Each year my family and I get excited to attend comic conventions and fan events. Our kids and us love creating cosplay outfits and searching each events’ list of guests and programming. Some families are into sporting events, we are into geeky gatherings.
This is our “thing”. Though as the years have gone on, I have found myself wishing that these events offered more for their younger attendees. Don’t get me wrong, these events do offer things for kids. Also, I’ve only attended events in my region, so I don’t know what every convention offers. Just having attended a few conventions with elementary and teenage children, I’ve seen these gatherings through kids’ eyes.
Alamo City Comic Con‘s recent announcement that they would be partnering with Barnes & Noble to present a Young Adventures Workshop featuring popular middle grade and YA authors like Lou Anders, Holly Black, Matthew Cody, & others, got me thinking. What could conventions add to engage younger fans more?
With an increase of young attendees and families at conventions, I see potential for these events to grow their offerings for this demographic. I’m not talking about huge changes that turn it into Disneyland or anything like that. I’m thinking more about a few things that could enhance the experience of kids attending.
Below are a few ideas that my husband, kids, friends, and I see as having the potential to take budding geeklings’ experiences to another level.
Kids love to interact with their favorite characters. I see promos often for lunch or breakfast with princess events or with Santa and the Easter Bunny, but not often see superhero or other popular character events. If a convention was to offer an experience like this during their event for an additional fee, it has the potential to be a huge hit. A lot of the cosplayers we’ve met would jump at a chance to volunteer to dress as a superhero ensemble, and maybe even act out a little skit for the sake of the kiddos. Simple lunch like hotdogs, hamburgers, or pizza could be catered and included in the cost of the activity.
Panels for Kids
Occasionally children and teens are able to ask questions at a panel, but usually adults are the ones asking the questions. Though what if a panel offered young fans a chance to ask questions of creators, artists, voice actors, and others that create what is popular and made primarily for those 16 and under. Empowering kids to put themselves out there and get heard is a great way to get more from their experience at the convention.
Creator & Artist of Middle Grade & YA Graphic Novels & Books Guests
I think Alamo City Comic Con’s decision to add middle grade and young adult authors to their guest list is awesome. There are so many fantastic guest choices conventions can choose from in these genres. A few that come to mind are DC Super Hero Girls author Lisa Yee, DC Comics Secret Hero Society Study Hall of Justice creators Derek Fridolfs and Dustin Nguyen, Origami Yoda series and Rocket & Groot Stranded on Planet Strip Mall creator Tom Angleberger, Gotham Academy creators and illustrators, author Raina Telgemeier, author Sarah J. Maas, author Terry Brooks, author Margaret Stohl, and many more I could list. Today many graphic novel and book stories and characters are crossing into other entertainment areas; such as movies, television, and web series. The youth fan base is there for these guests to be a huge draw.
Children’s Drawing Workshops Led by Artists
Interactive workshops where young fans could learn and ask questions of creators and artists that they look up to would be a sought after addition. Handing a young artist a piece of paper and pencil to sketch along, step by step, with an established artist to create possibly a popular character, and then walk out with a finished drawing is the type of comic con experience ideal for youth artists.
Geek Storytime with Author or Book Character
Each year, the popularity of geeky children’s books is increasing and what better way to spread word of their release into the marketplace than through a children’s story time at a comic convention. Stories such as Star Wars ABC-3PO, Little Golden Books Star Wars: I Am A… series , and Bedtime for Batman have all been published this year and would be great read alouds. Having the book read by either the author, illustrator, or a character from the book would take this story time to the next level and may just become a must attend convention activity for families.
Geek or Character Themed Kid Craft
This summer, Lowe’s Build and Grow Workshops have offered Avenger character project builds. These pre-packaged kits have been a hit with my children and our friend’s children. It got us thinking that something like this would be perfect for families at a convention. An interactive kids’ activity or craft that provided families an opportunity to engage their child’s creative side would be highly desirable. Depending on the complexity of the craft, a nominal fee could be charged to offset the cost of providing this to attendees.
Also, hosting a coloring contest with a color sheet possibly created by one of the feature artist could be popular and low cost to events. In addition, a kid art wall could be used as a divider between sections or against an empty wall to display the contest entries. Such a display could help make young attendees feel more connected to the event.
Within the past year, our family has seen the comedy act Tea Time with Deadpool at a Wizard World Comic Con and Marvel LIVE! on tour and enjoyed both. My daughter thought what if there was a skit like Tea Time with Deadpool, but kid-friendly, that had a little action and more of a story like Marvel LIVE!. The idea of short family-friendly performance that interacts with the crowd sounds like the makings of great comic con programming.
Hero Mission Scavenger Hunt
Currently, Wizard World Comic Cons offer a scavenger hunt for children that leads them around the convention to different booths to receive stamps in booklet to gain a secret prize once all the boxes have been filled. Though what if instead of just visiting booths, kids were given a “hero mission” to go on where they also meet characters scattered around the event that give them clues to complete their mission. Making the hunt more interactive engages young attendees more and makes it a memorable activity.
Children and teens are huge consumers. Offering a children’s area for companies to introduce and showcase new toys, games, and books for toddlers to teens that parents and young consumers can explore could help this demographic navigate conventions’ sponsors and vendors with more ease. Also, creating an area targeted towards younger fans with activities and booths provides these attendees more opportunity to interact with children like them. Interactions like this could build friendships that keep these young attendees coming back year after year to be with their con friends.