Riff Ram Bah Zoo! These are the words I learned when I married a TCU Horned Frog. Coming from a school without a football team (which is like a major sin in Texas), I have quickly adopted purple.
With season tickets, we make it to as many games as possible so I’ve learned a thing or two about toting a tot around tailgates and a stadium. It’s not for the faint of heart and requires low expectations. But in the end, the good days are chalk full of the best memories.
Here are my tips on taking small children to football games:
- ADMISSION: Don’t assume your little cheerleader and pee wee football player will get in free. Check the ages. Most stadiums allow free admission for 2 and under but not all of them.
- BAGS: One by one, schools are forcing clear bags on us as if the world needs to see all that it takes to survive being a mom. But on second thought, maybe the world DOES need to see. I recommend these backpacks!
- WEATHER: In the summer, arm your Mary Poppins bag with sunscreen, hats, handheld fans and sunglasses. For winter, wear a lot of layers because the shifting sun makes things go from hot to cold really fast. A light fleece blanket is much more warming than a bulky quilt and I find that ponchos are great at blocking both wind and rain. If you are purchasing one off tickets, do your research on where the sun will be facing. There is nothing more miserable than sitting in the sun at a football game, especially with children.
- SNACKS: We can bring our own snacks and kid water bottles. Again, check with your stadium.
- TOYS: Keep in mind, there isn’t a lot of room to play so you have to be okay with dirty foot space (aka: spilled beer, peanut shells and random ketchup packets on your kids) or you have to be okay with leaving your seats to take a little walk when they get restless.
- PRE-GAME FAMILY FUN: At TCU, the kids are allowed to charge the field before the game. Also, the families walk from campus to the stadium alongside the band. It’s basically just a stream of tears for me, though. My once frat-boy husband carries our little boy on his shoulders, my baby girl is in a tiny little cheer-leading uniform…. it’s perfectly sunny and breezy. It’s fall, I’m sipping my tailgate pregame mix and everyone is happy so I just get caught up in the hormonal mess of loving my life.
- EXPECTATIONS: You’re going to be HOT and gross and exhausted. I know this is the south and we can’t be seen outside the house without pearls and a perfect pair of flats but this is a sporting event for crying out loud. Wear your tennis shoes and get comfortable. Also, have a plan for when the kids melt. Decide ahead of time who is taking them for that walk when they turn into ticking time bombs. Are you taking turns? Know when to call a spade a spade. It is very rare that we last an entire game if we all go.
- NURSING: My oldest was easy. I just threw on a nursing cover in my seat and did my thing. My second refused all covers, especially in warm weather, so I would slip out to the concourse. Having a lot of pouches helped with this. I could buy some time. Once she started with real food, I would trick her into submission by giving her oooooone blessed Cheerio aaaaat aaaaaaaa tiiiiiiime.
- PUMPING: If you aren’t taking baby and need to pump, again, read all admission material to determine their restrictions. Ours didn’t allow them (the whole clear bag … this is a weird machine thing) but with some human to human conversation, I found a gate keeper that let me in. You just have to be comfortable pumping in a very busy public bathroom or in the concourse. So have a battery pack! I chose the ramp between levels during the middle of a quarter. I found the traffic to be light and just gave a middle finger to anyone that seemed to care. Not really. But that’s how I feel about it.
- BABY WEARING: I’ll just say it. You would be insane to take a baby to a football game without your baby wearing contraption.
- SAFETY: Have a system for the older ones. It’s really super crowded and groups can easily be separated. Keep an extra close eye on little ones and make sure they know what to do if they get lost. It’s a big circle and everything looks exactly the same. It’s not a bad idea for them to carry a card with your name and phone number.
- NOISE: Noise cancellation headphones are a really good idea for babies or even for toddlers that get overwhelmed. Mine didn’t always want them or at times I felt like they were too hot so I would just cover their ears as needed with my hands. But most of the loudest noises happen in a split second and are unexpected. Even without the headphones, as babies, mine would sleep through half of the game.
- WHEELS: If you have access to a tailgate, I super recommend a stroller. It’s helpful for saving your back for as long as you can. And with all of the golf carts flying around, snag as many rides as you can!
Half the time, I only go to the tailgate and then I take the kids home. It’s really fun to be a part of the team culture but at the end of the day, I have to be realistic that at their oldest, my children have only been 2.5 and 6 months at games. It’s not fair to force an 8-10 hour day on them. I look forward to another great season and with the baby now being 18 months, more mobile and able to last longer at games, I imagine I’ll learn even more this year! Cheers to fall and football… go Frogs!