If you read my column consistently, you know we take our children everywhere and conventions are no exception. We enjoy sharing these experiences with our children and believe they are instrumental to their development in many ways, providing both fun and education and plan to continue to share these experiences with them for the duration of their childhood.
Some parents want to take their entire families to a convention, but have obligations like attending panels, networking, hosting events, interviewing attendees, or sitting through celebrity events on the exhibit floor and taking children along for these types of events can be arduous at best and down right miserable, leading to impossible at worst. Hours upon hours of standing in lines and fighting vicious crowds to get the shot you need, the interview you need, the exclusive action figure you need… it can be brutal.
ComicCon has your solution and before you immediately raise your hand against the notion of ever allowing your child to leave your side in this type of atmosphere, let me just tell you about this place.
I’ve been corresponding with Dana Kiffman, the General Manager of Kiddiecorp. Kiddiecorp is the company that has partnered with ComicCon for the past 23 years to provide excellent childcare for the families attending ComicCon San Diego. Read that again- twenty three years. That’s longer than most convention goers have been alive- A serious track record of success, consistency and commitment to excellent care.
To check out their website directly click HERE.
Dana and I have had a great back and forth via email going over several questions I had about the facility, how they ensured safety, security and how they managed their day-to-day processes. Being the “Cautious Mom” I am, I had more than a small handful of questions for her and I’m happy to report to you that after speaking with her, even I would be willing to leave my children with them! (That’s really saying something, by the way)
First off, her personal commitment to excellent service is clear. I sent her an email with a ton of detailed questions and she replied in great length to each one of them with a positive and gracious tone, even providing me a follow up to let me know she was working on them and hadn’t forgotten about me.
Here is a recap of what I found out through our correspondence;
They have two rooms at ComicCon, one for infants and toddlers and another for older children. Activities are divided per appropriate age group. They offer theme programs and provide decor and activities relating to the theme, typically related to comic characters/super heroes.
They allow siblings to be in a room together, even if they are of varying ages, but cannot, for safety reasons allow the smaller ones into the older children’s rooms.
Handling misbehaving/disruptive children:
She related that they rarely have a challenge with the children in their care, primarily because there is an abundance of activities in the room to keep children having fun and focused. She said when they do have the rare occurrence of a disruption, they “follow a process that begins with redirection. If necessary that would be followed with a time out. If an issue continued we would remove the child to the manager desk for a break. After that, a call to the parent would be placed.”
Keeping parents in the loop:
She let me know they use the basics of technology to keep in touch with parents. “We communicate with parents mainly by text during a program. This could be to notify about a discipline issue(rarely), about a nap or feeding issue, just a report that their child is doing well (if the child was upset when the parent left we often text to let them know they have settled down), or if a child becomes ill.”
Note on this one- that means you will need to keep your phones charged at all times!!! Not an easy thing to do on the exhibit floor, so I suggest investing in an external charger you can carry with you throughout the day.
No, she let me know they don’t have that kind of set up available, but you can check in in person or via telephone anytime.
Accommodating special needs children:
When I asked about accomodations for special needs children, she provided me with this response, “KiddieCorp manages several, special needs programs each year so our staff are familiar with many
conditions. We may adjust staffing to provide extra care if necessary, but welcome children with special needs into our program whenever possible. Additional paperwork may be required from the parents to help us with the care of their child.”
Sounds like they can handle just about anything, just make sure they know what you need.
How they ensure safety from escapees and strangers:
Dana wrote, “Our programs are set up in rooms provided by the conference organizer. These are typically empty hotel ballrooms set with the tables, chairs, etc., we need for the program. Unauthorized adults are not allowed access to the program and the photo id is required of all parents or visitors gaining access to the room. Registration forms contain space for parents to list all adults authorized to pick up their child and photo id is required and checked before a child is released. Our registration desk is placed at the entry doors to a program restricting access from both directions for security purposes.”
This was a big one for me, so to hear how carefully they verify adults and how they ensure no child can escape the facility made me feel MUCH more at ease.
They have a max number of children they can manage:
Dana wrote, “Each program has a maximum number of children that can participate at any one time. This is based upon the size of the room, the number of child care workers present, and the client’s desire. KiddieCorp requires a minimum amount of square footage per child to allow plenty of space for safe activities, supplies, and staff. We also staff the program at various ratios providing more staff for younger children. Our ratios are as follows: 1:2 for infants 6 months to 11 months, 1:3 for children 1 to 2 years old, 1:5 for children ages 3 through 5 years old, and 1:7 for children ages 6 through 12 years old.”
And yes, they can easily run out of room:
When I asked if a parent ever needed to worry about getting there and being turned away, she let me know that yes, that is a possibility.
“It is possible to reach capacity at a program. Many parents register in advance to guarantee the space will be available during the hours they need. On site registration is an option, but subject to space availability. Children come into and out of the program at all hours, especially at ComicCon so there is often some space in the program. If we were full when a parent arrived they could leave their information on a waitlist and be called when space opened up. They can also check back at any time. We provide small information cards at the front desk giving parents the hours of the program, phone numbers to reach our staff, and safety information about the program/facility.”
Regulations for parents to be aware of:
I then asked about regulations and what sort of rules they had about the children entering into the facility, such as sickness, vaccines, medical record information, whether or not they had to be potty trained and what parents would need to provide for this, such as medications they take, diapers, etc. She replied, “KiddieCorp does not accept sick children into the program to help protect the other children in our care. We do not require proof of vaccines to use the program and children do not need to be potty trained. We do ask parents of infants and toddlers to provide a diaper bag with diapering supplies and a change of clothing. We will label this upon arrival and use when necessary.”
Rules/accommodations for snacks and other food items:
Having several friends who have children with food allergies, I wondered how they managed this issue in this sort of environment. She let me know that “basic snacks are provided at many programs and these include items such as Goldfish crackers, Nilla Wafers, Cheerios, etc. Meals must be provided by the parent and we will assist the children as necessary with the food provided. All KiddieCorp programs are strictly nut-free and we require parents to adhere to that policy. Children’s allergies are specifically noted in red to ensure they are not given unsafe food. We do not, however, have the ability to avoid all specific allergens and request parents provide snacks for their children that require a special diet.” So parents, keep that in mind if you have a child with severe allergies and cannot be in the presence of things like peanuts, gluten, food coloring or other issues and be sure to let them know this ahead of time.
On the topic of medication like asthma meds and inhalers, medication for ADHD, pain killer, cough syrup or other things a child might need, it’s important to know that KiddieCorp employees are not able to administer medication to the children in their care. She let me know they keep an Epi Pen if it is provided by the parent and is clearly labeled in case of emergency, but otherwise, you will have to stop what you are doing and come back to give your child any medication they might need. Set your alarms and make sure you don’t forget, because they won’t be doing it for you.
Hours and pick-up times:
Last, I asked her about hours of operation. We all know the convention goes on LONG after the exhibit hall closes and there are events to attend at all hours of the day and night, so I wanted to find out if there were accommodations after hours. This is incredibly important information to remember, folks. I’m just going to quote her entire response to ensure I don’t leave anything out:
“The children’s program is open the hours listed below. Please note, even
though we open early, many times patrons can’t enter the facility that
early. We occasionally have parents register for early hours but they are
not allowed into the convention center prior to the opening time for the
Tuesday, July 7 – 6am to 7pm
Wednesday, July 8 – 7am to 10pm
Thursday, July 9 – 6am to 8:30pm
Friday, July 10 – 7:30am to 8:30pm
Saturday, July 11 – 7:30am to 8:30pm
Sunday, July 12 – 7:30am to 9pm
Parents can drop off as early as we are open. Late parents are charged $5
for every 5 minutes they are late picking up their children.”
FIVE DOLLARS FOR EVERY FIVE MINUTES, GUYS. Don’t be late!!!
Okay, so that’s it. I hope it’s helpful for you. The event stands to be one of the biggest so far, so pack light, be prepared to battle crowds all day, prepare your children to stay safe in whatever ways you prefer, have a plan and have an amazing time! See you there!