This will be mine and my husbands first Gen Con, we will be attending with our daughter who will be 4 in September. I read through some older threads and saw that at one point Gen Con had partnered with a childcare team of some sort but has since broken off that partnership for some reason or other. So my question is, are there any tips from other gaming parents with young children on making the con more enjoyable for my husband, myself, and my daughter?
some off the top of my head thoughts
Less a tip and more informing you of possible alternate activities: The Indianapolis Zoo is across the river, about 2 miles from the convention center. And the Children's Museum is about 4 miles north. Granted, I don't know if either a zoo or museum is interesting to your child, but if you were pondering other things to do, and if your daughter really needs a break from the con (inconceivable to a nerdy adult like me ;) but totally in line with how I used to be as a 6 year old), then those are two possibilities.
And really, the museum is neat. Even to me as an adult.
Two Resources at the Convention:
FIND THE FAMILY FUN PAVILION - The Family Fun Pavilion is an area dedicated to family gaming for all ages. Exhibitors in this area in 2016 included: Action Phase Games, Blue Orange Games, Bricks & Boards, Calliope Games, Continuum Games, G33k & Co, Gamewright, Grandpa's Becks Games, HABA, Mayday Games, Meeple Source Monarch, North Star Games, Peaceable Kingdom, R&R Games, Renegade Games Studio, Set Enterprises Inc, Spy Alley Partners, Step Puzzle, Studio 9 Games, Tactic Games and USAopoly.
VISIT TRAINING GROUNDS - Training grounds is a place to introduce kids to the gaming world and all its possibilities. It is designed for kids and those young at heart to come, play and explore! Training Grounds is most appropriate for kids ages 4-12 years old. This area also includes a space for crawling and newly walking toddlers to run freely without all of the traffic throughout the convention center.
Customer Service & Volunteer Manager
Gen Con LLC
Invest in a child-leash. I'd be terrified to take my 5 year old to Gen Con. He'd be lost in that crowd within an hour.
I would not recommend the child-leash... yes, you will know where your child is, but you will probably trip up a lot of people who are not watching out for it (Much more so than a wheeled bag would) and end up having someone fall on your child as a result.
If you are bringing a stroller save everyone a lot of trouble- don't bring it into the exhibitors hall.
I'd totally leash my child. If it didn't result in screaming his head off (trust me, i tried at Disney 3 weeks ago). But, IMO, there's an age range (basically after they can walk and until they are responsible enough to be on their own / semi-independent at a con) where GenCon is somewhat unworkable.
Some people do it, and they make it work. More power to them. But, if you do it becomes their con, and you are their to supervise them.
As a side note to resurrect a zombie thread, there is a new Kids Zone on the Lucas Oil field, and there will be multiple groups there running events for littles too (I know, we're one of them). If your 4 year old can take turns and not eat all the dice all the time, she's welcome at our "My First RPG" events :)
You'll have to stay with her, but we promise to keep it interesting!
I am going second the person who said once you bring a smaller child it becomes their con and not your con.
Smaller children require supervision, to keep themselves and others safe, and their well-being doesn't lend itself very well to four hour time slots of holding still, no matter /what/ you bring for them to do. Inevitably, the small voice will creep in. Is it time to go yet Mommy? When do we leave? I'm hungry. I'm sleepy. I'm thirsty.
Even if you BRING all that, plus a smaller nap pad thing, it just won't work well with having them at your event...they want YOUR ATTENTION not all the other things they are complaining about. I'm not being down on kids, really I'm not! But unless the event you all are attending is THEIR event, they won't be happy.
Somewhere around 9-12, depending on the child, they suddenly become much more capable of holding their own. A solution would be to have one parent play 'their' event, and the other attend a smaller event or two with the child. Or hit the museum, or whatnot. Take turns.
It isn't impossible, it just very definitely isn't 'your' convention any more.
You can't focus on a 4 hr game of Caverna if you're trying to figure out when to breast or bottle feed or burp or clean up spit up or prevent your toddler from terrorizing my nervous dog or prevent your toddler from breaking the TV remote. Maybe your child will behave for the entire window, maybe you'll be incredibly distracted the entire time and only be a shadow player who makes sub-optimal moves due to your inattention and maybe you'll end up leaving early due to your children.
That's just too many maybes to work with when I'm having a hard enough time making sure the ADULTS are roughly on time and understand the rules and having a good time.
Infants and young children wreck game nights for adults. If you want game nights for children, and parents of young children, specifically host those. Then everyone understands that interruptions are going to be plentiful, that deep games will not hit the table, and that the main priority is the children.
When I was a kid, my parents took us to Disney World. A few days of that and I was cranky, exhausted, and generally a brat. My parents had me IN THE PARKING LOT OF SEAWORLD because I loved dolphins and whales like only a young kid can -- and we ended up back at the hotel so I could take a nap.
You have to be willing to work with the child and where they are, not where you want them to be. Yes, I really wish we had seen SeaWorld, but that would have required my parents having either done that first day, or not having tried to pack so many things into Disney World the days prior.
We are bringing our 2 month old. 3 adults, myself, wife, & friend. For events only 2 of the 3 of us will be tied up at one time, but we only are doing 2-3 events each.
Wife got one of these baby wrap things so no stroller. I'll have a backpack to carry all the baby things.
At this young he should do really well.
I have to third the entire aspect of the moment you bring your child to a convention it becomes their convention and not yours. I spent ten years working in childcare and one of the biggest things I learned from it is that no matter what you plan or prepared for, the child/children will never follow the schedule you expect them to follow.
Even if they are very good at going down for naps or eating at certain times at home, don't expect that to happen as easily at a convention center due to how over stimulated they are going to be and just the general crush of bodies making it to where you likely can't stick to a schedule you are used to. Be prepared to have to possibly drop events or change your plans because of this. So the best suggestion I have is to only set your hat on one or two events a day for yourself (with you both alternating who is doing a Me event and who is catering to your daughter and doing things for her somewhere else.) anything more then that and you're going to risk a lot of crankiness as the days go by. Also expect to spend a good chunk of the convention not actually at the convention due to it being dictated by how she is feeling and thus having to find non con activities to do so she can de-stress. Doubly so on Saturday as this is the busiest day for the convention and has a lot of the big events going on. Which leads into another point.
I also completely have to agree with the expecting a good chunk of the convention to not even realize your little girl is there, especially if she is walking on her own. Most people are not going to be looking down low enough to see her or be expecting her. I freely admit I'm more likely to be looking up at direction signs because I'm utterly lost then checking my feet in case a tiny tot is underfoot nearby. With how packed this convention is going to be this year be prepared to be carrying/strollering her around and possibly dealing with her being overwhelmed by so many people in too close quarters. Because let's be real, there is no space bubble honoring when the hallway is packed and people are trying to get from differing point As to different point Bs as quickly as possible to make it to a game on time.
Also, bring water, yes the convention center and nearby hotels will have drinking fountains but you have to get to them first. While not that daunting when it's you or your friends, having a small child cranky and thirsty makes it a quest of extreme difficulty if you are not even certain where one is. One of the biggest problems we had when we did summer camps was keeping the kids hydrated even during indoor activities because once again over stimulation and kids just being kids. In this vein having pediasure on you is not amiss with how much is going on and how packed everything is going to be, and it has a lot of vitamins and such in it that it can help you in helping her not catch any sort of con crud and balance out the likely several fast food/ not exactly healthy meals you all are going to consume during the weekend.
Great insights in here. Having done the con with toddlers everyone is correct about the "their con" thing. If you can trade with a partner it can be done.
Regarding the leash thing that was brought up above I actually do suggest them for very young kids. I used one when we had my 3 year old daughter along. It was attached to a tiny backpack so she thought it was cool. I always held her hand so the leash wasn't going across any walkways. It was just there in case she darted away for whatever reason. In those crowds a kid who does that will be gone in a flash. Luckily I never needed it but I was glad that I had it.
There's a Petco on U.S. 31 just south of downtown. You can buy a nice baby cage there if you leave yours at home.