My husband and I are big basketball fans, and this year our family became NBA season ticket holders. However, we only bought two tickets, which means that game nights are either a date night out, or a kid’s outing with the other huge basketball fan in our house, our daughter, attending with one of us. Most people are shocked to hear that she not only loves to go to basketball games with us, but that a four-year-old can can last from tip-off to the final buzzer without a meltdown or falling asleep. I’m here to tell you that it’s not by luck but rather super sports parent strategy that keeps her excited and engaged in the game!
Pack the snacks
The number one rule of going to any sporting event with a child is to pack snacks. As an adult, you’re tempted by the smell of nachos and popcorn and treats consistently throughout the game, so don’t think your child isn’t salivating along with you! Bring a large purse and pack of trusted snacks along, preferably those with protein, and throw in a super special treat as well (ours are jelly beans!). Set up a schedule for distribution to coincide with the game, like getting a snack at the end of each quarter. This will help as an incentive and keep your child energized and focused. We also like to pack “water enhancers” and will bring in an empty water bottle to have filled up at concessions. This is a much healthier & cheaper option for drinks for the whole family.
Bring on the fandom
Want your kid to yell and cheer along with everyone else? Then bring along (or purchase) some cheering gear, like a pom pom or noisemaker. This will allow them free rein in your section to be crazy in a way that you wouldn’t ever condone at the dinner table. They can yell and jump and dance and wave their arms like crazy throughout the entire game, and instead of people getting annoyed, they’ll fall in love with your child’s amazing spirit. For us, we have a cowbell, and it gets used every time the opposing team is shooting free throws or when there’s a moment to celebrate. We keep it in the cupholder so it’s ready to be used at any moment!
Boost up the little ones
When you enter the arena, find the guest services counter and check out a booster seat. This plastic booster will not only improve the vision of your little one, but it will also weigh the seat down so they won’t be constantly flopping the automatic seat back and forth. It also keeps them in their chair, as it’s not as easy to hop in and out of throughout the game!
Meet the team
Have you ever been to a sporting event where you didn’t know the names of any of the players? I’m sure you left not caring about who won or lost and thinking that it wasn’t a very fun experience. Help your child “meet the team” at the beginning of the game using a roster from guest services, or on your smart phone. Pick out four players on the team you’re supporting (one for each quarter of play) to cheer on by name. Every time that player touches the ball, yell and cheer for them by name, as this works for them on offense and defense! Your child will love cheering for a player and then hearing their name announced seconds later by the arena announcer, and they’ll be much more engaged in what is going on.
Breaks in play are just as much fun!
Most NBA arenas do a great job with fan entertainment during the stops in play, such as time outs or commercial breaks. Help get your kids cheering for these little entertainment breaks just like they’ve been yelling for the players. If it’s a race or shooting competition, explain the rules to them while the competition is going on so they can easily follow it. For us, the Pepsi/Dr. Pepper/Mountain Dew can race is just as thrilling as a close game!
Take a real break from the game at some point
Perhaps you prefer getting up for a bathroom break during the action of the game as opposed to crowded halftime, but no matter when you do it, just take a good break from your seats. Get up, stretch out, skip around the hallways, do a lap of the arena, get a special snack like popcorn, go to the bathroom, and just generally move around. Kids are not designed to be glued to their seat for over 160 minutes, so let them roam a little bit and feel free!
Finally, just have lots of fun! Great energy is contagious, so if you’re a big fan who is having a great time at the game, chances are your child will catch on and try to emulate you! Then you can both head home with broken voices and smiles from ear to ear!
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