The first time we took our daughter Sophie to a Toronto Blue Jays game, she was six months old. It was a cold May day, and I started stressing about the outing from the minute we woke up that morning. I didn’t want to park downtown, I didn’t want to drag a stroller, I wasn’t sure the ticket price would be worth it if we only made it through a couple of innings, blah, blah, blah. (NMW—New Mom Worry—is often silly in hindsight, but at the time, it was tense.) In the end, we bundled her into our Moby wrap, layered on an extra receiving blanket and took the subway to the Rogers Centre.
It turned out to be the best day. Soph was wide-eyed and happy, she had two short naps as I walked the concourse (only waking when the stadium erupted for a homerun), and she had her first taste of a soft pretzel. (Landmark occasion, I know.) We left in the eighth inning to avoid the crowds, and aside from a meltdown on the last leg of the journey home, she was amazing. We’ve taken her every year since. She has developed a crush on Ace (the Jays mascot), while I’ve developed a crush on Josh Donaldson. (As a life-long ball player, I love how intense he is when he plays. And I like his hair. Sue me.) She invites more and more family members to baseball games every year, and she has amassed a collection of team gear that’s better than her dad’s.
Last year we added her little sister, Juliette, to the mix. It’s harder, but we’ve learned to bring an entourage with us so there’s always someone to take a walk with a rowdy toddler.
Five seasons in, we’re no longer rookies when it comes to taking kids to sporting events, and we’ve lived to share what we’ve learned through trial and error. Here are our top 9 tips for taking your brood to a ball game (Jays, baseball or otherwise):
- Book tickets early so you get aisle seats. This makes frequent trips to the concourse for bathroom breaks, food purchases and freak-out calming easier. (You also annoy people less if you don’t have to shimmy by them repeatedly with a screaming baby.) Check the schedule for kids’ events, like Junior Jays Saturdays, when there are extra activities planned for little ones.
- Take public transportation. If you can, park at an easily accessible subway, streetcar, bus or train station, and make your way to the stadium from there. You won’t have to fight (or pay) for parking, and you won’t be stuck in a crush of cars trying to leave the event. Games usually end during prime nap- or bedtime, and I don’t know about your kids, but my girls hate nothing more than stop-and-go traffic.
- Pay attention to the entrance gate on your tickets, so you don’t get off the subway or bus too far away from where your seats are. Otherwise, good luck convincing your three-year-old to walk six blocks.
- Take a carrier, stroller or both. We’ve learned from experience that you need to be able to give your arms a break. Stadiums usually have stroller parking, which is basically like coat check, so you have access to your pram when your infant or young toddler needs a walk ’n snooze.
- Pack snacks. Lots and lots of snacks. The Rogers Centre, for one, allows you to bring food in, as long as it’s wrapped or bagged so as not to make a mess. (You can’t bring drinks, though, unless it’s a water bottle less than 600 mL in volume.) We’re usually armed with a snack per inning. If you don’t want to cart your pantry with you, there are lots of options—healthy choices and treats—in the venue. (We do an ice cream cone in the fifth, to get us to the seventh.)
- Bring a back-up plan. I usually throw books, crayons and a notebook, stickers and, yes, the iPad with puzzle apps into my knapsack. It’s a last-resort, but we’ll often get to see more of the game if we have the distraction pack at our disposal.
- Bring help. If you can, spring for an extra ticket or two, for grandparents, an aunt or uncle, or friends. The more hands the better. (If this means tickets a level or two higher than is ideal, so you can buy more tickets with your budget, it will be worth it to see more of the game.)
- Leave early. Unless it’s a no-hitter or a tie-game in the bottom of the ninth during the pennant race, taking off before the end of the game means you’ll beat the rush to transit.
- Be patient and don’t be deterred if your first time out doesn’t go well. Try again in a couple of months, or next season, when your kids are that much older. Watch the sport on TV at home, to get them excited about seeing the team live, too. That was a big one for us: Baseball is the soundtrack to our summer, and our kids know it.
My dad and grandpa took me to a handful of Jays games when I was growing up, and I became easily obsessed (with Kelly Gruber and John Olerud). Make it a summer tradition for your crew; they’ll start to count down in February.
Katie Dupuis likes structure and organization—a lot. Now imagine this Type A editor with a baby. Funny, right? We’re sure you’ll love Katie’s musings on life with Sophie, Juliette and husband Blaine. Read all of Katie’s Type A Baby posts and follow her on Twitter @katie_dupuis.