I am a huge fan of the Packers. Born and raised in Wisconsin (most of it in Green Bay), my entire week can be ruined by a poor showing on Sunday. My husband’s grandparents have had season tickets since the early days of the Packers, and when they passed away, my in-laws inherited the tickets. My husband and I have been to a few games over the years, but *gasp* he’s not much of a sports fan. Now that my daughter is getting older (and my in-laws gave the tickets to us for free), I figured it was time to teach her to worship at the hallowed ground of the Frozen Tundra.
It’s an incredible experience, but it can be overwhelming for someone as small as my four-year-old daughter. I had to take a lot of factors into consideration before we made our Lambeau Leap into this amazing night.
- Teach Them About the Game…Before the Game. No, my four-year-old doesn’t know the difference between a guard and a tackle, and she couldn’t tell you the pros and cons of blitzing a weak-side quarter when you’re in third-and-long situations. But she knows what a touch down is, what a field goal is, what an interception is, what the offence and the defense are, and so on. You want them engaged, and screaming over the crowd isn’t the time or place to teach them the finer points of football.
- Have a Separation Plan. Before you even leave the house, talk to your kid about what to do if you get separated. Make sure they know your full name, so if they get separated, they can tell the cop/concessionaire/event staff who they are looking for. I told my daughter if she ever lost me, go to someone selling food and they can help her. There are concession stands all over, so one will be easy to find, and they have the ability to contact event staff or the police. Also, have your child carry their own ticket once you get through the gates. If they get separated, they can show that ticket to a responsible adult and that adult can help reunite everyone.
- Plan Your Transportation Wisely. Traffic can get crazy around any professional sporting venue. And don’t even get me started on the cost of parking. RIDICULOUS! I didn’t want to get stuck in endless traffic with an excited kid. Well, she was excited on the way there; she was tired on the way back. So I looked into public transit. We took a bus to dinner before the game and a bus to the game. If we had stayed for the whole game, we would have taken a bus home, too. We left early (it was preseason, after all), so Grammy picked us up a few blocks away from the stadium. You don’t have to take public transit like we did (though I recommend it), but plan ahead for your Uber/Lyft, carpooling, or to be picked up.
- Know the Safety Regulations. Know what you can and cannot bring into the stadium. Lambeau Field (and, I believe, all NFL stadiums) only permit small, clear bags. No strollers, no large diaper bags, no coolers. The farm league baseball team 45 minutes away allows strollers and diaper bags. It varies from venue to venue and make sure you don’t have to ditch your expensive stroller and designer bag because you thought it was allowed.
- Pee early and pee often. Know where the nearest bathroom is. Even if your kid is potty trained, make sure you hit the bathroom often. Go before the game. During the game. Half time. Seventh inning stretch. Especially if it’s a ways away, you don’t want to wait until they’re bursting at the seams; climbing the stairs may just cause a little leak. And nothing ruins the game like a kid that smells like pee. Well, maybe the other team intercepting a Hail Mary before the end of the half.
- Take Lots of Pictures. This isn’t an everyday thing, right? Even if your trip is to a baseball, basketball or hockey game (which happen much more often than NFL games), this still isn’t probably something you’ll do all the time. You want to remember this event! We took posed pictures, silly pictures, pictures before, pictures during, pictures after. We took selfies. We had the people behind us take pictures of us. There will only be one “first time” and you’ll want to remember it well.
- Splurge a little! Yes, the food is ridiculously expensive. But that’s part of the experience. Roasted peanuts and baseball go hand-in-hand, especially if you buy them from an enthusiastic aisle vendor. My daughter was so excited about waving her $5 bill in the air, trying to catch the attention of the beef stick vendor. Sure, I paid too much for a 2-foot-long stick of spicy meat, but I didn’t pay too much to see her excitement and determination as she plowed through the whole beef stick on her own! So go ahead, get the foam finger, overpriced hot dog, or unhealthy cotton candy. It’s worth it in the long run.
- Learn something! This is a new, different, and fun experience. Take advantage of it. Teach them how to add up the points when the teams score. Teach them about proper behavior on public transit. Help them figure out the cost of the concessions—and the change they’ll get back—while waiting in line. And of course, teach them about the team and the sport!
- Know their limits. Each kid’s limit will be different. A middle schooler who plays that sport will pay a lot more attention than my four-year-old. Likewise, her limit for the noise and chaos of the game will be different. Also, I love to teach her about the game, but I can tell when she’s tuning it out. Don’t force it. If they’re not joining in on the wave because they need to rest their legs, that’s totally fine. It’s about having fun, not pushing them into something they aren’t ready or able to do.
- Leave Early. Unless the game is a real nail biter, you may want to leave a little early. If you’re driving, it’ll give you a chance to get ahead of the traffic. If you’re taking public transit, you can catch the ride before the game ends and the rides fill up, or at least get on the first one after the game ends. If you’re being picked up, your driver can get in and out a lot quicker. It’ll also be easier to get out of the venue hand-in-hand; fewer people in the concourse means fewer chances to be separated.
One of the joys of parenting is sharing your passion with your kids. So if you’re a big-time sports fan, don’t be afraid to take your kid with you to the big game. Teach them about how the game is played, and maybe they’ll learn a thing or two about playing the game of life. As long as they have nachos.
Chryssy is the owner of WellRoundedMom.com, a site dedicated to helping parents make the most of life. She lives in Green Bay with her husband, four-year-old daughter and one-year-old son.
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