GeekGirlCon Parenting Tips
Written by Guest Contributor Sharon Feliciano
The beautiful thing about bringing kids to GeekGirlCon, is that it is very family-friendly. From panels about parenting and kid creators (which I’ll be moderating!) to our kid-focused DIY Science Zone and kid-friendly costume contest, GeekGirlCon has gone out of their way to make sure that kids are not just allowed, but welcomed at the convention.
That being said, it can be a challenge to bring kids to any convention. After many years of trial and error, I’m here to share the tricks and tips that have worked for the Parenting Geekly family.
Make it easy to be found. This year, GeekGirlCon will be debuting special Geekling badges for anyone with a youth ticket. On the back of the Geekling badge is a space to write the adult-in-charge’s contact information. Sharpies for this purpose will be available at registration. This makes it easy to contact you if you get separated, even if your child hasn’t memorized your phone number. Make sure your kids know what the GeekGirlCon Agents look like–they will be wearing red t-shirts–and make sure that they know to go look for an Agent (as opposed to a vendor or exhibitor) if they are lost or need help. Take a picture of your child in the clothes they have on so that if you are separated, the staff has a good, visual reference for who to look for.
Know your kids. Conventions in general can be overwhelming. If your child is prone to overstimulation, be prepared to take breaks. GeekGirlCon has plenty of places to sit, and if you or your little one needs quiet time, GeekGirlCon has an Introvert Alley, located right behind registration, which is a dark and quiet room. The kids may tire faster than you do; don’t force a kid to keep moving if it’s clear they need a break.
Mind little hands. Many of the exhibitors and artist alley folks will have their products on display. It’s very tempting for the littles to reach out grab. Many cosplayers will be wearing cool costumes that will be tempting to reach out and grab. If your child is old enough, make sure you set expectations about not touching anyone or anything without asking. Also make sure that any “free” swag your child is taking is actually free.
Stay Healthy. Cons are germy places. There are lots of people, lots of things to touch, and lots of opportunity to catch other people’s ick. Make sure that your family washes their hands frequently. Remind kids not to touch their eyes or mouth, and consider bringing an alcohol-based hand sanitizer or hand wipes. They’re not as good as hand-washing, but it makes sense to have an emergency backup for when curious hands touch something unidentifiable. WIpes are also great for making sure game controllers and other communal supplies are de-germed before you touch them. Remind your kids to cough or sneeze into their elbow as opposed to their hand.
Stay fed and hydrated. Snacks are available in the conference center, and at restaurants around it, but the choices aren’t great and the waits are long. Hangry kids are no fun, especially when being chaperoned by equally hungry adults, so come prepared. We bring fruit leather, trail mix, pre-packaged apple slices and cheese sticks in a little insulated bag. Be conscientious, eat in designated areas, and bring foods that aren’t messy. Give each person in your party their own water bottle. You’ll be on your feet all day and it’s easy to get dehydrated. Refill your bottles often and drink up!
Bring a camera and ask permission. There are tons of cosplayers, and many of them love to snap photos with kids, but make sure you ask. Cosplay does not automatically mean consent, and this is a great opportunity to teach your kids to politely ask for a picture and to be respectful and gracious if the answer is no. Don’t want your kids’ photos to be taken? Ask for special sticker at registration that will let all the con-goers know that pics are off-limits.
Consider panels carefully. While some will be entertaining for kids, many will not. It’s hard to wait in line just to go into a room to sit and be quiet. I’m a big proponent of not putting kids in a situation where just being a kid is going to be disruptive to others, and that can happen. If there are panels you’d like to see that you don’t think will be super-interesting to your kids, bring coloring, a cell phone and headphones or some other quiet activity. Sit on an end or near the back so that you can make a quick escape if your kid needs to use the potty or becomes disruptive.
Set spending limits and expectations in advance. There are so many exhibitors with so many cool things to buy, and kids will see so many things they just HAVE to have. If we are going to allow the kids to buy something, we make our dollar limit clear before we leave the house. We also have a policy of making the kids walk around all the merch tables before making their purchasing decisions. There is so much cool stuff to buy if they buy the first thing that catches their eye, they are bound to find (and ask for) something else even cooler at the next booth.
Most importantly, have fun! GeekGirlCon is a fantastic, inclusive and welcoming place for everyone, and it’s exactly the kind of community I want my kids to experience. These tips and tricks are what our family has learned after 12 years of pop-culture conventions in general and five years of GeekGirlCon. Your mileage may vary, so do what works best for you and your family!
If you see me at and my kids at GeekGirlCon on October 8th and 9th, say hello!
Have suggestions that have worked for your family? Leave them in the comments below.
Sharon Feliciano is the founder of Parenting Geekly, a blog for nerdy parents and their offspring.