Should You Bring A Kid To Dragon*Con?

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Dragon*Con starts in just nine short days. I recommend going to just about every geek I meet, especially at this time of year when my life is consumed by furious last-minute costuming. Since the people I interact with these days are often also parents, the followup question is usually, “Should I bring my kids?”

It’s a tough question, and one you have to answer for yourself. It helps a lot to have been and to know whether you’d enjoy yourself and be comfortable with your kids there. It also depends on their ages. My personal rule was to bring them when they were less than a year old (which also meant they were still nursing, and thus much easier to have near me), but after that, we’ve left them with grandparents.

The practical matter: Cost

Kids six and under get in free. If you have a kid that age who is potty trained, you can bring them to Dragon*Con child care for the price of an adult ticket. If you use the full 30 hours available, that’s an unbeatable rate of $4/hour! But child care closes at 7 p.m., and there is a lot to do at Dragon*Con after 7 p.m. You, however, will have an early bedtime. Some parents work this out by taking turns–Mom gets to go have evening fun on Friday night, and Dad gets to go out Saturday night, for example. Of course, then you’re not having that fun together, but at least you’re having it.

Stuff for kids to do

The biggest excitement for kids is seeing their favorite characters come to life. You can’t walk across a hotel lobby without tripping over twenty Stormtroopers, eight superheroes, and That Guy From That Movie I Saw, What Is His Name? (That last one is a popular costume.) After about 8 or 9 p.m., the costumes start getting a lot more risqué. Suddenly at sundown, a foot of electrical tape cut and placed strategically counts as a costume. There’s also a risk of seeing a few of these during the day, so if you really want to shield Little Johnny’s eyes, this might not be the best place for him.

What else can kids do?

  • They’ll love the Masquerade and the parade for the same reasons as above. They may also enjoy the Friday night costume contest, but it’s about workmanship, whereas Masquerade is more of a short skit performance show, so the Friday night contest may seem slow to the little ones. There are also track-specific costume contests, such as the Star Wars contest.
  • This year the Costuming track has a session for children ages 9 and up. There are track-specific costume-building sessions as well. For example, the Young Adult Literature track has one for Harry Potter costuming.
  • Gaming of all kinds. Find a Looney Labs Lab Rabbit (who may or may not look like a lab rabbit) and teach your kid to play Fluxx. It’s a great game for any kid old enough to read the cards and entertaining (and occasionally challenging) for adults, too.
  • For those old enough, there is the aforementioned Young Adult Literature track. Remember that spoilers are likely to be discussed. A few of these sessions lean towards being discussions for adults about kids, such as what literature is appropriate for what age and whether you restrict your children’s reading.
  • The Science track and Space track–Dragon*Con is educational! The Space track even brings out their telescopes for your young Einsteins to get a better look at the wonders above.
  • Most of the regular daytime sessions that interest them will be fine. If they’re young and/or impatient, sit near a door in case you have to make a quick exit. An hour is a long time to listen to even your favorite actor wax philosophical about why he became a thespian. Read the pocket program together to find things that interest you both. The Star Wars track seems to be popular with kids, thanks to sessions like “Building the Universe With Legos” and “Saber School,” a session meant just for kids to play with foam sabers.
  • This year there is a new track for kids ages 9-13, the Kaleidoscope track. This track features Dragon*Con-style programming for the preteen set based on live-action TV Shows from Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, and Disney Channel. Parents must accompany any kids under 18.

Decision time

As you can see, there’s plenty to interest your little geeklings as long as you’re prepared to keep being Mom all weekend. For me, Dragon*Con is a great weekend away, where I get to just be me and not worry about who’s not eating his dinner or who needs to go potty. I just ask that you don’t try to be both. I’ve been going to Dragon*Con for nearly a decade, and every year I see parents dragging children into clearly adult sessions. It’s uncomfortable for everyone involved and rude to panelists who may feel obligated to censor themselves. Or they may not, which will make your evening more interesting when your geekling starts asking questions. Just don’t do it.

Finally, if you’re still not sure, I’ve made this handy flowchart to help you make the choice.

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18 thoughts on “Should You Bring A Kid To Dragon*Con?

  1. My biggest issue with cons these days is the costumes and some of what they would see in the dealer’s room.
    There are things I have seen in a dealers room and costumes that I don’t want my kids exposed to just yet. I think a con would be a great experience for a child IF the other people at the con would take these things into consideration before they go to them. Geeks do have kids, and cons SHOULD be more kid friendly but they are not.

    1. Beth–The dealers room is an excellent point. I can think of one, maybe two booths in the exhibit hall at Dragon*Con that are 100% adult-oriented.

    2. Seeing as most of the convention activities are adult (or mature) oriented, and most of the skimpy costumes are at night, after 9pm, I don’t see why I should have to censor myself because someone else wants to bring their young child. If you are going to bring children, keep them in the appropriate areas/tracks. Most sci-fi/fantasy/horror films are not appropriate for young children, why should a convention related to those things be?

      1. What about when you are walking through the halls and my kid sees you in your half naked costume. And I’ve seen plenty of revealing costumes before 9pm at cons. Just because you are on a certain track , it does not mean you won’t be going from one room to another and it does not mean you wont’ be going to the dealers room.

        1. There are these things called decentcy laws. You have to have certan “bits” covered in order to be in public places. If it is good enough for the law, it is good enough for the hallway. I am sure more skin is exposed at a swimming pool or beach. Do you not take your children there?

          1. Your first post sounded like you’d been. Your second sounded like you haven’t.

            First, I really write with the knowledge that there are a lot of people with a lot of different feelings about what they want to expose their kids to and how. (See the rest of the comments for examples.) Those who have never been before should know that just because there are kid-oriented activities, it’s not necessarily a 100% G-rated event. There are adult toys sold in the exhibit hall and charity auction. There are scantily clad people, occasionally seen doing rather adult things.

            Further, public indecency (or indecent exposure) laws vary pretty widely across the country. In Georgia, the letter of the law is *lewd* exposure. (See: I’ve seen far, far less in the hallways of Dragon*Con than I’ve seen on the beach, unless your beaches frequently involves two tiny dots of electrical tape and a G-string.

          2. Okay, I obviously lost the ability to spell in my last post. I apologize for that.

            I have been to Dragon Con several times. I have seen a lot of little bits of coverage. I have also seen less on beaches (South Beach, for example, or anywhere outside of the US). My point is conventions like these were created by adults for adults. Just because someone wants to bring their children to a mostly adult convention doesn’t mean I should have to censor myself. We have a 10 year old girl. She does not go to conventions. We do not think it is an appropriate venue for her at this time.

            If you want family friendly, go to Disney World.

            Of course, this is just my opinion.

          3. Like I said, I don’t bring my kids either, but I don’t think you can call it a convention meant for adults when they now offer a track for 9-13-year-olds, have a Young Adult track, have child care, have sessions in other tracks meant for kids, etc.

  2. LOVE the flowchart! I’ve been trying to work on information for families at one of our local cons…I just may use this as a reference, if you don’t mind!

  3. Sorry, I honestly don’t know what constitutes an adult panel as I have never been, but aren’t parents who attend them with kids making a concious decision about what they deem acceptable to their children? Why on earth would a panelist censor themselves? That’s the panelist’s issue and should not be placed at the feet of the parent UNLESS said parent throws a hissy fit, at which point you write them off as morons.

    1. Loopdiloi–Yes and no, and I think it depends on the panelist. When you see somebody bring young kids (I’m thinking under 8) into a 9 p.m. session on sexuality (which I’ve seen happen), nobody’s going to censor themselves. But it’s awkward! I’m trying to think of how to best explain this on a family-friendly blog… Nobody wants to talk about certain topics in front of a kid. I’m all in favor of openness and honesty with children, but there are age-appropriate ways to talk about things without putting them in that situation.

  4. My husband and I made the choice that we aren’t going to bring our daughter until she is 6 or 7. At almost 3, I think she is too little and would hinder our enjoyment of the con.

  5. Hello.
    I am the director for the new Kaleidoscope Track. Targeted at 9-13 yr olds that is new this year. We cover live action shows from Disney, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network. We run traditional Dragon Con style programming. We are not an extension of day care. Parents are required to attend w/ any child under the age of 18 for legal reason.


    Jill M

    1. Jill, that’s awesome! I’ll edit the post to include the Kaleidoscope track. And I might attend, despite my lack of a child between 9 and 13. 🙂

    2. Thank you so much, Jill!

      I brought my 10 year old last year and it was a bit frustrating at times…you’re definitely still mom when you’re there! We did attend the YA track as there were discussions on books he loved, but he was rather disappointed to find at least one of them dominated by teenaged girls talking about how great it was to have a book with a strong female character that wasn’t focused on romance (I agree) and then proceeding to discuss which male character in the book they liked best (that squicked out my 10 yo boy to the point where he refused to go to any more book discussions even if he loved the book). He really, really, really wants to return this year – had a lot of fun – so we’re going again.

  6. This was our first year of attending a con with the kids (Gen Con in our case). Try as we might to accomodate the kids, we still had stuff happen that we didn’t anticipate, primarily with them getting bored or out-of-sorts or even sick. Trying to be both a mom and gamer at the same time was like living the part in SpiderMan 2 where Peter is trying to be all things to all people and it doesn’t go as well as hoped. And I concede that I experienced a very significant learning curve.

  7. We have taken our son for the last 3 years – he is 9 this year. We live near Atlanta so we split the con attendance. He stays with us Thursday and Friday night and we focus on kid centric stuff. After the parade on Saturday morning it is back to the grand parents and we have the rest of the weekend to ourselves. It has worked well for us.

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