Some of my funniest memories of having Joey as a toddler before the girls were born were of taking him tailgating to the University of Pittsburgh Panthers football game!
My husband and I met in college at Pitt, both marching in the Pitt Band for football halftime shows, so attending football games is in our blood. Joey was born in late August, which made attending the games with a nursing newborn very difficult. That season was a wash for me. However, the following year, just past Joey’s first birthday, we decided it was time! The sound of the band, the roar of the Panther, the cheer of the crowd! Yes. It was time. And with that came…tailgating with a toddler!
And so…in honor of the upcoming football weekend (as I wear my Steelers shirt to work – an acceptable form of dress in the ‘Burgh) …I present to you on this Finger Food Friday…
TAILGATING WITH TODDLERS: 101
Who does this?? You might ask. We do! And surprisingly a lot of other families do, especially to the family friendly environment of some college games. Not that we can’t find our share of crazies at Pitt games, because we can, but we can also certainly find lots of families with kids that are crazy for football and ready to pass the torch on to the next generation!
So, how does one “tailgate” with a toddler? Here is a list of silly tidbits to make your tailgate toddler friendly …
- Park AWAY from the main road…preferably on the edge of the lot, where there won’t be too much traffic, but definitely away from the entrance and away from the road.
- Bring a blanket…a BIG one…preferably one that sports your college logo or at least their colors. It will come in handy. Here’s why…
- Nurse your baby or toddler in your car. Even those of us that have gained comfort nursing in public…and yes…I eventually got to that point…still might get breezy or cold with our “parts” exposed in the great outdoors. A blanket is great to snuggle under, but also serves as a great windshield cover, while also supporting your TEAM! BAM! Nurse in the warm car.
- Bring your pack and play. It collapses nice and small, so that you can easily pop it open or closed in a snap, and know that the baby is safe to play and watch the fun going on around them!
- Park in a lot where the CHEERLEADERS will be visiting! Many cheerleaders are sent around through the lots to cheer with the fans…and these talented girls will make a beeline for your adorable toddler! Makes for GREAT pics and memories! And the people parked next to you are usually happy, too. Go, team!
- Toddler friendly dining – okay, here’s where Finger Food Friday comes in. There’s nothing wrong with a bowl full of multigrain Goldfish crackers and a helmet full of Teddy Grahams! Toss some cut up veggies in to your cooler, separated in to baggies. If your toddler likes to dip in a creamy veggie dip, or in protein packed peanut butter, fill an empty baby food jar or disposable container, and you’re all set for a healthy finger food. Some other easily packed cooler foods are: string cheese (individually wrapped), grapes and sliced apples, and individual yogurt containers. On the grill, a chicken breast cut small, or an all-beef or turkey dog sliced lengthwise and then in pieces will serve as your main course. This is totally do-able!
- How about drinks? If you were MY children, you would be addicted to strawberry milk and apple juice. On a normal basis, I would serve juice diluted with water, or strawberry milk (or chocolate) diluted with white milk. However, I do make a few exceptions. I’ve found some really great individual milk servings that are ORGANIC, disposable, and can be tossed in the cooler with everything else. Just be creative! It’s out there!
- For the game, most stadiums are SUPER PICKY about what comes in or out of the stadium, but I’m usually allowed to bring in supplies for my baby or toddler, as long as I don’t go overboard. No stuffing a diaper with cheesy poofs here! Keep your containers clear (zip top bags are perfect) and use a clear bag if you can find one. They sell clear backpacks now. And keep it simple. Only bring what you absolutely need. Their bottle or sip cup already filled, any small snacks in clear bags, a few diapers and a small pack of wipes. That should serve for the next few hours. Chances are, you’ll be running around The Great Hall (if you’re at Heinz Field) more than you will be sitting in the stands.
- But the noise is too loud! My oldest as a toddler was VERY sensitive to loud noises. The roar of the Panther over the loudspeaker would send him in to a tizzy! We quickly learned to carry a pair of child sized gun mufflers. I KNOW THIS SOUNDS ABSURD! But they look EXACTLY like headphones, and fit comfy and snug on his little head – even over a winter cap or under a hood. And the child couldn’t hear a THING! I promise you this worked. And all the little old men thought he was listening to the radio broadcast of Bill Hillgrove on his headphones. I just nodded and smiled. Hee hee!
- Don’t be afraid to try it! Pick a day that the weather is looking family friendly – not too hot, cold or wet. Give it a go! You can always leave early, or just do the tailgate, or just do the game! Either way, have FUN! Make family memories. We have! So can you!
Have you tried this? What are your favorite secrets to taking your toddler to a football game? I know you have them. Please share!