Hot on the heels of yesterday’s review of the brilliant Wales Comic Con, there’s another post with a distinctly geeky flavour. This one’s for all the geeky mums and dads out there who want to take their little ones to their first con, but don’t know where to start.
Regardless of whether you’re a seasoned solo con veteran or a total newbie, your first convention with your tot in tow can be a daunting experience. If you’re unfamiliar with the convention scene, you’ll probably think of them as hotbeds for (mostly male, mostly single) men in ill-fitting pop culture t-shirts, wandering around buying comics, while a few scantily clad ladies in revealing cosplay entertain the crowd.
Thankfully, today’s comic con scene has evolved into a much more family-friendly affair. Comic book stands share a hall with various merchandise and sci-fi celebrities, from the stars of the newest smash hits to legends from cult classics (the cast of Red Dwarf are regulars on the convention circuit), and cosplay is for everyone; not just a select gorgeous few.
Still, that doesn’t mean the experience is automatically stress-free. Here are my top tips for taking little ones to a convention.
- Know your con. They may be family friendly events, but some are friendlier than others. The comic cons put on by MCM are always a good bet, and smaller regional ones – Wales Comic Con springs to mind purely because we were there at the weekend – are a safe choice too. Events like Collectormania and the very specific cons may not have enough to amuse the smallest guests – unless they themselves are fans of the show too.
- Get in early. The cost difference between general entry and earlybird tickets is usually negligible, but it makes a huge difference in terms of your experience. Under 5s usually get in free too, so it’s well worth it. Take the extra hour as an opportunity to get your bearings, figure out what is where in the venue and make your way towards the guests you most want to meet before the mad rush of general admissions begins.
- Be prepared to queue. Even if you do go for an earlybird ticket, you’re still going to need to queue to get in. Some venues put on entertainment while you’re queuing; others will sell tea, coffee and snacks, and some will leave you to your own devices. You’re going to need to bring out your best distraction techniques to avoid a full-blown tantrum in the queuing area.
- Make time for naps. If your child is still at the napping stage, make sure you’ve got somewhere – even if it’s just a lay-flat pushchair – where they can rest their little legs. There’s lots of walking to be done, and so many sights and sounds that it can get a little overwhelming. A good convention should have a breakout area – a quiet space where you can sit and relax amidst the hustle and bustle of the day. Don’t try to push through without a nap unless you absolutely have to – at the end of the day you’ll have one angry, overtired toddler on your hands.
- Get them involved! Nothing is more likely to melt the heart of even the hardiest con-goer than a tiny Yoda or mini Mr Staypuft. More and more little ones are taking part in cosplay lately, and the conventions are realising this. Most cosplay masquerades – the parade and competition at the end of the event – have a Juniors section; always guaranteed to raise an “Aww” from the audience when a teeny tot stumbles across the stage dressed as Bilbo Baggins.
- Follow the rules. This goes for all comic-con guests, not just parents, but it never hurts to reiterate the importance of following convention etiquette. Don’t be mean about people’s costumes, or the way they look in them. No photographs or touching without express consent. The most important rule of all is that cosplay is not consent. Just be sensible, really – how would you feel if someone stopped and started taking photos of your child in the street without asking? I’m guessing “uncomfortable” is your answer – and that doesn’t change just because the child is wearing a cute costume.
- Enjoy yourselves! Yes, the first time is daunting. Yes, it can be a bit of a logistical nightmare. Just try and relax, go with the flow and enjoy introducing your child to your hobbies and interests.
There’s always a lovely atmosphere at comic cons – complete strangers can talk to each other without fear of seeming weird or being judged for being geeks. It’s an event that celebrates who we really are – all our hobbies and interests that the general public sees as nerdy or uncool; there’s none of that at comic con. When you’re walking around, you’ll inevitably hear someone say “I wish the world was like comic con”, because everyone is accepted there.
Isn’t that a great lesson to be teaching our kids? I think Comic Con is an invaluable experience for children – a glimpse into a world where everyone, regardless of their interests; hobbies; skills; shape; size; age and a million other variables, is one of the cool kids.