Advice for families attending with younglings
Star Wars Celebration is a great time for all ages. However, those families attending with younglings may find this event overwhelming. Therefore, I asked previous attendees what advise they would give families attending with younglings. Hopefully, the advise and tips provided will help families and younglings plan before attending Star Wars Celebration Orlando in April.
Missy K’ya advises Snacks and Breaks
“The biggest thing is SNACKS!!! Parents usually know that already, wherever they go, but it is most important in a convention center where food choices are very limited (as well as very expensive and with long lines).
Also, depending on their age, your child may need to get comfortable and possibly nap. There are usually quiet areas that work well for this purpose. Kya had just turned four at Star Wars Celebration Anaheim, but she does have autism, and the quiet places were great for avoiding over stimulation.”
Norma Jean Heitman also advises Breaks and also preparing for Weather changes
“Planning breaks in the middle of the day or a 5:00 or 6:00 cut off time. Easy access back to hotel is a priority. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen or heard overtired, whiny, crying kids with their eyes glazed over! NO ONE is having any fun at that point.
My other suggestion is to be prepared for changes in the weather. A back pack stowed in a locker with umbrellas, hats, ponchos and hoodies may come in handy!”
Chris Kowalski shares his experience with his boys at Star Wars Celebration Anaheim
“We brought our boys to Anaheim, and spent a bit of time in the kids area. Looked like some fun activities, but to be honest their favorite was the area where the kids could fight with role play lightsabers.
Posing for pics with the 501st/Rebel Legion and all the models and huge set pieces was also a ton of fun. We’ve never done the diorama building workshop, but that’s on our list and seems like a great activity to do with kids.”
Clair Henry shares his experience with his daughter
“I have been lucky to go to the last 3! And going again this year! My little girl, who is now 8 loves going, I asked her what she likes the best & they were …
-The Lego stand
-The Topps trading cards
-The kids craft area
We did get up early to queue for the wrist bands for the shows, so we brought coloring books and an iPad to keep her amused while we were in the queue.
She did dress up, but it got very warm at all 3. Therefore a spare pair of cooler clothes (Star Wars of course) is recommended.
The big tip I suppose from me is take it in your stride, there’s 4 days if you’re lucky to go every day. Try to enjoy it, but when everyone gets tired that’s when it could go wrong. Therefore, take a break and watch the Star Wars world go by!”
Raynald Gobeil gives advise for all ages as a multiple event attendee
“I don’t have any kids, but I’ve been to the last 5 Celebrations. My suggestion is download the app and study the map and the events. That way you can plan ahead.”
Scott Hume advises being flexible when planning
“My son and I had a blast at the diorama workshop in 2012.
As far as tips, bring snacks and water, wear comfortable shoes, have at least one portable charger for your cell phone, and be prepared to stand in line a lot.
It helps to have a daily plan, but you should also be flexible as sometimes things come up or panels are full or lines are too long and it wrecks your schedule. The good thing about Celebration is there is always some other fun thing to do. I enjoy walking the floor and getting as many freebies as I can. Finally — have fun hanging out with your fellow fans!”
Paula Rosenberg gives advise based on observations as someone who has worked at the various Celebrations
I don’t have kids, but I’ve worked all the Celebrations and have noticed a few things:
Prepare the kids that since everyone is there for the same thing, you may not always be able to get into what you want. So prepare them by having multiple ideas for any given slot so they’re not upset if they don’t get into a specific event.
Snacks are your friend. There’s food available, but it’s often with lines.
The Family Room is for the whole family to take a break and do some fun, kid-friendly things. It’s not a babysitting service. Be prepared to stay with your child and monitor their behavior. Note: the staff in the Family Room are all volunteers. They want your family to have fun, but please help them out. As with other panels, with so many people there, the Family Room often runs out of things. So prepare mentally for that, as well.
Be willing to leave the con and go for a break. This is a lot of sensory overload that’s hard even for adults. If your kid has reached saturation point, it won’t be fun for anyone.
For all of these scary statements, most kids have a delightful time. There’s lots for them to see and do. And most everyone there wants them to embrace their love of Star Wars.”
Caz Gardiner shares advise when attending with younger kids
“Bring loads of snacks, bring a packed lunch, pack activities like coloring and games for the inevitable queue, bring comfy change of clothes if kids are cosplaying and may want to change, have a break and play outside during the day, plan a shorter day don’t expect to stay late, wear your baby or toddler in a sling and leave the buggy at home, go directly to the family area first thing to book slots for kids activities — I found they booked up fast. Don’t rush about to lots of things — I found my kids mostly liked wandering around and looking at all the cosplayers.
Don’t bother taking younger kids into panels, they will be utterly bored, tag team with your friend/partner instead. Expect them to ask constantly for you to buy stuff for them — there is so much on display and it is very exciting for them! Explain in advance your budget and/or rules for what they can get so their expectations are realistic. Finally don’t have unrealistic/not age appropriate expectations about your kids’ behavior in such an intense space, it’s a different experience going with kids so you might not get to do all the things you’d hoped to. ❤️”
Finally, my friend and fellow Fangirl, Pippa Jay, shares advice when attending with older kids
Patty asked me if I’d be willing to share my advice on taking children to Star Wars Celebration Orlando, and of course I said yes! I’ve also summarized at the end so you can always skip to those. My experience was at the three day Star Wars Celebration Europe at the ExCel centre in London.
I took my then 13yo daughter, and 11yo son (who is mildly on the autistic spectrum) separately to one day each of the event (days two and three). Going alone on the first day gave me the opportunity to scout out the travel, setting, layout, and identify ‘safe’ areas for my son. If you don’t have that bonus, be sure to check out the venue floor plan beforehand or quickly at the start of the day.
His autism mainly impacts his social skills but he also finds crowds and noise overwhelming, while new locations are stressful, so preparing him beforehand and knowing the layout myself certainly helped. He’s travelled to London before so that wasn’t a new thing, and we went up fairly early to avoid too much queuing and crowding. He had a mobile phone on him in case of separation, but I made sure to point out a couple of places we could meet up if separated and made him aware of convention staff members and information points he could safely go to for help. I’d printed out a map so I knew where all the restroom facilities were, and gave him a copy too.
We made use of a couple of the venue’s ‘quiet’ areas — spaces set aside, sometimes with soft mats or seating for people to just sit out of the way a bit away from the noise. I took plenty of drinks and snacks, hand wipes, and some headache tablets. I also took a change of clothing for him because we went in cosplay and I wasn’t sure if he’d want to wear it all day. I also warned him that people might want to take his photo, but they should ask first (event rule!) and that he was completely entitled to say no if he wasn’t happy to do it. I made sure we had frequent rests just to get him out of the crowds every so often because I know it stresses him to have too many people too close.
For my 13yo daughter, I still went through the same. safety procedures regarding getting separated, but for her it was all a lot less stressful or frustrating, and she’s far more tolerant with queues and crowds. However, she found it just as tiring and was ready to go home before I was despite being far more excited about the event (though 11yo is the die hard SW fan and she really isn’t). She was far more into the whole fandom concept and the cosplay, whereas I think 11yo is just happy to watch the films, play the video games and collect the toys rather than see the actors, props, panels, or even the merchandise.
To sum up:
Prepare them beforehand for the noise, crowds, photographers etc
Make plans for meeting points or safe zones in case of separation, and point out convention staff and information points for them to safely ask for help.
Know where the restroom facilities are, and possibly quiet zones for a little break.
Take snacks, drinks, hand wipes, headache cures, and possibly a change of clothes.
Be prepared for them to get tired quicker than you might think. It’s a full on experience and they may well get emotionally and/or mentally exhausted instead of/as well as physically worn out.”
Note: Pippa Jay wrote more about her Star Wars Celebration Europe experience at Space Freighters Lounge.
I hope that this advise helps those families that are attending Star Wars Celebration with younglings. Thanks to everyone who provided all the advise and tips, I really appreciate it!
May The Force Be With You and see you at Star Wars Celebration Orlando in April!
Patty Hammond is the Everyday Fangirl from Michigan. You can find her on Twitter @PattyBones2 or blogging at everydayfangirl.com, TheFutureofTheForce.com, TheCantinaCast.com or TheBeardedTrio.com talking about Star Wars and much more!