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There’s a chill in the air. The leaves are beginning to change. It’s football season! And the atmosphere is electric! You have always loved this time of year-tailgating with friends and cheering on your favorite team. And you’ve dreamed of the day when you would take your own kids to games, but now that it’s time, you aren’t so sure. They can’t sit still for five minutes at home! How are you ever going to enjoy a three-hour game with them in tow? While it’s not the same as going without children, it is possible to still enjoy football games as a parent. Here are my best tips for surviving football games with kids.
Tip #1: Have reasonable expectations.
The most important tip for surviving football games with kids is to go into it with reasonable expectations. Kids don’t have the same attention spans as adults, so you will not be able to completely focus on the game. You may have to leave the game early. Or you may have to watch part of it from the concourse because your child can’t sit still in the stands. Going to football games with kids is different, but if you go into it with reasonable expectations, you can enjoy the game and some quality time with your kids. And you may turn them into fans in the process!
Tip #2: Teach kids to love the game and your team.
Kids are always more excited about something they know and love than something that is foreign to them. So, before taking your kids to their first football game, spend some time teaching them about the game and your favorite team. Show them games on TV. Take them to a pep rally. Show them the mascot. Buy them a shirt with the logo or mascot on it. Explain football to them. Get them excited about the whole thing before you ever arrive at the stadium, and they will be much more engaged once the game starts.
Tip #3: Check stadium rules before arriving.
To save yourself some headaches, check the stadium rules before arriving for the game. This is especially true if you have babies or toddlers. These days, most college and professional stadiums have rules concerning what you can bring in. For instance, many stadiums, including all NFL stadiums, only allow you to bring clear bags that are a specific size. So, be sure to check so you won’t run into a problem.
Also, check the rules to see who needs tickets. At some stadiums, everyone needs a ticket regardless of age. While at others, kids under three are free. So, check before buying your tickets.
Tip #4: Have snacks.
No matter how excited your kids are at the beginning of the game, they will probably lose interest before time runs out. So, be sure to have snacks on hand when they start to get antsy. Depending on the stadium, you may be able to bring in your own kid-friendly snacks. But, if not, take a trip to the concession stand for a yummy treat for your little ones to enjoy while you watch more of the game.
Tip #5: Have entertainment.
In addition to snacks, be sure to have some entertainment on hand to give your kids something to do once they get bored with the game. Make sure your entertainment options are appropriate for sitting in a crowded stadium. Good choices are a tablet or phone, a book, or small cars. I would recommend keeping the toys and electronics hidden from your kids until you really need them. This will allow them to pay attention to some of the game festivities before they start playing with the toys.
Tip #6: Point out things your kids will enjoy.
Having reasonable expectations includes knowing that your four-year-old will not care whether your team is running a spread offense. But, he may love the mascot’s antics during the game. So, to increase your child’s (and in turn your) enjoyment of the game, point out things they will enjoy about the experience. Show your children the band, cheerleaders, the mascot, and the animations on the jumbo tron. This will allow both of you to enjoy the game day experience.
Tip #7: Be mindful of other fans.
When you take your kids to football games, especially college and professional games, you want to be mindful of other fans around you. Not only do you not want your kids to bother others, but you also don’t want to expose your kids to the bad behavior of other fans.
Most of the time, there will be very little space around you. So, you need to keep your kids contained. Don’t let your little ones run up and down the row, play in the aisles, or crawl around on other people. Remember that those around you paid good money, same as you, to be at the game. They did not pay to be a jungle gym for your children. So, be respectful and watch your kids. If your kids just can’t sit still, try moving to a section with fewer people where your family can have more room to move about without disturbing others.
On the flip side, be aware of intoxicated or obnoxious fans sitting around you. You definitely don’t want to expose your children to the bad behavior of other adults. If you find yourself in this position, move if you can. If not, ask the person to stop or talk to security about the issue.
Tip #8: Burn some energy by taking a walk around the concourse.
Many kids have trouble sitting in one spot for three hours. To make things easier for you and your kids, burn off some of their energy by taking a walk around the concourse. Taking a walk before the game starts should allow them to settle in and be still for at least a portion of the first half. Take another walk at halftime or during the third quarter to help them make it to the end of the game.
Tip #9: If your child is sensitive to noise, take headphones.
Football stadiums are usually pretty loud. If you have a child that is sensitive to noise, consider taking a pair of headphones for them to wear during the game. This should help buffer the volume and make it a more pleasant experience for your child.
Tip #10: Consider starting small.
If you are worried about how your kids will do at a football game, consider starting small. Test the waters by taking them to a high school game first. This will give you a good idea as to how they will do at a bigger game. When you feel confident, then you can move up to a college or professional game. Another option is to take your kids to a preseason game.
Bonus Tip: Start early and raise them right.
My bonus tip for surviving football games with kids is to start early and raise them right! If you are a huge football fan and intend to take your kids to lots of games over their lifetime, then start when they are little. This will allow you to adjust to having kids in tow while they are still easy to handle. It will also allow your kids adjust to games early on. We started taking our son to games when he was about 7 months old. He was never a problem when he became a toddler because being at games was a normal part of his life. For more on this, see the perfect age to attend your first college game.
For football fans, taking your kids to games is a great way to create lifelong memories and spend quality family time. But, it can be difficult to enjoy games with kids. The above tips for surviving football games with kids should make things easier for you and your kids. For more tips, see tailgating with toddlers, and how to maximize your college football experience. Happy travels!