7 Game Changing Tips for a Fantastic Tailgate Experience With Kids


Cooler Weather Means Football and Tailgate Parties

I love that fall is just around the corner. The changing leaves, the smell of bonfires in the air, cooler temperatures, and, of course – going to football games!

One of the best parts of football season is tailgating. It’s always been a time for us adults to gather with friends, cheer on our favorite team, and catch up on each other’s lives.

Kids tailgating in East Lansing, MI

Now that we’re parents, tailgating has transformed into family get-togethers, where our children get the chance to connect with our friends’ children.

Tailgating with kids in tow can be tricky, but not impossible. The memories we make are priceless.

Like almost all activities with kids, tailgating as a family means packing and planning differently. Never fear! Our team at Lansing Family Fun has gathered some great tips for making tailgating with kids fun for everyone.

Inside Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, MI

7 Tips for Tailgating with Kids

Tailgating isn’t just for adults. Kids love tailgating, too! Check out our tips for how to enjoy tailgating with your kids in tow, from extra clothes to separate coolers.

1.   Be Prepared for Messes & Accidents

Don’t get stuck with an accident or mess on your hands. Be sure to pack extra outfits for the kids and yourself. No one wants to watch a game in wet clothes from a spilled can of pop or a last second jump in a mud puddle.

Don’t forget wipes, hand sanitizer, bandages, and tissues. Even if you don’t have kids in diapers anymore, baby wipes are great for sticky messes.

A boy in his MSU Spartan gear

2.   Wear the Proper Gear

Show everyone who you’re rooting for by dressing in your team’s gear or colors. Get some pom poms, hats, or hair accessories if your kids won’t cooperate with clothing.

Since we live in fickle Michigan, check the weather before you head out. Many times in the fall, it can be cool in the morning and warmer in the afternoon, so dress in layers including short sleeves, sweatshirts, jackets, and raincoats. Later into football season, you might even need to break out some winter gear.

A little one tailgating & prepared for cool, fall weather

3.   The Tailgate Location is Key – 4 Secrets to the perfect spot:

– Arrive early: Tailgating at MSU starts at 7AM for kick-offs between 12PM and 4PM and at 11AM for night games.

– Plan to Walk: Walking and tailgating go hand-in-hand! You’ll most likely have to park farther away from the heart of the action if you want to avoid high parking fees. Plan accordingly with comfortable sneakers and a light load if you can. Keep in mind that you might have to walk all the way back to your vehicle to drop off any belongings if you plan to attend the game.

– Create a Safe Boundary: When you bring children along for a tailgate, we recommend finding a spot away from traffic so everyone can stay safe.

If you have little ones, investing in one of the hexagon gate systems can help create a safe place to play. Rearranging tables and setting up a pop-up tent can double as a blockade and shelter from bad weather.

– Bathrooms: Oh, the number of portable toilets I’ve seen! If you can, the very best tailgate spots are near some sort of bathroom. This typically equates to portable potties, but if you’re very lucky you’ll find a building on campus with its doors unlocked. Kids need to go A LOT, so scope out your options as soon as you arrive. Don’t forget those wipes and hand sanitizer.

Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, MI

4. Bring Food and Drinks for All Ages

While kids are usually happy with traditional tailgating food like hamburgers and hot dogs, they might not be a fan of all the fare. Make sure to pack kid-friendly options you know your kids will eat so you can focus on fun and avoid meltdowns.

If you’re tailgating with friends, coordinate the food plan in advance. Everyone’s load will be lighter if you make sure there are no duplicates. Facebook groups or event pages are great for planning who will be in charge of certain tasks.

Put kids’ drinks in a separate cooler. I’ve made the mistake of letting my kids rummage through the drink cooler only to find them with an adult beverage in their hands! To avoid drink mishaps and to keep the kids hydrated, pack them up their own fun cooler with waters, juices boxes, sports drinks, or whatever will help get you through a long day.

A food table at a tailgate on MSU’s campus in East Lansing, MI

5.   Bring Entertainment for the Kids

While the adults are chatting, don’t forget that the kids will want something fun to keep them entertained. Bring along balls for tossing around and some traditional yard games for the kids like corn hole, ladder ball, and can jam.

Other fun activities include Twister, coloring books and crayons (you might even be able to find coloring pages for your team online), bubbles, and sidewalk chalk. I even saw an idea of a little “spa day” for kids, doing nails and styling hair.

Leave activities with little pieces like LEGOSⓇ at home as they might get lost in the grass or parking lot.

6.   Don’t Forget Your Radio or TV

Not actually attending the game? Bring along a radio or portable TV to watch or listen to the game from your tailgate area while the kids keep playing (or napping).

A baby napping at a tailgate in East Lansing, MI

To avoid traffic and crowds, you might like to purposefully linger awhile to let the area clear out before making the trek back to the car.

If you decide to watch the game in person, be ready to leave the game early since the kids might get bored or the stadium might be too loud or overwhelming for them.

7.   Research Ahead of Time

Do some investigating to see if there are any fun events going on before the game starts. You might be able to meet and get a picture with the team mascot, see the cheerleaders, or listen to the marching band practice or stop to play as they walk to the stadium.

Catching the MSU Marching Band pass by while tailgating on campus

If you plan to go into the stadium, make sure you have read and understand the stadium’s bag policy. MSU has a strict bag policy.

Diapers and a few other necessary items can usually be put into a clear and stadium-approved bag, but make sure you read up on what types of bags are allowed.

If you’re like me and your child needs to travel with emergency medications such as Epi-Pens or inhalers, those can usually fit in the stadium-approved bags. If you have questions, stadiums typically allow you to enter through the medical entrance to get your items approved and tagged.

Above all else, enjoy the time with your family. You are making great memories!

Do you have other tips for tailgating with kids? Let us know in the comments below!

The halftime show at an MSU football game in East Lansing, MI

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