Bringing Kids to Pax Prime

PAX Prime is just a few days away!  If you were lucky enough to get tickets, congratulations!  If you are thinking of bringing your kids, I’ve compiled some tips.  We’ve gone to almost every year, we’ve been parents for all of them, and we’ve often (but not always) brought our kids.

First of all, let me be clear:  PAX Isn’t for kids.   That’s not to say that you can’t or shouldn’t bring your kids, but it’s best to start out knowing that this isn’t necessarily a kid friendly environment.  There is a lot of swearing, a lot of adult video content and a fair amount of people who will not be happy to see your precious little snowflake.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, my kids love PAX.  It’s every gamer kids dream come true, with demos, swag and gaming everywhere.  There is a ton of stuff to see and do, and if you go prepared, your whole family will have a great time.

Here’s what we’ve learned:

Leave the kids over 2 and under 6 at home, and know your kids.  I know this isn’t ideal, but I really think it’s the best advice I can give.  Nate is 15 and has been fine since about age 6, but at age 8, Kit it still staying home. She’s got some sensory issues, and is a runner (as in will let go of your hand and run toward whatever catches her eye, it’s not safe or fun to bring her. We brought Kit when she was a baby and again when she was a year and a half and it was fine. I carried her in an Ergo carrier and she slept when she needed to.  I brought her when she was two and a half and it was not fine.  She was simultaneously bored and over stimulated.  They don’t allow strollers on the main floor and she was too big to stick in a baby carrier for longer than 30 minutes at a time. Toddlers at a busy con just aren’t good times.

Stay Healthy. Several years ago our entire family got very, very ill right after PAX.  It was 2009, the year of the Great PAX Plague, and we had all contracted the Swine Flu.  Cons are germy places. Bring Hand sanitizer and use it often.  I’m not the biggest fan of hand sanitizer (and would recommend you use an alcohol based one as opposed toTriclosan), but cons are one place where they are appropriate.  I have recommended Bath and Body Works hand sanitizers before, and my friend The Geeky Hostess just reminded me that they make little rubber sanitizer holsters that you can loop onto your belt loop, purse, swag bag or baby carrier.  Let your kid pick their own scent, give them a little bottle of their own and make sure they use it often.  Remind them that it hasn’t worked until it has dried.   Bring disinfectant wipes.  Wipe the controllers, the keyboards, the mice, the tables, etc.  Most importantly: wash your hands as often as possible.  You need to wash them with warm water and keep the soap on your hands for as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday”.  Use a paper towel to turn off the faucet and open the door, there was a recent study that found that one third of men – and only slightly  less women – don’t wash their hands after using the bathroom.  Then they use their dirty hands to open the door, ewww!

Stay fed and hydrated.  Food is available in the convention center, and at restaurants around it, but the choices aren’t great and the waits are long. Hangry kids are no fun, especially when being chaperoned by equally hungry adults, so come prepared.  We bring Fruit roll-ups, trail mix, pre-packaged apple slices and cheese sticks in a little insulated bag. Be conscientious, eat in designated areas and bring foods that aren’t messy. Give each person in your party their own water bottle.  You’ll be on your feet all day and it’s easy to get dehydrated.  Refill your bottles often and drink up!

Bring a baby carrier.  If you have a kid little enough to tote around in a sling, Moby, Ergo or backpack carrier bring it.  Strollers are not allowed on the  floor of the main exhibition hall and toting a little one around in a carrier frees up your hands.

Bring a Camera.  There are tons of photo ops to be had, and tons of costumes from both the game companies and cosplayers, and there are tons of cool promotional displays to pose in front of.

Find the kids’ games.  The kid specific games may not be as plentiful as the adult-oriented stuff, but they are out there.  A few years ago the kids played a baby care simulator  and learned a Marvel-themed card game, Kitty rolled a giant D20 and won a prize, and both kids loved previewing a TMNT Wii game.  A lot of these games haven’t been released yet and the game creators are usually happy to get input from real children.

Take a lot of breaks.  The kids will tire faster than you do.  Sometimes being a good parent means that we have to pull ourselves away from all the fun and just go sit.  If you are staying at a hotel nearby, go back to your room for a nap.  Leave the convention center and go sit in the surrounding park.  If you have multi-day passes, go home early.  You don’t have to stay every hour all three days with a cranky kid.  Most years the kids only go for one day because it’s just too much, and one day is PLENTY for them.

Skip the panels.  While they’re interesting to you, your kid will probably be bored and cranky.  I’m a big proponent of NOT putting kids in situations that are bound to lead to what will appear to the average non-breeder as “misbehavior”.  Making your kid wait in a long line just so they can sit still and be quiet is a formula for disaster.

Tag-team.  If you are planning on bringing your kids the best thing I can tell you to bring is another able-bodied adult.  If you can switch off on child care duties you will have a better chance of getting to see a panel you really want to check out something more mature in nature.  This is how we are doing it this year.  I will accompany Nate in the mornings, while SD keeps an eye on Kit.  In the evening SD will accompany Nate and I’ll hang at home.

Make it easy to be found. Stick a business card in your kid’s pocket, or consider getting some Safety Tats.  Either option makes it easy for your kid to contact you if you get separated.  Staff members will be wearing distinctive T-shirts, make sure your kids know what they look like in case they need to find help. A reader suggested via the Parenting Geekly Facebookpage that parents wear a distinctive color to make it easier to find you in a sea of black T-shirts.

Be prepared to spend.  There is plenty to buy including games, prereleases, shirts and toys and most kids will ask for at least something.  I suggest setting a spending limit before you leave home. We also have a policy of making the kids walk around all the merch tables before making their purchasing decisions.  There is so much cool stuff to buy if they buy the first thing that catches their eye, they are bound to find (and ask for) something else even cooler at the next booth.

Bring a Backpack (or a tote if you have a backpack carrier) and have the kids carry one too.  There is a lot of swag to be had, and if you don’t give the kids a way to carry their own, you’ll be carrying two times the amount of junk around.

Most importantly, have fun!  This is a great opportunity for your kids to see what the gaming community is all about. Even during our more “challenging” years we have had a ton of fun, and the kids look forward to it.   Now to break the news that she’s not going to Kitty…

If you have any tips to add please share in the comments!

Why I Don’t Look Forward to Back to School

You probably opened this post thinking I was going to be like “Oh, I will just miss all the time I get to spend with my kids!”. That’s actually true, I do miss them when they’re gone, but that’s not why I don’t look forward to back to school.  Here are a few of the reasons that back to school has me filled with dread.

My kids are night owls.  They have been since they were wee little babies.  They both stopped napping around age one,  and seem to be naturally programmed to stay up until 11 PM and then sleep late.  Super-Dad doesn’t usually get home from work until after 7, which means we don’t eat dinner until almost 8 most nights, which many of you will recognize as a second grader’s typical bed time.  Even when I enforce an earlier bedtime, my kids are not getting enough sleep. Cranky, sleep deprived kids make for miserable mornings. I homeschooled Nate for a year and a half many years back and while I won’t say that it was a successful experiment, I will say that starting school at noon, working until 4 and then picking up again after our late dinner was really nice.

Homework is such a struggle.  My kids hate it, which I get because I hated it when I was in school, too.  Of course, now I understand its importance, but my goodness I hate the nightly struggle.  I also hate the mess it brings.  The “homework  shelf” in my dining room, where all the school supplies live looks okay now, but two days after school starts it’s going to be a disaster, and it won’t recover until the end of June.

Summer is a nice time to have a break from the soul-crushing bureaucracy of Seattle Public Schools. Every single parent has to deal with the onslaught of nine thousand hand-filled in forms (seriously, why can’t I do this digitally?).  Kit’s school has one that requires you to fill out the same form twice with contact info for like, nine emergency backup people.  I KNOW the district has the info, why can’t they print it out and give it to the school? Last year the “welcome packet” had over 25 pieces of paper, 11 of which were forms. Ridiculous.

If your Precious Little Snowflakes have Special Ed or Disability needs like mine do, you know that navigating that system is a special hell all its own.  We were holding steady with only a few accommodations in their 504 plan at a school where the teachers and staff were amazing advocates for all kids. Kit will still be there this year, but Nate has graduated to High School, and I’m stuck dealing with the District again. The 504 Coordinator at the District level seems nice enough, but she has her own set of red tape to deal with. I’m confident he’ll get the services he needs, but I know I will be stressed out until it’s all finalized.

Lunches. If I can get my shit together enough to make lunches, there is no guarantee that the kids will eat them.  So what do they do instead? They purchase a lunch using Seattle Public School’s PIN system, which will let them overdraft their lunch account by THIRTY DOLLARS before I get a robocall.  Then (because ADD) it’s usually another few days before I get a check into the school, and by that point I’m getting calls that they will only be able to serve them cold cheese sandwiches, and a Free and Reduced Lunch application makes its way home in Kit’s backpack.  To make matters worse, she takes meds that suppress her appetite, so I’m frequently on the deadbeat list for the 3 chocolate milks and an apple that she actually ate.  Remember, 90 percent of the time I packed her a lunch.


I will appreciate that my house will stay relatively clean between the hours of 9 and 4, though.

Giveaway: Lifeproof FrePower iPhone 6 Battery Case


Thanks to my friends at AT&T Seattle, I’m giving away a sweet Lifeproof FrePower battery case.  I had a battery case  for my previous phone and I LOVED it.  This one is even better, because it’s not just the battery extender (2 times more battery!) but it’s also got the protection you expect from Lifeproof.  This thing makes your phone dirtproof, snow proof, drop proof and WATERPROOF!  I’m giving one away, just use the form below.  You can get one for $129.99 at your local AT&T store!
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