Looking at the Facebook page for Salt Lake Comic Con, one of the most discussed questions has been whether people should bring their little ones to the Con. This is a tough question and the responses on the page have ranged from yes, absolutely to don’t do it. They also offer up a lot of advice of what to do if you bring your kids to make the most of it. As a father of 5 (yes, I know, that’s a lot), I feel like I might be able to share my two cents here. You can take this as advice for what you should do, or not. Really, it is just me telling you what I would do.
To answer the question in the simplest way, I say YES, bring your kids. I think as geeks and nerds we have a responsibility, if we have successfully reproduced, to bring our kids to these things and begin raising the next generation of geeks and nerds. Plus, honestly, when you were a kid, was there anything you wanted more than knowing that your parents were into the same stuff you were? Obviously, Salt Lake Comic Con wants you to bring the little ones, because 2 kids under 10 get in free with a paying adult. This means we will only have to pay for one of our kids if we bring all 5 (more on that later). They will have plenty for your kids to see and do, so bring them and enjoy it. They are welcome. You will hear people say that kids should not come to cons like this, that they only get in the way. These people have no souls, so ignore them and move on. (If you are one of these people and you are reading this, I’m sorry. This post really won’t appeal to you. Please check out my previous post on Death in Comics. Thank you.)
If you are bringing kids, and you have never been to a con, or to a con with kids, I thought it might be helpful to give you some tips on what to do to make the trip successful. You are welcome to take this advice and have an awesome con experience that the whole family will cherish for the rest of their lives, or you’re welcome to ignore my advice completely and have an awful experience and never want to go back. The choice is yours. Here are my top 5 tips in no particular order:
1. Bring a carrier or stroller, or both. If your child is smallish, like really young, bring a carrier. I would recommend a backpacking carrier that has a frame. These offer better support for your back, and you will be able to carry your little one for longer. If you can, and you are dressing up, make the carrier part of your costume. For example, you could dress up as Luke training to be a Jedi, and your little one can be dressed as Yoda on your back. That would be a winner in any cosplay contest. Whatever kind of carrier you bring, I would suggest having a stroller on hand for when that kid becomes too heavy. If you bring a stroller, it needs to be an umbrella stroller. They are small and compact and easy to maneuver in tight areas, like the whole vendor hall. If you decide to bring a bigger stroller, again, try to make it part of your child’s cosplay. I saw a great little baby Doctor in a TARDIS stroller at FanX. Genius. Just be prepared in a larger stroller to have more difficulty getting through the crowds, and you may get some dirty looks, but do what you need to do. Do not come with nothing for your child. They will get tired and will eventually not want to walk anymore. Be prepared for that.
2. Bring cash. Kids love to spend money, mostly because the money they spend is not theirs, and in return the money turns into something cool, like a painted face. Bring a set amount of cash, whatever you can budget for, and when it is spent, it’s gone. This will make it easier to not overspend, but enable you to do a few fun things with the kids. Plus, if you show them your empty wallet, then they know the money is gone and will stop asking. As long as they don’t know that you can just use your card (my kids know this, so we still have a battle, but at least I know when we are done).
3. Plan accordingly. Chances are, your 5-year-old will not want to go to a panel discussing who your favorite Star Trek captain is, or which is better Marvel or DC, or really anything they discuss in the panels. I know the panels are only 50 minutes long, but if you bring a 5-year-old into a dark room where nothing is happening except grown ups talking to each other, they will last maybe 5 minutes. Don’t do it. If you are bringing kids plan to spend most of the time on the vendor floor looking at stuff or going to KidsCon, if they are having it again this time, or just walking around looking at all the cool costumes. That is the stuff your kids will find interesting, and it will be more enjoyable for you if they enjoy themselves. If there are panels you want to go see, bring a friend or another parent and tag team. You go to your panel while the other adult goes around with the kids, then you can switch as needed.
4. Don’t bring kids the whole time. If you can help it, don’t bring kids the whole time. Make sure you plan a little time sans kids. This way, you can enjoy the con the way you want to enjoy the con. Kids are great, but sometimes it is nice to get away from them for a while. Going with your spouse or your friends is a great way to escape and enjoy some of the things you just couldn’t without kids. Hire a babysitter, and for at least part of one day, try it without kids.
5. Bring snacks. This is an essential thing to do. Kids will get hungry or thirsty or whatever. Come prepared with snacks for them to eat when they are hungry. Granola bars, or fruit snacks or fruit, any of those are great. If you don’t do this, then you will be shelling our a lot of dough for food, that chances are your kids won’t eat all of anyway. Bring water as well. It will be hot and crowded and just miserable if you don’t have water, and that goes for the kids too. Bring a couple of empty bottles and fill them up at the drinking fountains. If you don’t, then again, be prepared to spend a lot for sodas, or spend a lot of time going back and forth to the drinking fountains.
The most important thing is to have fun with your kids. Point out the cosplay of their favorite characters. They think that stuff is awesome, and to them it is almost real. When we went to Fantasy Con in July, my daughter was scared because she saw a Dalek, and thought it was real. Luckily, Sylvester McCoy was there as one of the guests, so I brought over there and showed her and told her it was fine because the Doctor was here too. When she saw him, from a distance, she was fine. She recognized him as the 7th Doctor and knew she would be safe from the Daleks. It wasn’t pretend to her. it was real, and that makes a Con like this even more fun.
If you are planning on going next week, look for me, and stop and say hi. My wife an I will be the ones with one umbrella stroller and 5 kids. They’ll all be in cosplay, more to come on that later.