Convention season is upon us!
A couple years ago I attended my first ever BIG convention. It was Fan Expo’s 20th anniversary with the equivalent of a city in attendance. I believe it was something like 125,000 people over 4 days. It was amazing and insane. We spent a lot of time in Artist’s Alley and even more time waiting in line for photographs and autographs and food.
It was an amazing experience- the staff and volunteers were wonderful and the cosplay was fabulous! The areas were well marked and organized. That was the year I got bit by the cosplay bug (though I have yet to really complete a cosplay- life goals, right?).
The boy and I decided to do one day at Fan Expo this past year. My original recommendations still hold true with these additions for taking the youngins along:
1. If this is the first time you’re taking your children to a crowded convention space, might I recommend planning for any day but Saturday. It will undoubtedly be the busiest day and hard to move around. Lines will be longer and for a small child it just won’t be as much fun. I find it overwhelming. We went Friday and while busy, it was manageable.
2. Don’t get attached to what is on the schedule. Taking our kids along is a great opportunity to sort of be more “go with the flow”. The boy was 8, but still not interested in waiting in lines for photo ops or autographs. I mostly let him lead me around to what he wanted to see. He did find some photo ops he was interested in, but none of the big names were for him. He stopped at almost every table in artist’s alley to talk to people. It was hard not buying something from every vendor who took the time to engage him.
3. Be prepared for the “I wants”. There are a ton of great vendors and while the boy doesn’t have a terrible case of the “I wants” normally, they sort of hit a bit while we were there- especially when it came to the Pokemon stuffies. I made him do a lap and only bought one. We also bought a few prints from Artist’s Alley to put on his bedroom wall.
4. I know not every kid is the type to do this, but I found taking the boy to a convention was a fantastic time to introduce him to cosplay. He already knew what it was, but it was an opportunity for me to make sure he knew about etiquette. Ask cosplayers to take pictures. Don’t ask while they are eating or resting. Be polite. He’s outgoing enough that approaching people to ask for a photo was a non-issue. Even if your child is a shy, it’s important to model that behavior anyway IMO.
5. Everyone is different, but in my experience, my kid could only handle half a day. We’re both the type to not enjoy large crowds for extended periods. It’s a lot of stimulation. It’s a lot of walking and standing. In the future I’m sure we’ll plan extended stays, but for now, shorter periods are best. You know what your own kids can handle and it’s important to plan accordingly.
And that’s it. I won’t say taking him was a better or worse experience. It was definitely different. I know I could have done all 4 days (save Saturday) and had a wonderful time. I missed out on a couple panels I would have loved to attend and a couple big name photo ops. But you know what? He talked about the con all afternoon with me once we exited. We put in a solid four hours and he enjoyed nearly every minute (except for the tour through the Rue Morgue section- until he got his picture taken with Zombies!). He stopped to look and comment on cosplays, he took in a lot of scenery. And if you’re taking more than one adult it would change the experience again, I’m sure.
Ultimately, this convention was more about the time I spent with the boy rather than what I wanted out of the con. And this time at least, being his first, I think he got more out of it than if I had rigidly planned for photo ops he wouldn’t have cared about and made him stand in lines for things he wasn’t into. I still got some awesome stuff out of this con (like meeting the lady doing art for the Misfits comic! Fangirl moment for sure!) among other things, but that was tops for me. Hopefully this experience will make him want to go again in the future.