[Camp Nerdly] Parents with Kids

This is just an attempt to carve out our own little space and not bore the people with big-person games!

I've never made it to Camp Nerdly, but have been hearing how awesome it is for years. So I'd like to try to go this year! The catch for me is that I'd need to bring my 4 year old along (my wife doesn't game at all, and Dreamation is my yearly foist-the-kid-on-the-wife event - plus, Ruth has been asking me if we can go camping some day, and there may be an inexpensive telescope in her future that won't get much use in the light-polluted Baltimore sky, but anyway).

Lots of people I like go to Camp Nerdly, so I'd actually be pretty cool with just hanging out with toddlers, chatting with people, and maybe gaming in the evening (or not). But, as any other parents know, that's waaay easier if you're not the only person there with a little one. I noticed in the main Nerdly thread that Jule Ann was planning to organize some kids stuff during the day, so really the discussion can start with:

1. Hey, Jule Ann, that's awesome, can I help?
2. Anyone else planning to come with kids in the same age ballpark?
3. Any other ideas for what to do with kids? I was thinking I'd maybe laminate some photos of leaves, flowers, and animals common to the area and we could have a nature walk/scavenger hunt. Or maybe run my "you guys are zombies, you guys are people, go for it" hack of Shelter in Place.


  • edited March 2012
    Kidless me has only this to add: there's too much tree cover for a telescope. Trust me, I tried.
  • edited February 2012
    I think I already mentioned to you that we'd be there with Asher, (who'll be 2.5 years old). Jule Ann and Jeremy will have Valerie, who'll be 4 in August, and Dorothy, who'll be around 1.5 years. Everyone's walking (unless there are more kids coming I don't know about), which makes some things easier.

    Last year at Nerdly we made it a point to organize a few casual kid activities and have a few things on hand for play. We did...

    *A "fairy egg" hunt (colorful Easter eggs with little toys and snacks inside) which was fun for both the hunt and the time spent going over the spoils. I'll plan to do this again this year.

    *Played with bubbles, balls, and a parachute

    *Took little nature walks and played on the nearby playground equipment.

    There may have been more, but that's what I remember. It's a pretty easy place to have a little kid. Lots of areas they can safely explore and run around in. When I was on Asher duty last year, I had plenty of opportunities to chat with other adults while keeping an eye on him (this isn't really the case at a hotel con where there's a lot more he can get into and most of the really interesting stuff is off-limits).

    If you come for the weekend and play only at night, that's two games, which isn't bad. You might even be able to play during the day, if we can come up with a kid-duty rotation that everyone's ok with. We can figure out some evening watch system so parents can be alerted if their little one wakes and needs them. (The sleeping cabins are separate from the gaming cabins.) Also, lots of little pick-up games happen, so we could probably play some short, casual games while the kids play.

  • Honestly, the more parents with kids who come to Nerdly, the better it will be for parents with kids. Last year, my husband and I alternated gaming slots - I'd be on kid-duty for one, then he'd be on kid-duty for the next one. I managed to play in half the slots, plus a pick-up game or two, which is totally worthwhile for me. With two families, we had a total of four parents to rotate through for kid-duty. If we had just one more family, we would have six parents to rotate through, which would mean fewer kid-duty shifts for each parent. I may be getting a niece to come along and help us out with the kids this year, too, so I can get a few more slots in. I'll keep you posted on that.

    Last year, we had organized kid events during the daytime slots (as Rachel mentioned above), although the kids were a year younger last year, so the games were very simple. This year, we may delve into slightly more complex games, like "red-light/green-light" or "Mother May I?" We're probably a few years away from proper RPGs with the kids we have, but if people wanted to bring older kids, we could organize a few simplified RPG games for them, too. My oldest daughter is starting to understand the concept of roleplaying, but she doesn't really understand having to follow rules yet. I bet we could experiment with a bit of freeform roleplaying with her and your daughter, though.

    It really is a great setting for a con with kids. There's plenty of space to run and play, and you can socialize while the kids run around. And Nerdly is participant-driven - everyone who comes has to run a game. If you come with a kid, you are expected to run a kid-friendly game. So, more parents = more kid-friendly games.

    (Along these same lines, the more non-gaming wives there are at Nerdly, the more non-gaming things there will be to do for them. I know a lot of knitters have come to Nerdly in the past, and there are often pick-up board games going on. There's usually at least one hike, and sometimes someone runs a craft workshop or a yoga demonstration or something. It's all up to the participants.)

    For nights, we claimed the cabin nearest the bathrooms and the main hall last year. It worked well. We forgot out baby monitor last year, so the parents took turns hanging out and reading at the kid-friendly cabin. With a baby monitor, the "night duty" parent could probably even venture over to the main hall for pick-up games after the kids were all quiet. Each cabin has three rooms - one with 2 beds, and two with 4 beds - plus a "lobby" sort of room by the door. I think we could do a bit of reconfiguring to make it work for three families.

    Once registration is open, we'll start to have a better idea of how many kids are coming, and what ages they are. From there, we can divvy up game slots, and do more concrete game/activity planning. A lot of it will probably happen on-site, too. Things tend to be pretty flexible at Nerdly.

    I really hope you end up coming! Valerie (my 3.5 year old) would love to have a playmate closer to her age!
  • My plan is to come! And I'm happy to run kid-friendly stuff. Like I said, it'd be worth it to me to hang out even if I get *no* games in (not sure how well Ruth will do sleeping in a different place, she's pretty finicky, so even nights may be a bit tough).

    I *will* be coming alone, though. As I mentioned to Rachael at Dreamation, there's sort of no good angle on my wife (Melissa) coming. She knits, but she's as uninterested in board games as RPGs. And if she comes, it's "I get to hang out with my friends and do cool stuff" vs. "Melissa maybe meets some folks she likes and has to find stuff to do," which will put inevitable pressure on the equity of child watching, etc. etc.

    Anyway, sounds like you guys are way ahead of where I am. Let me know if there's more I can do to help/plan. I'm the kind of Dad who tends to let Ruth run around and play what she wants to, so I'm bad at coming up with structured activities. She does like to cook with me, though, so maybe I can bring some kid-friendly snack-making materials.
  • I'm really looking forward to Camp Nerdly. I'm planning on bringing my 8-year-old daughter, and I think I've convinced a friend to bring her two girls, 9 and 12. So I'm happy to sign up for kid duty and help with planning the kid track, if there is such a thing. I'm going to be prepared to run Happy Birthday Robot and a story-game about princesses that my daughter likes. I'll also pack along some more-or-less (older) kid-friendly board and card games--Uno, Carcassone, Jungle Speed. But if the weather's nice some outdoor activities would be nice. I love the fairy egg hunt idea.
  • Happy Birthday, Robot! is a game that (non-parent) adults can play with kids, and everyone should have a good time. Same with Jungle Speed!

    The 9 and 12 year-olds are old enough to participate in a lot of RPGs, I'd think. I started gaming around 10 years old and appreciated it when adults at cons included me in their activities. Obviously, I wouldn't recommend every game for them.
  • So no carry, then? I mean, the kids have to grow up sometime.
  • All this talk of kid-friendly gaming and activities has me wondering if I should put Camp Nerdly on my schedule. My son can be a little... strange, as he has autism, and though he has an 11-year-old's body, he still acts and plays like he's six. There's also the inconvenient fact that my wife's birthday is the 19th, so I'm not sure if she'd go crazy for camping out on her 42nd. I guess we'll see.

    I will say this: if I did come and my son did accompany me, he's very good with smaller children (he still thinks he is one), so he's not a danger to anyone. He'll just want to drag you into a game of Light Strike, most likely.
  • Bill White, that is awesome! We are well on our way to a solid kid track. This makes me very happy. :)

    I'm wondering if it might help to break up the game slots for the kid games - a three-hour block might work for adults, but few kids have that kind of attention span. There aren't as many kid slots, anyhow, because the evening slots are too late, so this way, we could have a bit more variety.

    Maybe we could bring some dress-up clothes and put on a play. Kiddie LARP!

    Sam! - If you do come, and you do bring your son, I'm sure he will find his niche. Let us know what you decide!
  • Oh, and I just finally bought Eleminis, which is my new favorite card game to play with my 3.5 year old. It's a lot of fun, and it's complex enough to be fun for adults, too. I'll definitely be bringing it!
  • If any of the older kids need some "running around and throwing stuff" activities, I'll be bringing a frisbee, and am happy to teach ultimate.
  • I am tempted to come, play with the kids (I have plenty of experience with children), and maybe run Mouse Guard like I did for my nephews (ages 7 and 12, and they loved MG).
  • This is making me think about coming. My six year old son would dig gaming with some other kids rather than the adults he's saddled with now.
  • I like the energy having all ages at Nerdly brings! It also means many of my dearest friends can attend, which is a bonus.

    It helps that I know you are all responsible and sensitive to the needs and desires of the non-childed gamers. We had a problem with this one year but those people Didn't Come Back.
  • We are still trying to decide if we are bringing our three year old. Historically we haven't because we don't have to and I hate to miss out on the gaming. But it looks like we may actually be approaching critical mass this year where I will only miss out on a game or two...

    Ah the people who Didn't Come Back. Best not to join them huh?
  • Posted By: Jason MorningstarI like the energy having all ages at Nerdly brings! It also means many of my dearest friends can attend, which is a bonus.

    It helps that I know you are all responsible and sensitive to the needs and desires of the non-childed gamers. We had a problem with this one year but those people Didn't Come Back.
    This is a good point; while children are both a blessing and a joy, they can upon occasion also be a pain in the neck. Paradoxically, the more kids there are, the less they will impinge upon the carefree prerogatives of the childless, since kids like to play with each other. That being said, it's important to respect the boundaries of the adults-only gaming area--what's it called again? The Tower? The Castle? Something like that. Also, I think there were tentative ground rules established after the problem Jason mentioned took place, which as I recall amounted to articulating some common sense principles.
  • Yeah, there was a lot of hand-wringing but the "rules" amounted to:

    1. Keep a close eye on your children and keep them safe and occupied
    2. Keep them out of the adult-only space (see #1) which, in the past, has been "the Castle"

    A point of potential social awkwardness is any activity that is very interesting to the sub-18 crowd but to which the sub-18 crowd may not necessarily be invited, like boffer activities or live action stuff. Personally I'd prefer to keep the onus of negotiating participation on the parent, because I'd much rather say no to Bill than to his adorable daughter. And I bet most of the time it will be a non-issue, with kids accommodated and welcome.
  • These rules are great not just for people without kids but also people with kids!

    I know my friends with kids love it when they get a break to. So when they arrange for their significant other, relative, or friend to watch their children (at the con or otherwise), they love it when they can get away and lose themselves in the adult-only spaces for whatever time they have.

    Also agreed that the kid situation seems to be better in spaces with more kids, not less (from my limited experience). More kids to play with, more parents to pitch in and organize events for those kids.
  • Posted By: Bill_WhiteParadoxically, the more kids there are, the less they will impinge upon the carefree prerogatives of the childless, since kids like to play with each other.
    This is dead on. The more kids there are, the more the kids will keep each other out of our hair. I have a friend with three kids, and we take turns going to each other's houses to clean. One adult with 2 or 3 kids has a hard time getting anything done, because at least one of the kids always seems to need something from the adult. Two adults and 5 kids can get so much more done, because the kids entertain each other, and when one of them needs something, that still leaves one other adult free to keep washing dishes. Replace washing dishes with playing games, and two adults with lots of adults, you have a recipe for a fun weekend.

    Having not been there the year where kids were an issue, I can't speak to that, but I do think we're on track for avoiding future issues with the rules we have. If anyone is planning something big and outdoors that they need kids to be kept away from, it's just going to have to be a matter of communicating this ahead of time and making sure everyone is on the same page. Boffer fighting in the field near the Castle might work, but the field is also right next to the playground, so we would need to delineate some kid-free boundaries (ropes on the ground or something), and warn the parents ahead of time that maybe, they might want to play with their kids on the other side of camp during that game slot, and come back to the playground later.

    Maybe we could designate one building to be a kid-positive building, to go along with the kid-free building. Then we would have an indoor space for the kids to escape to in case of rain/cold, and a place to keep all the playdough/parachutes/crayons. It also gives the kids a sense of "this is where we belong, and this is the stuff we can touch" rather than just a sense of "that place is where we are not allowed to go."

    Keeping kids out of non-kid-appropriate games is as easy as having GMs list an age limit for their games. As long as there is at least one kid-friendly option during each time slot, parents can direct their kids towards those options.

    Also, can I just say that even the idea that non-parents would run kid-friendly games and/or help out with childcare warms my heart to no end. This, of course, doesn't change the fact that my kids and their entertainment are ultimately my responsibility, but it's really cool that other people want to reach out to the parents/kids population. That makes the reciprocity of keeping my kids out of the Castle and the boffer wars that much easier.
  • edited March 2012

    What Jason said. To be clear, the issue we had in the past wasn't with things that happened by accident ("I turned around for a moment, and..."). It was basically an adult telling everyone that their young kids were totally cool with being left on their own even when organizers of potentially dangerous events vocally Weren't Cool With It (they started chasing each others with scissors and knives); or that they could totally handle adult situations (they would wander around the adult play spaces, often chasing each other with aforementioned weapons or sticks; sessions in the middle of immersive roleplay would clam up just like a couple at a restaurant when the waitress approaches); so that the adult could go off and play the games they wanted to without having to be bothered by watching the kids.

    It was a problematic situation, no one got hurt or anything, but there was a very real unease that something might at any moment. It's been years since we implemented those rules, those people haven't been back (on their own volition, they sensed that they were not welcome), and as we expected there has been no problems ever since.

    What Bill said (EDIT, crosspost: And Jule Ann, in deep detail!!) is totally spot on as well.
  • Posted By: Jule AnnMaybe we could designate one building to be a kid-positive building
    That's a good idea, maybe the Tower? I've always thought of the main hall as being open space for everybody, but that's different from a space designated specifically for kids. Something for the Owlbear Council to mull over, anyway.
  • I made it to Nerdly last year for the first time and had a lot of fun. I was on the fence about coming this year and bringing the whole family, and this thread is starting to make me consider it much more strongly. We have two young boys who are 3 1/2 now, and one 16 year old boy who, like Sam's son, has autism. If we come, my wife and I would very much want to get in on the child sitting rotation. The twins haven't taken well to card or board games yet -- we're just starting to tackle Chutes and Ladders and Candyland -- but you never know when the spark will hit them.

    In the bathtub the other day, though, one of them announced to the other that they were now going to play "Dungeons and Dragons". "You be the dungeon, and I'll be the dragon!" Followed by slow-motion toddler fighting.
  • I would totally run a two hour game of Basic D&D or Lady Blackbird for "old enough" kids (8-9+?). Or teach chess or something. I like chess.
  • edited March 2012
    Posted By: DaveCWe have two young boys who are 3 1/2 now, and one 16 year old boy who, like Sam's son, has autism. If we come, my wife and I would very much want to get in on the child sitting rotation.
    That would be awesome! Older kids are very helpful in child-minding; they often have the energy to do the same thing over and over when adults run out of steam. And it makes them feel important. It would be great to have some older kids in the rotation.
    The twins haven't taken well to card or board games yet -- we're just starting to tackle Chutes and Ladders and Candyland -- but you never know when the spark will hit them.
    Slightly off-topic, but have you tried Uno? I bought a couple cheap decks of Uno from the dollar store for my 3.5 year old, and she loves it. I took out all the "punishment" cards (pick-ups and skips and reverses), which makes it just a game about matching colors and numbers. It's a good, simple game that way. I find Chutes and Ladders and Candyland both slightly confusing to that age group, because the paths are so winding. I think she would do better at a board game with a simple, circular/square path. We also play a really basic dice game where you roll a d6 and try to get every number.
    Posted By: Adam DrayOr teach chess or something. I like chess.
    I have just started to teach Valerie how to play chess. She doesn't have much patience for it, yet, and she doesn't understand how the knights move, but she loves moving the pieces around. Maybe she would be more interested if she saw other people playing it.
  • I'm just very happy to read all this. It warms my bitter, childless heart.
  • Andy:

    Yeah, I was actually there for the issue and remember it fairly well. I had my tongue a little in cheek there. We did bring our son when he was younger and less mobile/curious and it worked great. He even spent a whole game of Montsegeur asleep and strapped to my wife.
  • Ruth and I have been discussing "monster tag." We may need to have a preschooler playstorm session.

    Though I would love to see something chess, too. As Adam knows, I am terrible at chess, but Ruth can at least name most of the pieces (she's still not that patient at turn-taking, and, frankly, I have been falling down on my parental.geek duties to teach her, since a suggestion of a game usually results in her wanting to play Dora Candyland...)
  • I'm really happy that Nerdly is becoming kid-friendly again. The People Who Didn't Come Back made me miss a lot of friends.

    Also, bubbles are totally an all-ages event, as is parachute-guy-throwing.

  • What about an all-ages SageFight?
  • Posted By: Joshua A.C. NewmanAlso, bubbles are totally an all-ages event, as is parachute-guy-throwing.
    I'm planning on doing giant bubbles this year as one of the kid-friendly events. I was going to do it last year, but I couldn't find glycerine locally. I'll order some online well in advance this year. I'll make sure to reserve at least one slot for you!
  • Posted By: Bill_WhiteWhat about an all-ages SageFight?
    What about an all-sages AgeFight?
  • Posted By: Jason Morningstarall-sages AgeFight
    In either case, it's a faithless gaggle!
  • What about an Age-sage fight-all?

  • Awesome! You guys beat me to this..

    This year I am bringing my 14 year old daughter. I've been talking with her about watching the younger kids.
    This way the parents might get a short break. And I have one less session to worry what she's up to. :-D

    It sounds like we are talking preschoolers.. how many?

    I will share the idea's so far with my daughter, Georgianna, and post her ideas.
  • Based on how confidently people have said "I'm going", it looks like mostly preschoolers and a smattering of older kids.

    (From this thread, the almost-definitelies would include a 1.5, 2.5, 3.5, 4, and 8 year old, the maybes include a 3, 2x3.5, 6, 9, 11, 12, and 16 year old.)

    I think we'll coordinate childcare for the morning and afternoon slots only, and the evening slots/bedtime will be up to the individual parents (if the schedule this year is similar to last year's, this would be 4 slots). With these numbers of kids, two adults would probably be on kid duty at any one time, or one adult and one responsible older kid. This means that, if we can get 8 people to take childcare slots, we would each only have to be on kid duty once. Preschoolers have notoriously short attention spans, so they will probably do several shorter activities in each slot, rather than one long game. I also plan on bringing a smattering of pick-up activities, like coloring books/crayons, balls, play dough, books, etc.

    I'm excited that you're bringing your daughter this year!
  • I've just added a "Parents and Kids" page to the wiki. Please go check it out! Let me know if anything needs clarification, or changing.

    Parents and Kids Page
  • So we've decided against bringing Scott, he still requires a lot of attention at bedtime and neither of us were willing to give up the friday night slot for bedtime.
  • Daniel, I think I already said this, but it bears repeating: there's a lot of trees and very little sky, so telescope fun might be hard to come by unless you travel a mile or two away from the camp (and have a decent open-sky plot staked out before it gets dark).
  • You did, and the scope is small, so it's low-cost to bring and see what we can see.
  • Posted By: someladySo we've decided against bringing Scott, he still requires a lot of attention at bedtime and neither of us were willing to give up the friday night slot for bedtime.
    Fair enough. You'll definitely get in more gaming sans kiddo. Enjoy the break!
  • Thanks for pulling this together, Jule Ann.

    We're still on the fence about the kids. I completely understand why the pricing is the way it is, but an extra $150 to bring them along is going to be sticky. Final decision after taxes are filed. One more incentive to get that done.
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