November 5, 2015

NaBloPoMo #4 – Whitney’s Guide to Introducing Kids to Conventions

nanoblopomo-4-kids-comicconsThis has been our first year taking the Kidlets to comic cons, and I think we’ve learned a lot. And I thought I’d share our tips to introducing kids to comic conventions.

Take your kids for only one of the days. Sundays are best, because they tend to be the least crowded- and I know a lot of kids get intimidated by crowded spaces and loud areas. If you can, go one day on your own first, and enjoy walking around the floor – and scope out the booths that you think your kids will be drawn to. I recommend this, even if it’s a con you go to every year. Then, when you take your kids, you already know where that wooden sword vendor is – or where the guy with all the Pokemon plush is. Plus, you’ll be able to scope out places to rest, and food establishments they might like.

Prepare. I usually recommend bringing power banks and charging cords just for me, but don’t forget to pack stuff like children’s pain medication, allergy medicine. Because if your child spikes a fever or suddenly starts breaking out in hives – you won’t be able to just run and grab stuff (like you can at most other locations you’d take kids). Also, bring little snacks. Walking will make kids hungry, and if you have to trek aways to a restaurant, they’re just going to get cranky. And trust me. Nobody wants that.

Make sure kids know what it’s going to be like. That there will be lines to get your badges. Lines to check weapons. Lines for bathrooms. Lines for food. That sometimes it’ll be noisy. Sometimes there’ll be booths for scary things. If they know what they’re going into, they’ll be much happier when they’re there.

Encourage them to wear costumes – whether it’s just their old Halloween costume or not, cons are a lot of fun for kids in costume. My kids were stopped by other kids dressed in the same costume – there was definitely a Kylo Ren club that the Little Kidlet is part of now. And sometimes kids want to get pictures with other kids. We just had a long talk with the Kidlets beforehand about con etiquette for asking for pictures.

Don’t bring a giant stroller. Con floors are tight, so if you’re bringing a stroller – make sure it’s maneuverable. This isn’t the place for double wide strollers. Okay, that isn’t really a tip for making life easier for kids – but it’ll be easier for both you and other people around you. I’ve seen far too many parents pushing strollers get stuck because they couldn’t force their way into the flow of traffic, or if they could, holding up the flow of traffic because the stroller was more than half as wide as a lane on the convention floor.

Don’t assume you’ll be there for the entire day. Or that your kids are going to want to go to the panel they said they wanted to check out that morning. While we walk the floor with the kids first, and then go back for whatever item they wanted to get, we let them guide the day. If they want to leave, we leave. If they want to rest, we rest. This is also why I recommend going without kids for a day – that way you can hit the panels you want to, spend time walking around the con floor… all without your kids suddenly hitting a wall and demanding to leave. Because forcing your kids to stick it out when they’re exhausted is just a recipe for everyone to be upset by the time you leave. (I didn’t make it back to a friend’s booth because the kids were just exhausted at Comikaze)

I’m sure that with a couple cons under their belts, and child will be asking to go to panels and stay for the entire day. Or like mine, they’ll start planning out future cosplay and saving up money for merch.

Whitney & the Mini-Vengers at Wondercon 2015The Mini-Vengers and I at Wondercon Anaheim 2015

Do you have any great tips for introducing kids to conventions?