As a parent, I have felt apprehensive about letting my four and five-year-olds attend a pop culture convention. Will they feel overwhelmed by the large number of people? Will they get scared by amazingly detailed costumes? Or will they see something I’m not sure they’re ready to see with adult-themed displays?
For families with those concerns, they might be eased by the collaboration of Baltimore Comic-Con (BCC) and Kids Love Comics, an organization looking to improve literacy and heighten imagination by connecting with kids through comics. Kids Love Comics is able to achieve this by attending various conventions in the mid-Atlantic region, including Baltimore Comic-Con, and transforming vendor spaces into an interactive experiences that get kids and their parents writing and drawing. In the case of BCC and its organizers, there seems to be a grand consensus that Kids Love Comics isn’t just a great name for an organization – it’s actually a very true statement.
Kids Love Comics had three aisles of space in the middle of the entire convention show floor, and a portion of that space was dedicated to workshops for children and their parents, too. On Day 1 of BCC, Kids Love Comics had a writing workshop, followed by a class on how to create your own alien art. As a parent, I had a chance to sit down at one of them, and the experience was one of a kind. The only thing that would’ve improved that moment is if my kids had been there with me. I sat down during the “Dawn Griffin Studios Presents: How to Draw an Alien,” because I wanted to understand how my own kids would react to such a project. Each sheet had a blank canvas, six design options, and after they chose the first one, they had to then pass it around to the next person.
This exercise went on until each of the six categories was filled. This method was established to ensure that each drawing would be unique in some way. As I looked around briefly to other tables to see how intently other kids and parents were drawing, I soon became equally submersed in my own triangle-shaped alien, with tentacles, three eyes, three antennae, and one wheel – all mixed in pinks and purples. This drawing class was a fantastic example of how creativity does not have to be complex, but something simple doesn’t mean it can’t be unique and interesting.
Dawn Griffin and event announcer Chris Mariano from Kids Love Comics were encouraging kids every step of the way, while making sure they had the proper tools (plenty of crayons, pencils, and papers), answered any questions, and added some lighthearted jokes to let everyone know, me included, that each drawing is great in its own way. This thoughtful workshop gave me a sense of accomplishment, something any parent wants for their own kids – and if they can get it at a workshop like this, then that type of confidence will only grow, or at least they’ll be more likely to try it again.
If parents are interested in attending a convention of any kind, I would look to see if Kids Love Comics will be providing any type of programming, or see if something similar is available. In the case of Baltimore Comic-Con, members of Kids Love Comics were thrilled with the continued support from the convention organizers. Chris and Mark Mariano and John Gallagher all mentioned how BCC understood the importance of giving this space to family friendly activities and how popular they are, year in and year out.
You can follow Kids Love Comics on their website and Twitter for future appearances. Dawn Griffin has her own website, as well, along with Twitter and Facebook pages, so you can follow her upcoming schedule and creative works.
If you’re a parent, I’ll leave you with some great takeaways from Kids Love Comics and its leaders. They want everyone to be able to “use comics as a teaching tool,” especially since it can be a “gateway into reading.” Lastly, “simplify – don’t overthink it.” These are outstanding messages that any parent can take and share with their own children. Not everything will always be simple, but parents can help simplify things, especially when their kiddos try out something new for the first time or are uncertain of how to approach something they want to do.
If you need any incentive to research conventions near you, in the hopes of finding similar programming, Kids Love Comics had programming on each of the three days at Baltimore Comic-Con. Saturday and Sunday included a bevy of interactive workshops, such as a werewolf drawing workshop, live sketchbook drawing, making paper bag puppets, and creating a superhero mask and cape, and families could discuss “their strangest dreams” and then “artists work together to bring their dreams to life on the drawing board.”
Kids Love Comics sold this geeky parent on their mission, reinforced by excellent support and enthusiasm. If you plan on finding a way to engage with your little ones, or perhaps you are interested in bringing them to a comic convention near you, then it’s clear there are ways to connect with your kids – and it seems like Kids Love Comics has crafted a winning formula.
Until next time, happy parenting and happy geeking.