Surviving a Live Sporting Event with Your Children - It Can be Done!

Tonya is on the blog today and is chock full of advice on surviving a daunting (but fun) family outing!

Try to remember the first live sporting event you attended as a child. Whether it was baseball, hockey, soccer, or football, it was probably very exciting! Live sports are full of camaraderie, cheering, food, and fun, and for a child it can be a combination of overwhelming and awesome all at the same time!

Despite being a parent who frequently takes her children on day trips and excursions, the thought of taking my 3 and 5 year old to a sports game was definitely daunting. Taking your children to a live sporting event is pretty much guaranteed to come with its challenges, but I thought I'd share what I have learned to make it through the game and still leave with a smile on everyone's face.

My family and I enjoying the Labour Day Classic yesterday! This event has become a tradition for many Hamiltonians and happens to be a personal favourite of mine. The bond between yourself and complete strangers begins before you even reach your seat in the stadium. From the fans you meet on the shuttle bus, to the fellow pedestrians making their way on foot through the surrounding neighbourhood, you find yourself compelled to smile, wave, high five and hoot with your new found Tiger Cat brothers and sisters!

Tip #1- Make the first event a “special one”

The Labour Day Classic between the TiCats and The Argos is the perfect example of a special first game to enjoy with the family. After experiencing some of the most entertaining, heart breaking and joy filled games in this stadium, I knew it was a tradition I wanted to share with my boys. When we arrived at the gates there were games, mascots and bouncy castles that got the kids right into the event atmosphere. My kids received 2 game day towels that looked like jerseys just for going into the bouncy castle! Plus the game was sold out, as is the case with many special event games, and the crowd was buzzing with enthusiasm, providing an entertaining display of costumes, props and body painting.

Tip#2- Arrive early and pump them full of snacks

As parents we always run on “kid time” which means it takes longer than usual to accomplish even the smallest tasks. Being late for timed events can cause your stress level to sky rocket, which in turn lowers your patience. Leaving well ahead of schedule means you can partake in the game day fun outside the stadium and also ensure that the kids are fed and hydrated. To save some money and avoid concession lines I started giving my kids snacks on the shuttle ride to the stadium and continued right up until we entered. This allowed us to only have to purchase food once, and we didn’t have to buy nearly as much since they weren’t “starving."

Tip#3- Expect some boredom and whining

Depsite our best efforts as parents, our children don’t always behave the way we wish they would when we leave the house! Not only is it tough to sit through a long game, the weather plays a huge factor in kids moods at outdoor sporting events, especially when it's sweltering hot (or later in the season when it can get downright cold!). Try to avoid the meltdown by taking breaks when needed; a change of scenery will distract them and alter their focus to something else, and sometimes a few minutes to cool down or warm up is all they need Props like, signs, flags, towels or lanyards can provide an entertaining distraction as well. And if all else fails a few small toys, or games on a phone or tablet will provide some downtime for kids to recharge.

Tip #4- Don't expect to watch the entire game or have a seat to yourself

Like any other activity where your children are involved, your focus tends to shift back and forth. You will be able to watch and enjoy the game, but not in the same capacity as you would without kids. It is to be expected that they will ask questions, need your help with things like bathroom breaks, and perhaps throw in a bit of whining (but hey, it's all part of the parenting experience, right?). Also remember that your lap is more comfortable than any chair out there and regardless of the weather you're likely to be doing a whole lot of seat sharing and snuggling! If you prepare yourself to just be in the moment, have fun, and not worry about seeing every play, frustrations will be left to a minimum.

Tip#5- Family memories are all that matters

After a long day when you're in the midst of tears and exhaustion you may stop and wonder - am I crazy for thinking that they were ready for something like this? Did they understand the game? Do they not "love" the sport as much as I do (given that they fell asleep and missed the big play of the game?). Honestly, none of that really matters at the end of the day. What matters is that you all took on the adventure together. Yesterday we all walked out of the stadium with smiles on our faces after cheering for our home team. And the best part was running into Pigskin Pete outside the stadium who posed for a photo and did the "oskee wee wee" cheer with my kids. What an incredible way to end the summer on a high note. They may not remember all the details tomorrow or even next week but I know in the long run my kids will cherish these family traditions for years to come.

Whether or not sports are your thing I encourage all of you to venture outside your comfort zone and embark on your own family sporting event. Even if it all goes wrong, you are still creating memories that you will reflect on for years to come and going forward it can only get easier. I promise the atmosphere of a live sporting event is one that can't be replicated from the couch!

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