Today, people often say that geeks have inherited the Earth. Comic book-inspired movies rule the box office. New Star Wars content surfaces each week. The Big Bang Theory is one of the hottest shows on TV, and Game of Thrones saw no less than 13 Emmy nominations (2 wins!) in 2011. "We won," my adult friends laugh as we play the Battlestar Galactica board game. It might be true... but you know what?
I was miserable as a kid.
Oh, bullying. In grade school, I wasn't athletic. I had glasses, braces, and a Weird Al Yankovic baseball cap. I loved Star Wars and Japanese anime- social offenses that got me called "retarded". A boy wrote in my 7th grade yearbook that I needed to "shave my mustache." Several bullied girls left the school altogether, and I can remember crying even days before graduation.
In high school, I discovered Anime Central and other sci-fi conventions. At last, I met friends that watched Sailor Moon and played Final Fantasy video games. Geeks were celebrating each other. These were safe havens. High school wasn't easy, of course, but at this point, I knew the world was bigger and more diverse than my classroom. I wish I'd known sooner. When I found out that C2E2 has a kids' day, I did some more research.* Turns out, Chicago is a great place for little Padawans, junior superheroes, and chibi scientists.
A few local hot spots for li'l geeks:
RobotCity Workshop - Robots rock! This Lakeview stop was the very 1st brick-and-mortar bot shop in the US. It has everything from toys to serious AI, and all the books and parts in between. Want more than a store? Kids as young as 4 years old can sign up for kit-building workshops. Beginners' courses can be taken privately or in groups ($35-$50). Intermediate courses ($60) are 4 hours long, and can be split over 2 days. Check out the kits online! DIY enthusiasts can go further and learn soldering (circuit board welding- $49.95) and microcontrolling (robot programming- $99+). Robot City Workshop also offers birthday parties for Wall-E and R2-D2 fans; a robot will actually bring out the cake! You may even see the RCW guys at your school. Check 'em out. (RobotCity Workshop, 3226 N. Sheffield. Yelp)
Evil Squirrel Comics - This Rogers Park comic shop is SUPER kid-friendly. The 'lil Squirrel's Club, as they call it, meets twice a week... for FREE. Every Thursday at 10:30 AM is 'lil Squirrel's Story Time, a block of activities including stories, crafts, songs, and general fun. Sundays feature 'lil Squirrel's Movie Club from 10:30 AM - 1:30 PM. Parents can actually drop their children off for crafting and movies on a huge screen. This is a fabulous opportunity for Sunday errands or relaxation, as most similar events require parental supervision. All they ask for is a few pillows and blankets... though I'm sure a purchase now and then would be appreciated. ;) (Evil Squirrel Comics, 6928 Glenwood Ave. Yelp)
Kids Science Labs - KSL on the Near North Side knows the science kids love- music-making, food-smashing, icky scabs, slime, and more. Classes can be taken after school, during Spring Break, etc. The organization does a great job getting newcomers acquainted; the website has in-depth teacher profiles available, and you can sign up for a free class before paying. Of course, birthday parties are available. They include lab coats, demos, volcanoes, and decor themes like Star Wars and Harry Potter. Inspired? The 10-week Spring Session starts March 12th. Summer camp begins in June. Get ready to get messy... for science. (Kids Science Labs, 1500 N. Kingsbury St. Yelp)
*I admit it. I do not have children. For suggestions, I reached out to some fellow bloggers. A very special thanks to Pam Spano, Tracy A. Stanciel, Yoga Mom, Julie V, and Carrie Goldman, the mother of "Star Wars" Katie! #MaytheForcebewithKatie