It's football season! There's nothing like the feel of excitement at a football stadium, whether you're at your local high school game or an NFL game.
However, the atmosphere can be a little overwhelming (and at times boring) for some younger kids, so I've put together seven tips for maximizing the chances of cheers while minimizing the chances of a meltdown at a football game:
1. Make a pre-game stop at a dollar store
Grab a few little toys (Think: Army men, coloring book, foam puzzles, etc.). Open them and put them in a bag to take with you to the game. At the first sign of boredom or impatience from your tot, pull one out for your child for a distraction.
2. Invest in noise-canceling headphones
Football games are LOUD. NFL games average around 90 decibels and are often even louder. That's a level that can cause noise-induced hearing loss over time. So even if you have a child who isn't sensitive to noise, it is still a good idea to protect those little ears with noise-canceling headphones.
3. Monitor sleep schedules
If you are going to a night game, consider a nap or quiet time in the afternoon. If you are taking kiddos who still regularly nap, plan accordingly. A well-rested child will be much happier. (This goes for parents too!)
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4. Get the wiggles out
Before going to a game, get some energy out! One great way to stay on-theme and get them excited about the game is to play catch with a football in the backyard.
5. Plan trips to the concession stand
Going to the concession stand and having stadium food is part of the experience. Plan on a couple of trips to buy a treat to get kids through the next quarter. Hot dogs, lemonade, ice cream...there are so many snacks to enjoy! Half of the fun for kids is the actual walk to the concession stand to choose a snack. Have older kids? Give them money before the game for the concession stand so they know how much they have to spend and can budget accordingly. It makes them feel more responsible and will likely save you some money.
6. Know where the bathrooms are
You know those sodas that you bought in the 1st quarter? Your 3-year-old has a small bladder and needs to go NOW. Plan on going at least three times during the game. If you have more than one child? Plan on even more. One tip: Go to the bathroom before heading to concessions.
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7. Sit on the aisle
You know you're going to be up and down frequently with your tot, so make it easier on those near you by choosing seats on the aisle. You'll be glad for those aisle seats when you don't have to say "excuse me" for the nineteenth time and squeeze past 15 annoyed football fans.
One last thing: Know your child's limits! If the football game is too stimulating or upsetting, take them home and know next time to find a sitter! But for many kids, a little pre-planning is all it will take to turn that meltdown into a touchdown. Go team!
Mary Monahan is the publisher of Macaroni KID Lincoln, Neb.