It’s that time of the year again. No, I am not referring to sweater weather or pumpkin spice season. I’m talking about football season! Did you know that professional football is the sport in which the gender ratio among fans is the closest? The NFL reports that 40% of its fans are female. That means more mothers wanting to take their kids to watch football games compared to other sporting events. To help my fellow female football freaks find ways to bring the kids to the stadium, I’m dropping a few hints for stress-free, in-person family fandom.
Know Your Stadium and Pack Accordingly
First, you have to know the literal and figurative ins and outs of the venue you’re planning to attend. Every stadium has different rules and guidelines for fans in attendance and ensuring you’re clear on the guidelines is imperative.
One basic thing to figure out before planning a family football day is whether or not your kids, need their own seat and ticket, or not. Similar to airlines, different venues require different things. Don’t spend money if you don’t have to, so check in advance.
The next important factor that stadiums regulate are whether or not you can bring a bag, and if so, what size it can be. Bringing the kids to a sports venue that has a strict no-bag policy is not for the faint-of-heart. In these cases, you really have to get creative with pockets, or see if there is a relaxation of the bag policy for families with young children or people who have medical needs. Sometimes you can check a bag at guest services, but this is often a timely and inconvenient step in the process. If you are able to bring a bag of some sort, obviously bring the items you’d normally bring in your mom-bag plus these less obvious items:
- Foldable potty seat for little ones who may be potty training or used to a kid-sized seat. My favorite travel one can be found here: Foldable Potty Seat. Also, consider ease of getting to a restroom when you purchase your tickets. Ensure you are close enough to the bathrooms for littles who might need to go unexpectedly.
- Kid-sized sound-canceling headphones for littles who may be overwhelmed by the in-game atmosphere. A popular option can be found here: Toddler Headphones
Another aspect that many venues have strict rules for is outside food or beverage. If you have picky kids, stadium food may be a blessing with hot dogs, chicken strips and pizza. But for kids with really specific diets or allergies, it can be a nightmare. Stadiums are now offering more diverse options, including options like salads, smoothies, and gluten free solutions. Do your research before you go to understand what your destination has to offer. Most stadiums often have exceptions for allergy circumstances that will allow you to check your food and beverage with guest services upon entering the venue.
Finally, don’t forget about parking. Bring a combination of credit cards and cash to pay for parking. Some of the best spots to park are privately-owned businesses offering their parking lots for a cash fee. Use the stadium website for parking tips, as well as prohibited areas. The last thing you need is to have a long walk back with tired kids only to find your car was towed.
Know the Weather
This one’s simple: check the weather forecast. In Michigan, dressing for football could mean tanks and shorts or snow pants and a parka, and everything in between. To avoid last minute scrambling, pack for the family the night before. Have any items you might need for a quick change in weather on standby in the morning. Warm weather items might include a personal fan, sun block, cooling towel, sunglasses, sun hat, and bottled water.
Cold weather items include packable ponchos, hand and feet warmers (find them in the sporting goods section at your local Meijer), and blankets and seat cushions. Cold bleachers on the tush can make for a pretty ornery kid – and mom. In general, if you’re outdoors for a game, bring layers. Autumn nights are cool and winter afternoons are frigid. Be prepared.
Know Your Kids
If you think your kids are ready to go to a game, they’re probably ready to sit relatively still for up to four hours at a time, and that’s half the battle. Here are a few other things to think about in your family football prep:
- Watch some games together at home that take place at the stadium you’re going to visit. Point out specific things they can look for when they attend. Recognizing their surroundings when they arrive will make them feel like a pro, rather than a rookie.
- Get them excited and ready to participate. Let them pick out a new team t-shirt or a pom-pom in your team’s colors (the only colors: green and white) in the days leading up to the game.
- Set expectations regarding what they will hear, see, and smell when they get to the game. Surprises are often one source of tantrums with children.
- Buy aisle seats, when possible. Your kids may do better with the relative freedom of standing in the aisle and the convenience of easy concession and bathroom access.
- For kids who may not be as invested in the game itself, bring a second source of entertainment, like a game, book, or iPad.
- Bribery is best – ok maybe not really. Every stadium has a spirit shop. The lure of a logoed stuffy or a shiny new ball-cap can do wonders for prolonging good behavior into the fourth quarter.
Lastly, see what kid-centric activities or ideas each team has available for kids. Some venues provide things like first game certificates or safety bracelets that offer identification and parents’ contact information.
If you’re ready to take the whole gang to the game, good for you! It will be a blast, even if it does have mix of tears and tantrums (from small children or seasoned Detroit Lions fans). Think ahead, prepare where you can and then just enjoy the ride!