How to Parent at a Con (Tips and Tricks on How to Cope)
So without being one of those judgy “don’t bring your kids to a con” people I decided to make a how to cope article. When you become a parent you don’t have to sacrifice everything you love meaning you don’t attend the con at all or you have to find a sitter for your children and be separated from them all day. Often feeling guilty for having fun without them. There are ways that you can manage and tips you can follow. Depending on who your kid is and how they behave there are ways to keep them entertained and happy throughout the con experience. You can make it a good time for yourself and your family. But if you are going in blind that can be a difficult learning experience.
Bring an Alternate
This can mean mom and dad goes together, or you go with a group of trusted friends. It is possible to go alone with a kid but it makes it much easier and less hectic to bring an extra set of arms. Especially if you want to go to any particular panel or exhibit. Panels can be long and boring for a kid so it is good to have someone that can remove them and walk around or wait outside while they play.
Don’t Pack Too Heavy
I know that it is hard to foresee everything that could happen, and a lot of parents will try and bring everything they think they might need. But you really don’t have to pack too much. Depending on the age of you kid that could mean, One extra outfit, 4 or 5 diapers and a pack of wipes. Some baby cookies and a bottle of formula(breastfeeding moms can even skip that and it’s amazing). And bring a light blanket, convention centers tend to run cold.
If your kid is a little older and potty trained it gets even easier. Bring a couple bottles of water, some snacks, whichever they like(even if it’s junk because you need them to eat, it’s a lot of walking around), and you can always purchase food at the con. They may not eat everything you buy and that’s ok. Make sure it’s something you will want to eat the rest of though so you don’t waste money.
Bring Your Own Entertainment
This could mean you bring a favorite toy or load your tablet up with shows and movies that you know they like. I suggest downloading from Netflix or any other way you can because the Wifi Hot spot on your phone may not be a good option. Especially if you need the battery to last you all day. If you can get a portable battery charger for your phone. So if you need to just hand it over and use YouTube on the 4G network you don’t have to worry about draining your battery. Another great accessory is a headset so they can tune out other stimuli. Or if they get bored at a panel you don’t have to worry about noise pollution with the tablet.
Bring a Stroller!
This was a mistake I made this year at Anime Expo. I forgot her stroller. Granted she is old enough now to walk around, and it was only an umbrella stroller which means it just folds out, but I was on the hook for now carrying her when her legs got tired. If you have an older kid sometimes it still helps to bring a foldable. Because then when they aren’t using it you can hang your merchandise bags on them and scoot around your backpack.
They are also a necessity for the very small if there are not changing tables in the bathrooms. You can park and change a diaper with ease. Plus they can nap in them if they want to pass out and you can still walk around.
There are always maps available of the convention center and depending on where you go and what you want to see there should be one close by. If you don’t know where one is ask a staff member. There are always plenty walking around. If you have a small child you can put that blanket to use if they don’t have a changing table. But like I said before the stroller can be a great option for changing a diaper.
Even if your kid is well behaved never rule out the possibility of a tantrum. It is a lot to take in at a convention and it can get overwhelming. If you run into this and know your kid then you should be able to handle it relatively easy. If that means moving to a quiet area for them to calm down, like a bathroom or a safe space then it is best to take them there. Removing them from too much stimuli can help get them centered and refreshed. A calm voice helps and letting them get it out may be the best way to go. DON’T BE EMBARRASSED. It’s a kid. They are still learning and adapting and that is totally fine. There are even adult attendees that have a hard time coping.
If you find your kid is nodding off or starting to act unruly it could be time for a nap. You can find a quiet area and take a break yourself while they sleep, either in the stroller or on your lap. Be prepared to shift positions though because your legs will probably fall asleep. If you can find a chair to sit on in a quiet place that’s even better, but they are usually only found in eating areas. Your best bet is to go to the safe space if it’s nearby or find a quiet unoccupied area next to the wall. On the outside of whatever hall you are in there is usually plenty of space to have a seat for an hour or so while your little ones batteries recharge.
With that many people there is no way around it. Germs are everywhere. The best thing you can do is wash their hands every time they use the restroom and bring hand sanitizer with you. It could mean the difference between them staying healthy and getting sick, especially if you know that your kid is prone to sickness.They should also sell those masks somewhere on the convention floor so if you are really worried you can buy a themed mask for them. Which they will never want to take off, especially if they can pretend they are Totoro…
Dressing Them Up
When you have a kid with you one of the perks of being a parent is dressing them up. You can go full on cosplay with them or do it more lowkey. It is good to get them into dressing up before the convention and make sure that they are completely comfortable. Not every kid will like to wear a wig and some will totally love it. If you do go all out though, be prepared to have a lot of pictures taken because attendees love when a new generation of con goer is born.
If you are asked to take pictures follow your kids lead. If they feel uncomfortable respect their decision and respectfully decline. Or tell them to try again later because your kid could be needing a moment to themselves. Like any other cosplayer sometimes kids need a break from being “on”. Also one of the cool things about being around so many other cosplayers is that they learn to pose by osmosis. So seeing other people strut their stuff and exude confidence is great for kids to see, they then themselves become more confident learning that that type of behavior is totally ok.
Stop and Pose with Their Favorite Characters
One of the best ways a kid can enjoy themselves is finding and posing with their favorite characters. Have them ask themselves if they can because it is good practice to be polite and teach them convention and cosplayer etiquette. Just like the character meets at Disneyland many of the cosplayers are more than willing to make this moment magical both for them and your kid. Take pictures for them to remember too!
This year one of the perks was the kids area in Kentia Hall. Provided by Kiddie Corp it was a large area sectioned off where kids could color, play with blocks, dolls and more. A parent or guardian had to stay with them but it was such an easy place to be. Especially if you needed a break yourself. There are many cons that will have an area like this and it is good to look it up on the convention website before hand. Another good way to find out about these areas is to ask the convention facebook via messenger if they will have an area dedicated to kids.
Souvenirs and Merch
While you probably won’t get to browse the more adult sections of the exhibit hall you will be treated to a plethora of other booths. There are a lot of toys and figures and it is good to set aside some spending money for yourself as well as your kid. Odds are they are going to zero in on something and not let it go. That is totally ok! Help to make their convention experience memorable by getting them a souvenir. They earned it! And it will be a memory of good times and new experiences.
Let’s say you did want to go it alone with your kids this year and you want to attend a panel. The best way to do it I’ve learned is to bring an extra phone charger and a foldable headset and let them watch youtube. Giving them the phone is worst case scenario because of course you want your kid to be interested in what is going on, and they may love what the panel is for, but adults talking is probably the most boring thing in the world for them. If they do get too unruly you may have to leave, unless you brought an alternate and they are ready and willing to exit the hall with them. And if your kid is dressed as the character in the panel you could get to be on their social media. Which is really really cool.
If You See a Parent Struggling, Help Them!
The most important piece of advice I can give is that if you see someone struggling, offer help. This doesn’t mean that you have to stay with them the entire con, but help them get situated. The golden rule is treat others how you would like to be treated, and by doing this act of kindness you will inspire kindness in them. Especially if they are at their breaking point. Besides, you could very well make a new convention friend for life!
All of these tips and tricks are what I have picked up after attending Anime Expo four years in a row with my kid. I have gone from bringing a one and a half year old to now a four and a half years old and it gets easier every time. I hope that if you have kids you find all this information useful and that if you have anything you picked up over the years you will comment and share with your learned experience too. As parents we need to support each other.
Did this list help you? Do you have any experiences to share? Please Tell us in the comments!