Comic-Con Report: Bringing the Kids

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GeekDad & Co. at Comic-ConGeekDad & Co. at Comic-Con

GeekDad Jonathan Liu & Co. at Comic-Con

Day Three of Comic-Con: my wife wanted to attend Comic-Con with me and we decided to bring both of our daughters, ages three-and-a-half and six-and-a-half. (Unfortunately, at the time we registered, we didn’t realize that Sunday is Kids’ Day or we might have picked the days differently.) The nice thing, though, is that you can bring in one child for free with each adult admission, so it’s not an additional cost–at least not financially. But I’ll get to that.

My older daughter has been reading a lot of comics lately: the Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi, the Adventures in Comics Activity Book, Jeff Smith’s Bone. I thought it would be particularly fun to have her meet some of the artists and writers behind her favorite comics. We didn’t get to see them all, but several of them were at booths in the exhibit hall so we got to stop and chat with them.

My kids also liked seeing the spectacle, gawking at all the costumes, though at kid’s-eye-level it can get pretty hard to see everything, and traversing a crowded convention center can be difficult. Especially when other convention-goers may not be looking down while they squeeze through the crowds: those huge swag bags are right at about my six-year-old’s head level. We did bring our Ergo carrier for the three-year-old. She’s getting towards the weight limit but still fits, and we were really glad to have it. I saw some parents with strollers, but I wouldn’t want to maneuver a stroller through the convention center–the carrier was much easier, and put her at close to our eye level, which was great for her. It was a bit wearing on the shoulders, though, so I’m glad today didn’t involve hauling a bunch of books too. My wife and I traded off halfway through the day.

Darth Vader and DadDarth Vader and Dad

Darth Vader attending Comic-Con with his dad. Photo: Jonathan Liu

There are, of course, things that are inappropriate for younger kids and not all of them are sequestered in one area of the exhibit floor. (And that’s just the exhibitors, not the exhibitionists.) However, having been around the hall a couple times before today I had a better idea of what areas to avoid and when to redirect my kids’ attention.

We did try to take our kids to a few panels. Most notable was the Yo Gabba Gabba panel, with co-creators Scott Shultz and Christian Jacobs, as well as DJ Lance Rock and a couple others. They did play a few clips of the show and a fantastic bit with Plex the robot at Coachella, and they also had a Dance-Off with prizes for the kids. Those parts my kids enjoyed. But the bits where they talked about the creation of the show, or how they got Jack Black to do an entire episode, or how they line up awesome bands for the show … those didn’t interest our kids at all, and they got restless. I also took them to a panel about the 100th Anniversary of Krazy Kat, a comic that I adore and hope one day to introduce to my kids. That one my six-year-old proclaimed “boring” before it even started, and then my kids spent that panel playing with their toys and reading some kids’ comics that I’d gotten for them.

Today I’d already written off the idea of getting into Hall H, but my wife and I were both interested in several events in Ballroom 20, the next-largest meeting area at Comic-Con. We got to the ballroom area just in time to hear someone announce that the Ballroom 20 line was closed, and in fact was closed for the rest of the day, despite the fact that it wasn’t yet noon. So we missed the Big Bang Theory panel with Wil Wheaton (and surprise guests The Barenaked Ladies), we passed on the Joss Whedon Experience. My wife did end up spending about three hours in line and finally did get to see the TV Guide “Hot List” presentation with the stars of various TV shows, but I opted out of spending that much time in line with kids.

Playing at the Lego boothPlaying at the Lego booth

Playing at the Lego booth

Instead, I took the kids over to the Lego booth and let them spend about twenty minutes just playing and building. It was a great way to get a little downtime for them and myself, and it was actually one of their favorite parts of the day. We called it a day at about 5:30 and caught the trolley back.

In the end, I’m glad I took my kids but I think they’re still a bit young to really enjoy it, particularly the three-year-old. (We actually had considered leaving her with my sister and taking my three-year-old nephew instead, who loves Star Wars and would probably have gotten a kick out of some of the exhibits.) It’s a lot of walking, and finding a bathroom quickly can be difficult when you’re in a pinch. Kids get hungry and thirsty at inconvenient times, and just because they’re tired of walking doesn’t mean they’ll prefer sitting down for a “boring” panel. However, the opportunity to meet some artists and authors is pretty awesome, and if you want to expose your kids to other geeks of all stripes, what better way to do it than take them with you while you geek out about things?

It’ll be a while before I’m ready to take my kids to a convention for multiple days, but I do think that I’d like to keep trying in small doses when the opportunity arises. You never know when your kids’ own geekiness will manifest itself, and something like Comic-Con has such a diversity of potential interests that it’s a neat place for them to get a little taste of everything.

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