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Tailgating is a big part of college football. The two go together like peanut butter and jelly. But, if you have little kids, tailgating can seem next to impossible. It can be so tricky that many parents give up tailgating all together while their kids are little. But, you don’t have to do that! I’m here to tell you that it is possible to tailgate with toddlers and babies. We have been taking my son to college football games since he was 9 months old. And we’ve been tailgating with him from the very beginning. Here are some of my tips and tricks for tailgating with toddlers to make it easy for you and fun for your little ones.
1. A Place to Play
The biggest thing that you need to do when you have a baby or toddler at your tailgate is to create a place specifically for them. When my son was a baby, I created his zone with a baby fence and a foam mat at every tailgate. The mat fit perfectly inside the fence. The mat allowed him to crawl and roll around as much as he wanted while keeping him off the ground, and the fence kept him in a safe spot. It also kept the adults from stepping on him or his toys.
As my son grew into a toddler, he no longer was happy with being inside the fence. He wanted to be out where he could walk around a bit more. At that point, I replaced the fence and mat with a play tent. The tent gave him a space of his own to hide in and play without him feeling like he was confined. You can get a similar tent at Amazon.
2. A Place to Sleep
Any parent will tell you the importance of nap time! Tailgating doesn’t change this. So, it’s important to have a place at the tailgate where your kiddo can get some sleep when the time comes. There are many options for sleeping places: the play tent, a stroller, a baby carrier, or even a blanket on the grass. As long as your little one is comfortable and able to sleep safely, then you’re good. Luckily, my son was able to sleep anywhere, so this part was easy for us. But, if your child won’t sleep while at the tailgate, you may need to walk around with them in the stroller or go for a drive to get them to sleep.
3. A Shady Spot
During those games early in the season when it is still hot outside, it is important that you have a shady spot for your child at the tailgate. You may accomplish this by putting their play area under the tailgate tent or by putting up a second tent just for them. Regardless of your method, just make sure you protect that sensitive skin from the sun. Putting a hat on their heads will also help with this!
It’s not a tailgate without some great food to eat. However, most tailgate food is not toddler friendly. So, don’t forget to pack some favorite snacks for your little one to munch on while hanging out. Be sure to bring more snacks than you think you will need. This way, you won’t run out, even if the game goes into overtime! Also, pack a variety of snacks, so you will be prepared even on those days that your toddler decides to be difficult.
Remember that kids don’t have the attention span of adults. They, also, have no interest in watching games on the television. So, to keep your little ones happy, pack plenty of toys. When they are babies, you will want to bring a whole bag of toys. However, as they get older, you can get away with packing fewer toys. For many toddlers, a ball or tricycle will work to keep them entertained for hours. Pom poms and foam fingers are also great toys for tailgating with toddlers.
6. A Chair of Their Own
Toddlers love to imitate the people around them. At tailgates, this means wanting to sit in the lawn chairs. Yet, a full size lawn chair can easily fold up or tip over on a toddler. So, bring a pint size lawn chair just for them. They will love having their own chair, and you will love not having to fight them for the adult sized ones. Amazon carries child size lawn chairs too.
Tailgating with toddlers and babies is different than your pre-parenting days of tailgating, but it’s not impossible. You just need to do some advance planning and pack a few extra things for your child. If you include these necessities, you will find that your kids will enjoy the day of tailgating as much as you do. Do you have any tips for tailgating with toddlers? Share it in the comments. For more tailgating tips, see my packing tips for tailgating success. For tips on college football with kids, read the perfect age to attend your first game and how to maximize your college football experience. Happy travels!