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What is the perfect age to take your kids to their first college football game? Unfortunately, there is no one right answer to this question. It really depends on the personality of your child and your expectations. Here are some factors to think about so you can make the right choice for your family.
There are two different schools of thought on this topic: start them young or wait until they can appreciate it. Let’s start by looking at the arguments of each side so you can better evaluate the various factors involved to determine what’s right for your family.
The Younger the Better
One philosophy is that the earlier you take your kids to their first college football game, the better. This will make it easier for your children to adjust to being at games. They can grow up with this being a normal part of life.
My husband and I agree with this theory. Our son went to his first college football game when he was just 9 months old. He’s been going to games ever since. It’s never been difficult for him to sit through games because it is what he’s always done. For us, it was important to acclimate him to our biggest hobby as early as possible.
Wait Until They Are Old Enough to Pay Attention
The other alternative is to wait until your child is old enough to pay attention and sit through the entire game. Parents in this camp want to make sure their child can appreciate the experience. They don’t want to buy a ticket for a child who doesn’t understand what is going on. Parents in this camp see a kid’s first college football game as a rite of passage.
Additionally, these parents either don’t want to disrupt their child’s schedule or spend the entire game chasing their little one. The proponents of this argument feel that you should wait until children are at least 7 years old before they go to a game.
Factors to Consider
Here are the various factors that you should consider before making this decision for your family. Because every family, and every child, is different, the right answer for your family may not be the right answer for your friends.
The Child’s Personality
A big factor to consider when deciding the perfect age to take your kid to their first college football game is the personality of the child. Is your youngster laid-back or easily bothered by new experiences?
Does he get thrown off when you don’t follow his normal schedule? Is he bothered by loud noises? Can he sleep anywhere? How does he feel about being around a lot of people?
If you have a go-with-the-flow type kid, then they will probably be fine going to a game at a young age. For those who need to stick to their schedule or are upset by lots of noise or people, then you probably want to wait until they are older before exposing them to college football games.
Your Expectations as a Parent
Next, when deciding the perfect age to take your kids to their first college football game, consider your expectations as a parent. What are your plans for game day? Is this your day to relax and spend some time with old friends or do you want to teach your son about your favorite game and favorite school?
Do you take football so seriously that you can’t handle any distractions during a game? Do you like to tailgate before, during, and after the game? Are you planning on taking your kids to games every week? Do you expect your child to sit and watch the entire game?
Take your kids when they are younger if you are ok with them not paying attention the whole time and distracting you while the game is going on.
If you plan to take your kids to games every week, definitely start early. This will allow them to adjust to being at games before they even realize what is going on.
On the other hand, if you want to be able to tailgate and totally focus on the game, then wait until your child is older.
The Atmosphere of the School/Game
You probably already know that different schools have different atmospheres. And some games are more intense than others. When deciding the perfect age to take your kids to their first college football game, you need to consider the atmosphere of the school and the game.
Even though we started taking our son to games when he was a baby, there are certain places and games that I didn’t feel comfortable taking him as a young child. If I anticipate an unusually rough crowd at a particular game or school, I will not take him.
There are a lot of good things about college football that I want to show my son. However, I do want to save some aspects of the college experience until he is in college!
Take a look at the weather forecast before deciding to take your child to a particular game, especially if they are young. We have been to some games where it has been over 100 degrees. And we’ve also been to games where it has been 20 degrees. You may not want to take a small child to a game with extreme weather.
When my son was small, we took him to a game at the University of Iowa during late November. It was 18 degrees with a 15 mph wind. He was in tears before the game even started. I still regret taking him to that game!
The Time of the Game
When you are picking a game to take your kids to, think about what time the game starts. It is much easier for toddlers to attend day games. If the game kicks off close to their normal bedtime, you may get more crankiness than you bargained for.
But, if your child can sleep anywhere, you may be ok taking them to a night game. Just be sure to put them in their pajamas during the game!
The Price of Tickets
Consider how much you are going to have to pay for your child to attend a particular game. At many schools, children under the age of 3 get in free. At some places, however, everyone must have a ticket regardless of age.
Notre Dame is one of those schools that requires everyone to have a ticket. You may not want to pay $50 for a football ticket for a baby.
The Distance from Home
One final thing to consider is how far you will be traveling to get to the game. Can your little one handle driving to an out-of-town game and then back home in the same day? If you will be flying to the game, do you want to pay for a plane ticket for your child only to have them melt down during the first quarter?
If the game is just across town, it’s not as big of a deal if your child doesn’t like it or hits a wall and you have to leave early.
Think about the time and money you have to invest in the experience in order for your kids to go. Is it worth this price to take them? If yes, then go for it. If the price is too high, then maybe you should wait until later.
When it comes down to it, deciding the perfect age to take your kids to their first college football game is a very personal one. There are many things to consider, including the personality of the child and your expectations as parents. You also have to factor in logistical items too, such as the weather, game time, and price of tickets.
College football games can be a great family entertainment option. When you feel your kids are ready, I encourage you to take them to a game.
To find this year’s schedule for your favorite school (or one nearby), see NCAA’s website. For more tips on watching college football with kids, see surviving football with kids, tailgating with toddlers and how to maximize your college football experience.
For tips on traveling with kids, see tips for flying with kids, how to travel without meltdowns, and essential items for successful road trips.
P.S. Do you love tailgating but always forget something? Simplify your tailgate packing with our FREE tailgate packing list! Grab your copy in the box below. Plus, as a bonus, you’ll get our weekly email newsletters full of travel tips and inspiration.
Christy attended her first game when she was 4 months old. We had her cheering for the OSU Cowboys early. Not sure how she lost that orange power for go frogs but we still love her. I agree start them early!
I took my daughter to her first college game a few days before she turned 6 monthes old. Each year she has attended 10+ high school and college games. She loves attending games just as much as my husband and I do! Thanks for sharing your experience!