Just picture sitting outside in the bright sunshine, holding a cool, refreshing drink in your hand, and tossing some salty peanuts in your mouth. All while cheering for your favorite baseball team. Ahhh…the relaxing bliss of a sunny day game…
Your toddler wants a snack. Needs a drink. Spills his snack. Elbows your stomach! Dumps his drink! Stands on your lap! Knocks off your hat! Accidentally kicks the person in front of you, and wants to take off running like he’s stealing second base!
Believe me, I’ve been there.
What if I told you that taking a toddler to a 3+ hour long baseball game could actually be enjoyable?! It can! I promise.
My husband and I are avid Dodgers fans, so we go to lots of baseball games each year. The games may not be the epitome of relaxation they once were, but we actually have a blast taking a toddler to a baseball game now!
Being prepared and ready to adapt when necessary is the key. Do these five things before and during the baseball game, and your experience will be wonderful!
Before the baseball game
Build Up Excitement
One of the best ways to prepare your toddler is watching real MLB games on TV. For a couple of weeks leading up to a game, I watched one or two innings each day with my son on MLB.TV. I told him the names of one or two main players each day, and he slowly learned their names while cheering for them on the screen. “Gooooo Keeeeekaaay!”
This gives your toddler someone to identify and cheer for when he sees the players in person. Fair warning–make sure your toddler knows that you will not actually be hanging out with these players as friends. I had to clarify this concept with my son when he suggested, “We can bwing dem cheddar bunnies,” implying he would eat snacks WITH them in their clubhouse.
Also, as your toddler is learning some player names, teach him a cheer or two. Once he knows the rhythm and at least a few words, he will be ready to join in on the fun and cheer with the crowd at the game! “Let’s Go Dodgers!” — *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* Or teach him a few lines of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” so he can join in the fun during the seventh-inning stretch!
Strategically Select Stadium Seats
Day games are generally easier than night games (even though you can do both successfully). Who wants an overtired toddler going bonkers past his bedtime at a baseball game?! Not this mama, and definitely not the innocent fans sitting around you.
Research your stadium and determine where you can purchase seats in the shade. We attend spring training in Phoenix every year, and finding seats out of the scorching sun is a NECESSITY with a toddler.
If the sun is not a problem in your climate, check to see if your stadium has an open grassy area in the outfield. You can bring a blanket, eat picnic style, and let your toddler run around as often as he wants. Hello freedom! These grassy areas are a family favorite with young kids, so you will be in good company. Plus, you will get fewer judgy glares from fans who don’t know what it is like to have an energetic two-year-old.
If you decide to go with seats, sit on the end of a row. This gives you flexibility to get up at any given moment. Plus, you avoid carrying your toddler over seven pairs of knees, tripping on twelve bags, and two-stepping your way past landmines of open beverages.
Pro Tip: Take your babies & toddlers to baseball games while they are still free (under three years old). They will get used to it, and then it won’t be so painful to spend money on their own ticket once you have to pay for them.
Pack Snacks & Activities
Don’t go too crazy on what you pack. Keep it simple. Only bring what will fit in your toddler’s own backpack. Bonus points if you have your toddler carry it on his own! Don’t worry; child labor laws don’t kick in until kids can say “Mommy, I want my lawyer.”
However, be aware of what the park will let you bring through the gate. Some ballparks will let in beverages as long as they are sealed. Others may only allow an empty reusable water bottle to fill up once you are through the gates. There are even parks that practically require a cavity search prior to entrance. Whatever the case, a quick look at their food and beverage policy online will make sure you avoid stressful snafus at the gate.
Pro Tip: I always pack “special snacks” that my son does not eat regularly at home, which is an extra special treat. Then he is eager to stuff his face with these delicious treats while contently watching the game.
Also, it is always a good idea to have a couple of independent activities (ie. stickers, Indestructibles books, Imagine Ink activity book, etc). Try to make them as independently driven as possible, so you can avoid having to solely entertain your toddler instead of watching the game. Bonus points if your activities are baseball themed!
During the baseball game
Stand As Much As Possible
There is a lot of sitting involved in a three hour ballgame. So if you are taking a toddler to a baseball game, you have to maximize any opportunity to stand and/or walk with your toddler.
Don’t sit down until the game is actually about to start. During the pre-game festivities, walk around the stadium with your toddler and let them move those little legs.
If you are sitting in the first or last row of a section… SCORE! The first row feels roomier with no seats in front of you, and the back row often has a walkway behind it where your toddler can roam. He can have extra space to walk and move without even leaving your seats. Trust me, it’s worth it.
When all else fails, throwing peanuts down onto unsuspecting fans below will be all the entertainment your two year old needs. I do not condone this type of behavior, but my husband thinks it is HILARIOUS.
Periodically throughout the game, walk around the stadium for a bit with your toddler to break up long stretches of sitting time. If you need to get food, bring your toddler along for the walk. If you need to get a drink, bring your toddler along for the walk. If you need to buy a souvenir, bring your toddler along for the walk. You get the picture.
Also, some stadiums have built-in entertainment for kids these days. At Petco Park in San Diego, the little kids run wild on a wiffle ball field. Best part? They have babysitters… I mean “stadium employees”… on the field to keep the peace.
Cheer for Your Team!
Don’t forget–this is meant to be fun, not stressful. So teach your toddler how to be a fan. Clap! Cheer! Chant! Root for the player at bat! Jump out of your seats! Give high fives for a home run! This creates a fun experience for parents and kids.
Bring the baseball experience to your toddler’s level! He will slowly develop a growing interest in the game. As he engages more, future games will be more enjoyable for all. My son listened to the announcer state each player’s name. Then he cheered for each player by name as he stepped up to the plate. “Come on, Seager!”
Baseball games will be a wonderful experience and memory for your whole family! It always thrills me to see a huge smile on my son’s face as he cheers with the crowd! Watching the excitement in his eyes is almost better than watching the Dodgers win…almost.
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