One of the earliest memories of my life is taking a train to visit my grandparents for my 9th birthday. That was the year I went to my first ever NHL game. Since then, a night of chinese food and hockey is an annual tradition for my grandfather and I.
With my grandmother, it was baseball. She was a rabid fan and would spend hours on summer weekends sitting at local diamonds watching Jenny Finch and other world-class softball players in tournament play.
Sporting events are a great way to spend an afternoon as a family, or just get some one-on-one parenting time.
I took my 5 year-old to our big team’s last game of the season this weekend and here’s a list of 9 things I observed about our experience, and the parents and kids around me:
1. Get There Early 1 of 9The preamble before a game can often be more exciting for kids than the actual game itself. Nobody is in their assigned seats and it's a free for all. You can sit above the dugout for batting practice, get next to the glass for warmup and the kids get to really experience the enormity of what pro sports can be. Maybe they even score an autograph.
2. Be Prepared To Leave Early 2 of 9The first time my wife and I took our son to a hockey game, we made arrangements with the grandparents to meet us at a gate halfway through the night. we had a feeling our son wouldn't last, and we were right. Even if you don't leave early, at the very least, be prepared to not see all of the game. A child's bladder won't wait until between innings, or half-time. Be prepared to spend a lot of the game on the concourse.
3. They Don’t Really Care About The Game 3 of 9A chance to be in a big crowd and eating popcorn is more important than what's happening on the distant playing surface. Your child won't sit still and marvel at the strategy, or positioning, or awesome athleticism - they'll climb up and down their seats, they'll kick the seat in front of them, and they won't know the score when you head home.
4. Infants Are Easier Than Toddlers 4 of 9Infants sit on your lap, toddlers get up and down and monkey around. Stadiums can be loud, so if you are bringing an infant, call ahead to see if your stadium rents headphones for infants, or bring your own big over ear headset to protect their tiny baby ears. BONUS: babies in headphones are cute and you have a good shot to get on the jumbotron.
5. Bring A Backpack 5 of 9Security might look at you sideways when they rummage through your bag expecting beers, and instead find the go to toy, a change of clothes, some goldfish crackers, a juice box, and a granola bar.
6. Go For The Minor Leagues 6 of 9A pro sports hockey ticket in my town is about $75. A ticket for the junior hockey team is $15. It's not just the tickets that are cheaper, often the parking is cheaper, the concession is cheaper, and the players try harder. The crowds aren't as big, the venue is more intimate, you'll save some money, and your kids won't know the difference.
7. Go One On One 7 of 9You may want to experience the whole thing as a family, but unless you want to buy 3 tickets, it's easier to just have it be a one-on-one event.
8. Be Prepared To Say No Or Spend 8 of 9From popcorn, to ice cream, to souvenirs. There will be lots of "I want..." when you're at the stadium. Be prepared to throw the "healthy choices" and budget out the window, or be prepared to say "No," a lot.
9. Get An Aisle Seat 9 of 9To borrow a line from monster truck marketing, "you'll buy them a seat, but they'll only need the edge." Actually, they might not even use the seat at all. Kids' legs don't reach the floor, they can rarely see over the person in front of them, and the tilting of the seats is a very fun ride for kids. They'll be up and down and up and down all game. Get used to it, and give them the aisle seat so they have some extra room to squirm without being sandwiched between you and a stranger.
Read more from DadCAMP on Babble:
Fathers, Sons, and Baseball – the emotional tribute to a dad who died while at the park with his son.
Bilingual Kids Are Smarter – a second language is the greatest gift, start early.
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