I attended my first National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) in 2004. My first year attending, I was able to go with a group of college friends that all had different aspirations of how we would pursue our career. I will never forget walking into the convention center in Anaheim, California and seeing the masses of early childhood professionals. It was an amazing sight to see and one that I don’t think I will ever forget. 

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to attend in various capacities. Many as a participant, as a State Affiliate Representative, and the past several years as an Exhibitor with Kodo Kids. Although the reasons for attending may have been different, the thrill, excitement, enthusiasm, and opportunity to learn has remained the same. Having the opportunity to attend NAEYC is absolutely one of my favorite things about being in the field. Here is a simple list of why attending the NAEYC Annual Conference is so important to me: 

  • Ability to connect with friends and colleagues 
  • Discuss what we learned in the sessions we attended 
  • Think and collaborate about opportunities to partner 
  • Consider and take action on what is happening at the national level (either through advocacy efforts or feedback on the work of NAEYC)
  • Inspiration from new friends and educators from around the world
  • Explore the host city of the conference
  • Time to laugh with others and further engage with the Kodo Team

The other exciting part of NAEYC has always been the Exhibit Hall. I remember walking in the very first time and being astounded by the amount of vendors. It was an incredible and overwhelming experience the first time! However, as the years have gone by, it is one of my absolute favorite parts of NAEYC. Getting to walk through and see the new materials to inspire learning in the environment. Most generally, the Annual Conference is the time to showcase all of the new materials that are available. As part of the Kodo Team, I have had the opportunity to hold Kodo’s new materials for the very first time, as well. One of my favorites from this year had to be the new Empathy Dolls, which I was often seen holding while walking around. You truly don’t get the effect of the doll until you put one in your arms! There are so many things I adore about these new dolls:

  • The weight of the doll 
  • The softness of the hands 
  • The variations in hair texture 
  • The differences in clothing

There were many times that I was handing off a doll to someone walking into or by the Kodo booth. For someone that has never attended, many days you are tired from learning, walking, and engaging. The minute an Empathy Doll was placed in their arms their facial expressions completely softened and a smile would spread across their face. If given the opportunity, I would highly recommend getting one delivered to your classroom or home today! 

From left to right: Denise Scahill, Ed Bell, Michael Steffey, Kasey Kile, Lauren Barthen,  Chris Hume, and Diane Spahn

When thinking about my time in Nashville this year, I really wanted to hear from the Kodo Team to see what they thought of attending NAEYC. Part of the team had attended NAEYC for many years, while others, attended the conference for the first time. When approaching the team, I wanted to hear what they found inspirational or what was something that stood out to them in their conversations this year. 

“It’s GREAT to feel the excitement of our customers as they stroll through our booth, and to experience the joy of newbies to Kodo.” 

Denise Scahill, Director of Sales

“A teacher shared her way of calming an overstimulated child. Smell my imaginary flower (deep inhale) now blow the pedals off (deep exhale) repeat.”

Ed Bell, Account Executive

“I loved hearing from attendees about the new ideas and approaches they are using in their classrooms and schools. There is certainly innovation in the ECE community and I enjoyed collaborating on how to move the field forward!”

Chris Hume, Founder

As an educator, I truly am grateful for the times I have been able to attend the NAEYC Annual Conference. It is an opportunity that is so valuable and provides so many different benefits no matter where you are in your career in early childhood.