re adequately stocked on stickies, markers, and any other supplies you use regularly (older kids can then order whatever’s running low).

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