Hindsight Has 20/20 Darkvision
My husband and I have only brought our son to one convention, not only was it our first GenCon, but it was our first convention ever. At the time our little boy was 4 and our daughter was too young to even debate bringing with, so we figured it would be a breeze. In hindsight we still had a great time but there were definitely things we would have done differently, especially now that we have 2 kids. So, allow me to relay some gamer-mom wisdom to anyone debating bringing younger kids to the convention.
Stroller - Make sure to bring a stroller if you have one. If not, consider borrowing one from a friend because there is a lot of walking to be done and no matter how intrepid your little people are, they will get tired quickly and probably very cranky.
Toys - We didn’t bring any toys because we assumed that the excitement and sights of GenCon would be more than enough keep his attention. We were wrong. Kids have short attention spans and even though GenCon is very fun and exciting to us, kids can still get bored. I’d recommend bringing a few of the usual crayons, coloring books, action figures or whatever portable stuff they’re into just in case wandering around the exhibit hall somehow temporarily loses its magic.
Readied Hotel - Our first year we went to GenCon we stayed a little ways out to save money. We probably spent that money that we saved on parking, gas, and emotional turmoil. If you can get a hotel close to the convention center then do it. It’s great to be able to take your child up to your room if they (or you) get too tired. A quick nap or just for a break from all of the excitement of GenCon can do wonders for you, honestly. It will all still be there when you get back!
Events - Speaking of the exhibit hall, the first year we went we didn’t actually attend any events. I’m sure if we would have one of us would have had to leave early because our son would have been bored to tears. There are events for kids and there is also a great family fun area too but I would suggest not attempting to take young kids to any 4 hour long RPG events. Not only would this be bad for you, but if you’ve got a fussy kid you’re going to be disrupting other people’s games too. This all obviously hinges on the age, maturity, and patience levels of your kids so use your own judgement here of course.’ I should also mention that there is child care available at GenCon that you may want to look into. So if you do decide to play some RPGs and still want to bring the kids it’s something to consider.
Sanitize! - Kids are already dirty creatures, they love to touch everything they can and depending on age and habits – shove things into their mouths. Don’t forget to bring extra sanitizer for them and wash their hands often. The mini hand sanitizers you can find at places like Bath & Body Works are cute and if your kid is old enough to handle using their own it can be a special little reward and responsibility for them. There’s also rubberized holsters for them that makes it easy to stow on a lanyard, belt loop, etc.
Snacks - Don’t forget to bring snacks for your kids to tide them over between meals. Whatever you can shove into your purse or backpack works great – granola bars, raisins, fruit snacks, small water bottles. Try and bring snacks that will actually tide them over instead of just junk if you can avoid it. You’ll also pay through the nose if you decide to grab snacks from one of the vendors at the convention, save yourself the money to spend on games!
Knowledge (Gencon with Tots) +2
Don’t forget you can always take a brief break from the con and head over to the Children’s Museum or the Indianapolis Zoo, which are great places for the kids. There’s a ton of activities during gencon too as I mentioned earlier, hit up the event registration part of their website and look under the family/kid activities and you’ll find a myriad of stuff to do there as well!
Overall, I think GenCon is a great place for kids. My son had an awesome time when we brought him and I’m looking forward to bringing him and his little sister in the future. I hope this helped a few folks at least a bit, also be sure to check out my general tips for gencon post next week for those of you with or without little minions.