Going to a baseball game, especially your first, can be one of those treasured childhood memories, like winning a prize at school, taking a trip to Disneyland, or riding a bike the first time without training wheels. As a family activity, a ball game is a way of sharing in your child’s experiencing a beloved piece of Americana.
Here are some factors to keep in mind to get the most out of the experience of taking your child(ren) to a baseball game:
With kids you always have to think safety first. Keep your children, especially young children, close to you at all times. Walking from where you park to the stadium may require crossing streets, traversing questionable neighborhoods, certainly being surrounded by crowds of strangers. Once in the ballpark, it’s very easy for a child to get lost in a large, unfamiliar, very crowded place. Even leaning carelessly over a railing could lead to injury.
Mostly this means dressing appropriately, and bringing extra clothes for when conditions change. It’s an all too common occurrence to leave home for an evening game in the late afternoon, in nice warm summer conditions, only to find yourself five hours later in extra innings in temperatures 30 degrees cooler, with maybe some wind and drizzle thrown in, wishing you could build a bonfire out in the bleachers because you and your family are miserably cold in your shirt sleeves.
Keep your eye open for kid-friendly promotions. On some days it might be half-price day for fans below a certain age. Another day the team might be giving a free souvenir cap or ball to young fans.
4. The full experience
Going to a ball game for a kid (and most adults) isn’t just a matter of watching the game. It’s the atmosphere and all the “extras.” It’s munching on a hot dog from a vendor, buying a souvenir, etc.
Now, this is going to vary from family to family, depending on your budget and your values. You may prefer to save some money by buying souvenirs much cheaper elsewhere before or after the game instead of buying them at the stadium. You may want to bring some food with you (if allowed). You may be raising your children as vegetarians, where obviously you wouldn’t want them eating a hot dog. You may not approve of excessive junk food for your children, and so not want them to stuff themselves with nachos and peanuts and such.
But within the bounds of your budget and parenting values, let your children fully enjoy this experience.
A baseball game can be an important place to teach values like respect, courtesy and sportsmanship. Let your conduct be that of a role model for your children. (Even if you’re at a game alone, you should be aware that other children are conscious of and being influenced by what they see you and the adults around them doing.)
Do you want your child to see that proper conduct at a ball game includes public drunkenness, cursing, bickering with other fans, throwing things on the field, shouting abuse at umpires, booing someone on your team because they did their best and happened not to succeed (struck out, committed an error, etc.)? If not, don’t model that behavior.
6. Determining how much your children are into this experience, and how much you expect them to be
This again is going to be very much a judgment call, and will vary depending on your parenting style and values.
Children, especially young children, are unlikely to be mesmerized by everything that happens on the field. If your goal is that they be as happy and comfortable throughout this experience as possible, then you may want to let them bring a video game player with them to give them something to do when they’re not into the game. Or a lot of stadiums now have whole areas for kids to play. When your children get fidgety and cease to pay attention to the game, you can take them to other areas of the stadium to play and explore. Or you can leave as soon as they start whining and want to leave, whether it’s the fifth inning or the ninth inning.
Then again, if you’re old school, you might want to teach your children that it’ll be better for them overall to stick with an experience like this even if not every single moment of it is scintillating. Some parents might not want to indulge their children’s short attention spans with other activities, just as they wouldn’t want them listening to an iPod while hiking through a National Park, or yakking on their cell phone at the dinner table, because they see that as not fully experiencing a certain valuable activity, or not showing the proper respect for the rest of the family.
But it’s all a matter of parenting philosophy. Some parents will want to teach their children to take a ball game seriously and show the game the proper respect, and other parents will see this as ridiculous, since the activity is supposed to be casual fun, and once it ceases to be, then it has no value.
In any case, stay safe, have a good time, and build some memories.