There’s a lot to be said for just getting your kids out there and doing the things you love with them as soon as possible.
I’ll never forget the pride I felt in my three little boys as they hustled through an airport in a line behind my husband, each with his own Sesame Street roller bag and backpack.
They were five and under, so it was pretty cute, and at 9 pm at night after a long travel day, it was also impressive.
We’d worked our way up to that kind of preschool competence by getting them out a lot – to restaurants, pools, church, shopping, and games. It definitely wasn’t the easy way to go at the time; often I would have rather stayed home, but it paid off over the long haul.
One big challenge a lot of parents aren’t sure if they should tackle (and how) is a pro or college football game.
Should you take your kids, babies, or toddlers to a football game? Here’s a complete guide.
Taking young kids to a football game is extremely expensive and logistically challenging — it’s harder the younger your kids are. Older kids who don’t need as many snacks, supplies, and entertainment will fare better than babies and toddlers. There’s a lot to consider, from weather-appropriate attire and keeping kids entertained during the 3+ hour game.
So let’s get into everything parents need to know about taking little kids to NFL and college football games!
How much does it cost to take kids to a football game?
Taking young kids to a football game is NOT a cost effective activity!
Generally, kids and even toddlers over 3 will need their own full-priced ticket. Many stadiums allow children under 2-3 in for free or at a discounted “lap ticket” price — you’ll have to check with the stadium to know for sure.
As for average ticket prices, college football games usually run $48.00 to $665.00 per ticket, depending on your team.
NFL tickets run from hundreds to a few thousand, with the average at $1,346 according to sportingnews.com, depending on the game and teams involved.
Worse still, you probably won’t want to cheap out on tickets in the nosebleeds. That’s where the rowdiest fans sit. If you can afford it, your kids will have a much better time on the club level or similar.
In other words, you could end up paying as much for an afternoon of football as a week-long vacation.
And that’s before even factoring in concessions and souvenirs.
How do you keep kids entertained at a football game?
A big factor in planning your family football outing is how well your kids will behave.
There are some die-hard little fans out there who might stay engaged for hours watching their teams, but the common wisdom among website chat rooms and my friends seems to be that kids under five or six are unlikely to enjoy a game or stay well-behaved for such a long time.
Here are some ideas to keep the odds for good behavior in your favor:
If you take a baby, have noise-canceling headphones made for babies. Games get loud and rowdy and can be overwhelming for an infant or young toddler.
Choose a game that won’t be well attended, if possible, where you can have some empty seats around you. That gives kids some freedom to move around without bothering other fans.
I recall a freezing cold day at a University of Illinois game where my toddlers stayed happy and warm climbing all over a couple of rows of seats.
Bring each child’s most fascinating fidget toy or squeeze ball or rattle or whatever has worked to occupy them in the past!
Do some pre-game prep to get your child as interested in the game as possible at their age level.
There are sites that explain the rules simply, and plenty of videos showing basic drills for kids. The more your child understands and experiences what’s going on, the more interested they will be.
Tell your kids what you expect from them (if they can talk, that is.)
Tell them how far they can go and still be safely close to you, whether they can stand up the whole time or need to sit sometimes.
Tell them what kind of food and drinks you will and won’t be buying them, and whether you will take them out of the stands to walk around the stadium at any point.
Knowing there will be breaks and treats coming can help kids to stay content.
Logistics & more tips for taking kids, babies & toddlers to a football game
If you think about logistics before you go, everyone’s more likely to have a good time:
Start with getting into the stadium.
Many football stadiums don’t allow strollers, and there’s nowhere to keep one even if they did, so if kids are too young to walk from the parking lot, consider carrying them in a sling or other carrier.
You can also check out your team’s site for drop-off points, then reunite at the entrance. This might be the better option if you would have to walk through rowdy tailgate parties to get to the stadium.
Remember that stadiums are more strict than ever about what they allow you to bring in.
You’ll probably have to leave your trusty old diaper bag and cooler at home. Most stadiums only allow one small bag per person, in clear plastic and only about 12 inches.
Clutch purses and small shoulder bags are admitted, as are gallon freezer bags. The maximum is usually one of these small bags per person. This makes it tricky to bring everything babies need.
One person’s bag will have to be dedicated to diapers, wipes, pacifiers, and any other essentials for your baby.
Think about drinks. New bottles of water are often allowed to be brought in, but that’s about it. Otherwise, you’ll have to buy your way out with drinks or hunt down water fountains.
Many stadiums don’t allow you to bring in food unless it’s medically necessary. For babies, you can often get away with bringing in sandwich bag of cheerios or a pouch of baby food, but that may be about it.
Many fans in NFL chatrooms say they’ve been able to bring in baby foods and kids’ snacks, despite the stated rule that no food is allowed to be brought in.
If you’re a nursing mother and your baby isn’t with you, many stadiums allow breast pumps to be brought in and designate areas for pumping.
The Cincinnati Bengals, for instance, have places to pump at first aid stations.
What should kids wear to a football game?
Weather at football games can vary from warm and sunny to sub-zero, so you may need everything from sunblock to thermal socks.
Keeping warm enough on a cold day can be a big challenge for spectators, so be creative about how you can cover your kids completely in several layers.
Umbrellas aren’t usually allowed, so rain ponchos are a must if there’s any chance of rain. Babies need an extra layer on top of whatever adults and older kids are wearing.
Wrapping Up & Final Tips
If you’re still reading, and still up for taking kids to the game, more power to you!
As with any situation, the first consideration is whether it’s a good decision for the child.
Summing up, we’d say it’s fine to take your kids to a football game if:
- You can keep your cool when their needs distract you from the game.
- Some responsible teen or adult is willing to talk with them, play with them, take them to the restroom, for walks, and away from other fans if they’re crying or screaming. Maybe older family members can take turns taking care of younger ones so everyone gets some time watching the game undistracted.
- You can keep them warm, dry, hydrated, and well-fed.
- You have noise-canceling headphones for little ones.
- Their behavior won’t be annoying to other spectators, who’ve also paid a lot of money to be there.
- You can fit everything you need into clear plastic bags, one each.
- You’re ready to move or leave if people around you get belligerent, violent, or vulgar
If you can say yes to all that, then have a great time with your kids at the game!
Hope this helps!