Soccer is the name of the game in my house. Saturday is my favorite day of the week because my husband gets up with the kids so he can watch English Premiere League games at 7am nine months out of the year. My kids will play soccer, just like their dad. Dek knows how to take a dive, was kicking a ball before he could walk, and is now teaching Ty to do the same. One thing we have not tackled as a family is going to sporting events. This is partly because of my own laziness, but also out of assuming our kids would not be interested. Kate from Wild Tales Of proves me wrong. She brings her little guy to Sounders games (Seattle MLS soccer team) regularly, and is mastering the art of sporting events with kids. She has graciously shared her wisdom with me so I too can get on board as a sports fan.
We are a sports-loving family. I married a sports fanatic of sorts, but I’m a huge fan myself. We love rallying around our local teams here in Seattle, and will incorporate sporting events in our travels as well. As a couple, in addition to the Seattle area sports scene, we attended college football games, baseball games, the Winter Olympics, and even a NASCAR race on the road. Now that Bergen is along for the ride, we continue fueling our love of competition with a few changes here and there.
In his young life, Bergen has attended countless soccer and baseball games, a hockey match, watched horse racing at the local track, attended a roller derby bout, and even cheered on yours truly in two half marathons. It fills us with pride to see him enjoying himself so much at these events. He claps, he yells, and in the case of soccer, he even watches and follows the ball!
With all this sport excitement we’ve come up with a few strategies and tips that make our outings successful. Keep in mind though that in our experience, the vast majority of sporting events are inherently family-friendly. You’re bound to meet other parents with kids or at the very least sit near fellow spectators who will look upon your little ones with fondness.
When we decide on a game or event to go to, we always consider naptime and bedtime, and plan accordingly to ensure Bergen’s sleep tank is as full as it can possibly be. We even go as far as adjusting his schedule to coordinate with an upcoming event. For example, when going to a 1:00 pm game, in the morning we wake Bergen up early (he’s a late sleeper), so he can subsequently get an earlier nap. Then we leave right after he wakes up.
We also do not attend events that are too close to his bedtime. A 6:00 pm game is possible. A 7:00 game is too close to his bedtime.
We bring a few snacks that we know Bergen will enjoy, but we also don’t necessarily shy away from taking advantage of the specialties available at the event. It’s part of the experience! Munching on a snack or even an entire meal means that Bergen is occupied, which means that we can attend to the sporting match itself. While our local stadiums don’t allow outside beverages, they make the exception for little ones. We make sure Bergen’s water bottle is full so he can stay hydrated on his own terms.
We go into each event with the mindset that we won’t stay in our seats for long periods of time. At baseball games in particular, we rarely stay in our assigned seats between visiting the children’s area of the park, watching the pitchers warm-up, and just taking in the game from different vantage points.
Soccer is a different story. For some reason, possibly the continuous nature of the game as opposed to baseball, Bergen stays very engaged allowing us to stay in our seats for each 45-minute half. During halftime, we stretch our legs, meet up with friends, and allow Bergen time to move and use the facilities.
Plan your Entrance and Escape
It may seem simple, but I find it important to know and plan exactly how you and your little one will get from home to the sporting event and back. Questions to consider:
- Will you drive?
- Will you use public transportation?
- Where will you park?
- How will you get from the parked car (or bus, lightrail, etc.) to the sporting event?
Currently to maximize our time, when the event is in Seattle, we drive and park downtown, and I carry Bergen on my back in the ergo as we walk to the stadium. We do not recommend bringing a stroller to sport events as stairs, tight spaces, and no good places for storage all make it more trouble than it’s worth.
Along with a few food goodies & something to drink, consider the following accessories depending on the time of year, weather, and the unique characteristics of your child:
- Hats (for the sun or for the cold)
- Protective earphones (we find they are not necessary for Bergen, but other toddlers are more sensitive)
- Warm clothing (it’s always a little bit cooler inside stadiums and ballparks)
Research the Kid-Friendly Aspects of the Sports Complex
Once you have an event on the calendar, go to the stadium or arena’s website or even give them a call, and find out the unique things they have to offer kids. At Seattle Mariner games, it’s the Children’s Play area and Moose Den near center field. Kids also get a certificate and a few other goodies when visiting for the first time. Certain seating areas are also known to be more kid-friendly than others. When you do a little research, you’ll have these “secrets” in your back pocket that you can pull out just when you need them the most.
Do you attend sporting events with your children? What works for you and your family to make the event fun for all?
Kate Spiller is an elementary school teacher, turned stay-at-home mom living in Seattle, Washington. As a mother and wife to a toddler and husband who love adventure and are always on the move, she’s either on a trip or planning one up! She keeps track of all this activity on their blog: Wild Tales of…. Keep up with the daily adventures of her and her family on facebook, twitter, and Instagram.