Having a baby can sometimes make you feel chained to the house where everything is easier to handle and more comfortable. After a while though, everyone wants to get back out to their normal routine and, for sports fans, there is usually a ticking clock counting down until the first game of the season that makes taking a baby to a sporting event an urgent situation.
Luckily, taking a baby to a football game can be fun for both the parents and the baby with the proper preparation and expectations. You’ll need to know ticket information and rules for the stadium, bring essential accessories, gather the necessary food and entertainment, and plan ahead for the weather.
I took my twin girls to several sporting events when they were babies and we’ve already taken our son to a couple before his first birthday. We’ve learned a lot along the way about what’s important and what’s not important and I’m happy to share with you what worked so you don’t have to figure it out for yourself!
Taking a baby to a football game requires preparation and realistic expectations
Before the baby came along, you could just throw a bag together, jump in the car, and pick up some snacks on the way to the game at a moment’s notice. Typically, the biggest part of planning was how much you wanted to spend on a ticket or who was driving.
Flash forward to parenthood and now you have a whole other person to plan for and spur of the moment is never a good thing with babies.
My best advice in general when planning for babies is to break down the event into as many pieces as possible so that you can anticipate what you need. How many times have you said to yourself “Wow, I can’t believe we forgot THAT!?” My wife and I have said it many times over the years and, unfortunately, that usually meant that we left it at the house which is now hours away from our current location. That means either doing without or forking over extra money to buy it near the venue.
By the way, our family’s sport of choice is almost always college football (War Eagle!) so that’s where we’ve ended up on many of our trips. We’ve also been to a baseball game, hockey game, and lots of local outdoor events. By and large, my advice will be the same no matter where you are going – the biggest differences are usually how far away the game is and how long it’s going to last.
Let’s go through the list to see what to do!
How old is your baby and how does he act around people and noise?
This is really the first thing you should think about before making the decision to take your baby to a sporting event. Some babies are just fussy in general while others are calm. Some babies cry around loud noises while others fall asleep. Some babies love to run around hitting people on the shins while other babies just like to bite people that get close.
The crowds of people at most sporting events are another big variable. Does your baby ignore other people? Do they shy away?
Is she cute enough to get away with biting a stranger?
You get the picture.
Take an honest look at your little one and try to imagine how they will act over the course of a one, two, or three-hour game. Age is a big factor here and it is usually easier to take an infant that spends most of his time sleeping and eating to a game than an older toddler obsessed with her ability to walk everywhere. Depending on your child, it might be better to get a good nap in before the game so they are better behaved or to try to keep them up a bit longer so that they take a good nap during the game.
Baby safety at a football game
If the event you are going to is going to be excessively loud, you’ll need to figure out a solution to keep your baby’s ears safe. Big, indoor events with booming music, buzzers, and announcers, not to mention screaming fans, can definitely reach extreme levels of sound quickly and for long periods. Outdoor events and smaller events, in general, will be less of a threat.
The most common solution is to get a pair of noise-canceling headphones made specifically for babies. The best ones will include a stretchable strap or another easy way to keep the buds on your baby’s ears and will reduce noise by at least 25 decibels. I would recommend trying them out on the baby BEFORE the game to make sure you know how to use them and that your baby is comfortable wearing them.
Do babies need tickets to football games?
Before you buy the tickets, take a good look at the rules and policies for the venue hosting your game. Most stadiums and events will allow you to bring in a child under the age of two free of charge, but not always. Don’t forget that even if you can bring your baby in for free, you won’t have an actual seat for them so you’ll have to fit everything into a smaller space once you’re seated.
Also, do not forget to check the bag policy.
With increased security these days at most stadiums, there will likely be some restrictions on what you can bring into the venue. The most common issues you will run into are the number of bags you can bring in, the size of the bags, and the color. It’s more and more likely these days to have to bring a clear bag into stadiums, especially at schools.
It’s going to be a sad day if you have to leave your bag of essentials with security just to get into the game.
Don’t worry, they will probably have a ton of over-priced, too-small clear bags available for purchase right outside the turnstiles, but I suggest picking one up ahead of time to avoid the price-gauging. We grabbed a surprisingly cheap one from Magicbags a while back and it has held up pretty well. There are also backpack versions of them as well if you prefer.
Taking a baby to a sporting event will include a lot of walking
Anytime you travel or go outside with a baby, it’s best to minimize the struggle of walking with, carrying, or otherwise moving the baby from point A to point B. This will depend heavily on age, but if she is young enough then I definitely recommend some form of babywear so that your arms don’t fall off before halftime. You can bring a stroller if you want to, but I would check ahead of time to see if there is anywhere to store it during the game. Honestly, I wouldn’t even bother with it unless you absolutely have to (multiple babies) or it’s an outdoor event with open seating that you can get away with parking a stroller easily.
If you are used to wearing your baby, then just be sure to pack what you have.
If you haven’t done it before, I highly recommend it. Even after the game is over, you will be able to get a ton of use out of a babywearing backpack, harness, or wrap anytime you need to move around and keep your hands free. They also work great for helping your baby to sleep when you are out and about, unable to put them down somewhere.
Have a plan to entertain the baby
Again, this depends on the age of your baby and what she likes to do. It’s highly likely that your baby won’t care about the game at all and need something else to occupy her time. You probably won’t be able to carry or bring in a lot of stuff, so choose wisely based on weight and size. Here are a few of our go-tos:
- Books – a couple of books are lightweight and easy to pull out in the stadium before the game starts and it’s quiet
- Small teether toys – these are great because there aren’t pieces to lose and many of them have clips so they don’t fall on the floor.
- Coloring book – bring a small coloring book and a disposable pack of crayons (they are going to get lost)
- Tablet or smartphone – this is the last resort. Do not, I repeat, do not blow this one early! Save it for when other forms of entertainment have been used up!
Bring in plenty of snacks and water (if you can)
Assuming that you can bring them in, pack a bunch of easy snacks and a cup of water for the game. If they give you trouble about the sippy cup, tell them it’s breastmilk and they will probably leave you alone!
You are going for ease and convenience here, not health. Sorry, you can have vegetables when you get home. At the game, you need small bites that can be handed to your baby one-by-one to make the snack last for as long as possible (more entertainment!) and make as little mess as possible at the same time. Here is our normal list:
- Cheerios or other cereal – These are cheap and easy to throw in a ziplock bag.
- Puffs or teething chews designed for babies – These are great because they come in different flavors and the chews can last longer than cereal.
- Cheese bites – if you have space for an ice pack, great. If not, you can still bring these and plan on making it the first snack of the day so it doesn’t go bad.
Breastfeeding a baby at a football game
If you are breastfeeding your baby then you might not have to worry so much about bringing food and snacks, but you’ll have to be sure that you feel comfortable feeding in a public setting. Some big stadiums might actually have designated rooms or spaces for breastfeeding moms to have privacy, but I wouldn’t count on it. If the seating is not too crowded and you are wearing your baby, breastfeeding can be quick and easy even while you are watching the game.
In our experience more and more stadiums and event venues are offering special ‘mommy pods’
Awkward seating or fussy babies mean that you might need to walk out to an area with fewer people or even head to the car if it’s a small, local event.
Planning for the weather
This is a big one and it will largely depend on whether or not the game is outdoors or in a climate-controlled indoor stadium. I’ve talked about dealing with the weather when taking a baby outside before, but here are the basics:
- Extreme weather is dangerous for babies – If it is going to be very hot or cold, consider skipping the event.
- Heat – Keep an eye out for signs of dehydration or exhaustion with hot, outdoor events. Be sure there is a place to duck inside to take an air-conditioned break when necessary and that you have a plan to replace fluids for your baby.
- Cold – Dress your baby like you are dressing for the event and then add one more layer. Hats are very important to preserve body heat for babies and bring along a blanket just in case.
- Sun – If the event is outdoors, have a plan for the sun that focuses on covering up with clothes or blocking with something like a cover or umbrella. Babies younger than six months shouldn’t use sunscreen. Consider looking for shaded seating if you have the option.
- Insects – Summertime in the south will include bugs. Consider using bug repellent on your baby if they are older than two months. Otherwise, help protect them with clothes that cover most of their body.
How taking your baby to different sporting events will affect your planning
I’ve already mentioned the difference in outdoor vs. indoor sporting events, but different kinds of games will have their own unique challenges to deal with.
- Hockey – It can be very cold inside hockey stadiums because of the ice.
- Gymnastics – These events can be very long compared to a single game.
- NASCAR races – Races can be long and they are often in the open sun with little opportunity for protection.
- Golf – If you are a true fan, golf events will include a LOT of walking across the course. This will be a tough one.
Recognize the fact that you might have to leave early or at least miss part of the game
At a certain point, you might just have to throw in the towel when taking a baby to a sporting event. We’ve all seen a full-blown baby meltdown and it’s not pretty. You’ll need to keep this in mind because everyone will be sore if they have to leave early, especially older kids, and it could be significant money down the drain if it’s something big like an NFL game.
While nothing is certain with parenthood, hopefully, you’ll be able to prevent any major problems by sticking to the advice on this list. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from the spouse and older kids as well. Everyone should be able to take a turn holding and entertaining the baby so that the others can enjoy the game with relative peace.
How old should my baby be before taking her to a sporting event? There is no set age, but I would avoid taking a newborn to a game in most cases. Once they are old enough to wear headphones and sleep comfortably in a sling, you’re probably good to go!
What about tailgating with a baby? If you plan on taking a baby to a tailgate, be sure you are planning for the extra time. You’ll need to plan feedings and naps more carefully and, ideally, your tailgate will have some baby-friendly places to let your little one use up some energy before the game!