DreadPixie’s Practical Guide to Gencon With Kids

Second Time’s A Charm?

Firestar, and Gandalf!I have been going to gaming conventions for four years now and so far I have only brought my kids with me twice, once was a family trip to Origins. Jerry and I brought our oldest to GenCon with us the first year we went. He was only four then and he had a really good time. We didn’t have that good of a time that year though. Now, don’t get me wrong, it was great having him there and showing him all of the cool things GenCon had to offer. However, he got tired quickly and it was hard to keep him occupied while we tried to look at things that just wouldn’t keep his tiny attention span. The Dwarven Forge booth? Alright! Dice jewelry and game books? Not so much…

This year we are bringing the kids to GenCon again. We have a five year old daughter and an eight year old son now.  I’m still a little nervous about our five year old but I’m confident that our eight year old will have an awesome time. I will be taking some extra precautions to ensure that a good time will be had by all of us though. A lot of these things are common sense things but hopefully one or two of these tips will be helpful to you. I know I wish I had thought of some of them that first year we took our son.

Taking Your Kids Too?

Before you is my best attempt for an all-encompassing tip-guide for bringing your own halflings to Gencon, especially if you’ve never done so before. Keep in mind that if your child is 8 or under they won’t need their own badge. However, they still need a child wristband. You can register your child online for their wristband or at the convention. In order to register them online you’ll need to make them their own account (which will mean using an un-used email address) and then just add a child wristband to it. If you decide to do it at the convention you’ll be able to register them at either customer service or the badge registration area. If your kids are 9 or older, you’ll need to be dropping the cash for a full-service badge just like any other con-goer.

Bring Snacks

Snacks are a necessity for conventions even when we don’t bring our kids along (saves tons of money) but especially when we do bring them. When we go to conventions we very rarely eat three times a day (sometimes we’re lucky if we get in one full meal). It can be difficult to squeeze in time for a meal especially with the long lines at restaurants near the convention center during busy hours but if you bring filling snacks you can usually put off eating for a while longer.  Also, speaking of eating you might want to try to get lunch early or later depending on what works for you because the lines at all of the restaurants nearby and also the food trucks tend to be very long right at lunch time. Good ideas for snacks that are filling and will keep you going are nuts, granola bars, fruit snacks, fruit, cheese/cracker packs, trail mix, and anything else small enough to stow away in a backpack or purse.

Take Breaks

GenCon can be very overwhelming for anyone. Jerry and I take little breaks during the day while we are at conventions just to have a little time to mellow out. These breaks are extra important for little ones. If you have a hotel close by it might be a good idea to take the kids back to the hotel for a little quiet time away from the crowded hall. If your hotel is further out you could just find a quiet place in the convention center to sit and relax for a bit. The upstairs of the convention center is usually a lot less crowded and a lot quieter.

Explore Indy

There are a lot of great places for kids in Indy if you are up for leaving the convention center for a bit. The Indianapolis Zoo and the Children’s museum are both great places for kids and are just a short drive away. There is also a great art museum if your kids are the kind who can appreciate art.

Bring Activities

This one sounds obvious but when we brought our 4 year old years ago we thought they would be so busy checking out all of the exciting convention things that they wouldn’t need many toys or activities. Don’t forget to bring along things to occupy your children when they get bored. Handheld games, books, crayons and a coloring book, or whatever other little things your kids like to play with that will fit in your bag. Try to keep it to small toys or books though. You might get tired of lugging around a giant bag full of stuff all day long.

Gencon Has Resources For You Too!

All of these things aside, don’t forget to take advantage of the family fun area. There are always lots of super fun things for kids over there. If you’ll be at GenCon on Saturday you could take your kids to watch the costume contest parade. Also, check out the events before going to the show. There are a lot of events that are perfect for little ones, and there are some awesome companies that will be demoing child friendly games too. According to TheDicetower the HABA booth (#352) is one that is a must see if you’ve got little ones.

Here We Go!

Well, that’s about it. I’ll come back and write more after Gencon this year to let you know the trials and tribulations of taking two kids to Gencon instead of just one, and what it was like bringing our son after a 4 year gap. It really seems like 8 is the sweet spot for gaming for him, he’s developing an interest in the actual mechanics of games we play and knows some of them better than we do. Our daughter is a year older than our son was the first time too so we’ll see how it all works out! Other than that, maybe we’ll see you there. Thanks for reading!


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