Thinking about attending a sporting event with a child under 2? Although the idea of taking a baby or toddler to a game can seem a little daunting, there’s no reason to stop just because you have a little one in tow! We started bringing kids to college and professional sports games when our oldest was 8 months old, and we’ve learned several things along the way. Keep reading for our tips for bringing a baby to a football game, MLB baseball game and more.
Find Out if Your Baby Needs a Ticket
Before you bring your little one to a game, it’s important to find out if they need their own ticket. Babies and toddlers under 2 are often free if they sit on your lap, but this isn’t always the case. At some stadiums, particularly in the NFL, teams may require your child to have a ticket regardless of age. Although there are many things we love about Pittsburgh with toddlers, any child regardless of age needs a ticket to attend a game at the Steeler’s home of Acrisure Stadium. (Just as an example!) When we went to Phoenix with a baby and brought our 8-month-old to a game at the Cardinals stadium, however, we didn’t need a ticket at the time.
Regardless of whether or not you need a ticket, I also recommend getting a feel for the seating before deciding whether or not to purchase one. Many college stadiums, for example, have small and steep seating, which can be very uncomfortable (and sometimes unsafe) when having toddlers on your lap. We learned the hard way at a Penn State Football game with a toddler that we would need a seat for our then 1 year old the next time around.
Check the Bag Policies
Many stadiums and arenas now have strict policies on the size and type of bags you can bring. This clear, stadium approved bag is our favorite to use when attending football games in particular. Keep in mind that bag policies by stadium may differ, so be sure to check before attending the game or event. If you’re bringing a baby to a game, the last thing you want is to show up with a diaper bag and be told you can’t bring it in! Below are general guidelines on bags for professional sports organizations in the United States as of September 2023.
- Major League Baseball (MLB): An MLB-compliant bag has to be soft sided and no larger than 16 inches by 16 inches by 8 inches.
- National Football League (NFL): With the exception of diaper and medical bags, only a clear bag or a small clutch the size of your palm is allowed. See here for additional information on bag guidelines at NFL stadium. Traditional diaper bags are typically not permitted either, and diapers/ baby care items must fit within the bag size requirement. Note: Most NCAA college football programs have adopted similar bag guidelines as the NFL.
- National Hockey League (NHL): Bags policies vary by arena. At the Pittsburgh Penguins, for example, only wallets/ wristlets that are 4″x6″x1″ or smaller are permitted. (With the exception of medical and diaper bags.
- Major League Soccer (MLS): With the exception of medical bags and diaper bags for infants, bags must be 14″x 14″x 6″ or less.
- Professional Golf Association (PGA): Personal handbags must be limited to 6×6″ or a clear bag not exceeding 12x6x12″. The PGA does allow diaper bags and other “medically necessary” bags.
Bring Ear Protection for a Baby
Most stadiums get way too loud for little ones’ sensitive ears. This is especially true if the game is indoors, which was our experience at the Cardinal’s stadium in Phoenix, Arizona. The entire experience can be overstimulating as it is, and the last thing you want to do is to hurt their little ears. We recommend the noise limiting headphones for babies shown below for sporting events with babies or young toddlers.
Take Breaks During the Game
While the football game we went to when our son was a baby was relatively easy, it was a little different once he started walking. Whenever he got restless, we would find an open space for him to safely run around for about 15 minutes before heading back to our seats. As our son got closer to 2, he got a little better at sitting but still needed those breaks to run around!
Keep in mind that intermissions can be super crowded, so you’re better off taking a break mid-game if you want enough space. Taking breaks is also important for younger babies that can get over stimulated with the crowds and noise.
Check Policies on Bringing Baby Food into Stadiums
Stadiums are often limited in food options, and every stadium that we’ve been to so far has allowed outside food and drinks for babies and toddlers. When our son was just starting to eat solids, bringing our own healthy snacks and meals was important for a happy baby. He’s munching on these teething wafers in the picture below, which were a favorite to travel with when he was 8-12 months old. Now that our son is a toddler, we typically purchase meals at the stadium or arena but continue to bring snacks so they’re readily accessible. Not only does it save money, but it keeps us from having to wait in long lines for food. (Because no one wants to deal with a hangry toddler!)
Be Prepared for the Weather
If you’re used to venturing out with a baby or young toddler, you probably already have a routine for things to bring when going on outings. Below are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to having a baby outside for a game.
- Check the weather beforehand to account for unusually cool and or warm weather.
- Sitting in the sun or shade could have a huge impact on how hot or cold your child is. Dressing your child in layers is always a good idea.
- Bring a blanket for outdoor games in cooler weather.
- Bring sunscreen even if it’s a cool day- the sun can get super bright at stadiums!
- Find out if you can bring an umbrella. Most stadiums don’t allow it, so we always like a good waterproof coat with a hood.
Don’t Forget to Consider Nap Time
I often feel like at this age naps rule our schedule. Once my son got into a routine, though, we quickly realized it wasn’t fun for any of us if he missed a nap or bedtime. Fortunately, many professional and college sports have varying start times to give you options for attending games with a young child. (That is, of course, if this is something that’s important to you.) If your kiddo can easily sleep wherever, this may not be an issue!
Check Any Additional Policies for the Stadium
In addition to bag policies, each stadium typically has different policies on strollers, food and other items you may typically have when going somewhere with a baby or toddler. (Strollers in particular often aren’t allowed, so bring the baby carrier!) Each stadium is different, and you don’t want to get stuck not getting your stuff or your child into the stadium after making it there. We know that half the battle is often getting out of the house!
Another thing that’s important to keep in mind is etiquette for the sport. It’s definitely not much of an issue for most games with loud stadiums, but it’s definitely a factor when it comes to golf. (Unless you want your child to be known as the baby or toddler who ruined a shot!) We brought our son to The Open in Northern Ireland when he was two. (Which means being quiet every time the player is hitting the ball.) Since it’s not really fair to ask our 2-year-old to be quiet that long, we solved this by finding spots on the bunkers. So, we were far enough away that he could talk, but still close enough to be able to see the action. It was my first golf tournament with a toddler, and The Open did an awesome job at providing activities for kids throughout.
Don’t Rule Out Tailgating with a Baby or Toddler
Think that your tailgating days are over once you start going to games with little ones? That doesn’t have to be the case! I have to give our friends credit for our son’s first college football game as a toddler, because they were SO prepared. Not only did they have kid-friendly food options, but they had tons of toys and a pack-n-play to keep our young toddlers contained when needed. Between the music, games and people to talk to, he definitely enjoyed tailgating more than the game itself. (Not unlike his Mom!) Note: Penn State in particular has some sections that are more family-friendly and some that aren’t. If you’re smack in the middle of a bunch of college kids or adults that have been heavily drinking, it may not be the best scenario!
Please share if you have any additional tips for attending a sporting event with a baby or toddler!
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