Adventures at Fan Expo, with Kids!
by Brooke Ali
For years my husband and I have attended Fan Expo, going all the way back to when it was called the Canadian National Comic Book Exposition. When we had our twins, however, that tradition stopped; although we could handle them in their Baby Bjorns at TCAF, Fan Expo was just too big to manage. But with their fifth birthday this past summer, we realized that they might finally be old enough for their first big convention and the adventure was excitedly planned. I’m happy to report that we lived to tell the tale.
Having always experienced it with my adult eyes–the cosplayers, the shopping, getting Christina Hendricks’s and Morena Baccarin’s autographs in their Firefly days–I’d never before paid attention to what the event has to offer kids and was pleasantly surprised. The first thing my boys encountered was Geoffrey the Giraffe, complete with Toys R Us handler. They, of course, were just excited to see “the giraffe,” but it did tug at my nostalgic heart a little.
The Ninja Turtles set up was excellent! They had a photo op area with the turtles’ signature weapons and masks, an electronic punching bag, and graffiti artists creating custom-painted cardboard turtle shells. All this, of course, was to promote the new season of TMNT coming up. Another major fandom for my boys is Dragonball, which had a great presence with photo op set-ups, toys, and a giant wish dragon suspended from the ceiling, surrounded by dragon balls.
The Make-a-Wish Foundation had a great fundraiser: a large Star Wars display where kids could take pictures with characters like Obi Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader, or even riding on a speeder bike with storm troopers in pursuit. I imagine they did very well, since that area was always packed!
When the boys started to get tired and overwhelmed by the main show areas, we took refuge in the kids’ room. It wasn’t much, some Duplos on the floor in a corner, a few small tubs of Play Doh, and some cut out and assemble masks and origami of a variety of characters from minions to Pokemon. But, it was quiet, and, after a full afternoon, it was just what we needed.
Of course, going to cons with kids is not without its challenges. It takes a lot of mental energy for me to monitor a five year old’s behaviour in thick crowds surrounded by things he wants to touch, so I didn’t get to pay attention to my surroundings like I normally would have. We missed out on the Doctor Who section entirely because they were just too tired and cranky by the time we found it. And, of course, panels of any kind are out of the question until they’re old enough to sit still and listen to people talk for a full hour, but I think we definitely made the right call in bringing them to their first big con this year. At the end of they day, they’d had a lot of fun and each got a new stuffed Kirby, which they now sleep with. They even want to dress up next year!