5 Tips for Entertaining Kids at a Portrait Fundraiser

Whether you’re a Knickerbockers portrait fundraising coordinator or one of our awesome participants, there’s a lot to keep track of when it comes to the day of your fundraiser. From logistics and scheduling to keeping the photographers happy and making sure your family is camera-ready, things aren’t always smooth-sailing on portrait day!

The reality is that for all involved, the fundraiser tends to sneak up quickly and in the ensuing chaos, there’s something that often goes forgotten until it’s too late. That “something” is the reality of kids at an event where there’s lots of waiting involved!

If you’re a parent, have spent time around kids, or simply remember your own impatient childhood, it’s no mystery that kids and waiting for anything are generally not the best mix. Not to mention, kids have a unique talent for ramping things up from zero to ten in a flash! Don’t get us wrong, Knickerbockers loves kids. We probably wouldn’t be in this business if we didn’t love those infectious smiles and personalities, but if unprepared for them, kids can sometimes challenge the flow of portrait day when left to their own devices!

To help you out, we’ve gathered a few tips for coordinators and parents alike to keep kids entertained and--let’s cross our fingers--well-behaved at your Knickerbockers fundraiser!


1. Create a Space Divider

Ok, so this may not directly relate to entertaining kids, but trust us, it’s going to make a big difference in your fundraiser’s environment! Knickerbockers coordinators sometimes report that one of their biggest issues is the amount of noise and disturbance caused by, uh, less-than-calm kids. Naturally curious, kids like to run back and forth, investigating what’s going on with the photographers and attendees in session. Rather than of limit their curiosity, we suggest you simply redirect it!


Some of you may be scratching your heads, thinking, what does a space divider have to do with taming my rambunctious child or the child of an attendee? While we can’t make any promises where any child’s behavior is concerned, we can certainly make an effort to curb noise levels and set clear boundaries. For the coordinators’ and photographer’s sake, this will go a long way in keeping the noise manageable. A space divider also acts as a boundary for kids who have a hard time sitting still. Preventing kids from entering the space where sessions are in progress is especially crucial for the photographers who need to maintain focus to ensure that those being photographed receive the best experience (and portraits) possible!


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2. Provide Fun & Engaging Games

As we all know, the best way to keep kids happy and at peace is to entertain them! If a child is having fun, everyone’s having fun (usually!). That’s why it’s such a no-brainer to offer kids toys and games at your event. It’s an easy add and makes a tremendous difference in keeping kids engaged.

If you’re a parent or kid whisperer, you probably already have a running list of children’s games and activities, but if you’re looking for a little inspiration, here’s one mom’s creative and funny list of kid-tested games!

This probably goes without saying, but to stay on the safe side, we recommend to coordinators and parents to keep out anything that’s potentially messy, sticky, or dangerous, like glue, paints or scissors! Here are a few basics you may want to provide:

    • Picture books and coloring books

    • Building blocks, etch a sketch, bubbles

    • Bananagrams

    • A large piece of construction paper that you can set out on the floor for the kids to decorate with crayons or colored pencils--avoid markers!

3. Create Activity Stations

This is a special tip for the coordinators in particular, because they’ll be the ones to arrange the event set-up. Depending on the amount of time you want to give to this and the space available to you--don’t forget, you can always assign specific tasks to your volunteers--you can get as simple or elaborate as you like with this!

The idea is to create small stations, each with a different activity, in a specifically kids-designated area of your event location. Like a space divider, stations allow you to set clear boundaries for the kids to follow. Think of them as a container--the kids will be so entertained by the activities that they won’t realize there’s a space they’re not allowed into.

One thing you might keep in mind is the range of ages of the kids attending your fundraiser. For small children, it may be a good idea to bring a soft mat for them to play on. If you create multiple stations, you could create one or two that are age specific.

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You could shape a station around one of the games or activities listed in the above section, or you could get creative with your own ideas. To get that creativity flowing, here are two fun examples to get kids in the mood for having their portrait taken:

  • Imagination/Dress-Up Station: Before pressing hard on the brakes after reading “dress up,” let’s be clear that by “dress up,” we aren’t talking clothing per say, or anything that might prevent your child from being camera-ready. Actually, what we’re thinking is more along the lines of a box filled with fun objects like cowboy hats, capes, play jewelry and wands, or anything that will lead your kids into the land of make-believe! If you’re feeling festive, the objects could even reflect the theme of your fundraiser, or the time of year.

Besides being a low maintenance way for kids to have fun, encouraging them to use their imagination could get them excited about having their picture taken! If they’re playing with big pearl necklaces or over-sized ties and creating a fun story around those items, having their picture taken might just feel like an extension of their play time. On a practical note, make-believe is a pretty low maintenance and non-messy activity that won’t require a whole lot of clean up.

  • Camera station: This idea takes the dress-up station to the next level. You could bring toy cameras, old cameras, and perhaps even some kodak cameras (nothing valuable) for the kids to mess around with. Kids could play “photographer” and take pictures, pretend or real, of other kids at the dress-up station. Who knows, you could inspire some future photographers!

4. Hire Babysitters for the Event

Hiring a babysitter or volunteer could go a long way in relieving stress for all adults involved (coordinators, photographers, parents and other attendees) and help to maintain a calm environment. Babysitters could monitor the play area and make sure kids don’t disturb the photographers or raise their voices too loudly. To avoid making the kids feel like they’re being “babysat,” the babysitters could each lead an activity station. In case you have a hard time locating a babysitter or volunteer, try out a babysitting network like Urbansitter!  

5. Provide Good Nutrition

Besides making sure they’re having fun, the other way to keep kids happy and at peace is to keep their bellies happy! As coordinator, you may throw your hands up and say “no” to the food idea, but hear us out first.

For one, any environment where kids are expected to behave a certain way or to wait around will make them antsy. As we all know, sugary foods will, at worst, send kids skyrocketing until they crash, and at the least, make them restless and irritable. Depending on how the schedule flows on the day of the event and how early each family arrives for their session, it’s possible kids might work up an appetite before it’s time for their session. If you’re up for it, consider setting up a small table with some healthy snacks like fruit and veggies, or healthier packaged snacks. Whether or not you actually provide food at your fundraiser, it’s a good idea to point out to any participants bringing their families that they should avoid sweets and candy, and stick to light snacks until their session is over.  

That being said, we’re not against a little sugar incentive! So long as the sugar comes after the portrait session, we’re on board! Of course that’s up to the parents. For coordinators, you might consider giving each kid a candy upon successful completion of their portrait session!


Whether you set up activity stations or a space divider, or follow any of the tips above, isn’t particularly important. Instead, we hope this got you to consider the impact of kids at a portrait fundraiser you’re either coordinating or attending.

If you have any tips or creative ideas for making an event run smoothly with kids in attendance, please leave a comment below!