Build your toddler's enthusiasm for athletics from a young age.

Tailgating With a Toddler

by Erin Schreiner

You don’t have to give up the sports fans' passion for tailgating just because you are the parent of a toddler. Though you won’t be able to enjoy the same carefree experience you did before you had to tote your tot with you, you can transform tailgating into a toddler-safe activity by paying attention to details and being considerate of your toddler’s needs.

Prepare your Tot

Talk to your little one before you go tailgating about what you are going to do. If your toddler is old enough to respond with words, engage in a dialog, explaining what the day will entail and discussing what you expect from her. If your toddler doesn't express herself well with words, speak to her about the upcoming event in short sentences, explaining, with enthusiasm, what will happen. Even if she can’t respond with words, she likely will understand more of what you say than you suspect.

Zone of Safety

The busy parking lots in which tailgate parties usually take place are not the safest spaces for toddlers. From the crowds to the hot metal grills, danger abounds, so watching her is of vital importance. Make the task of monitoring your toddler while tailgating easier by using some toddler-play-place fencing to section off an area near your vehicle. By creating a sizable contained ring around your truck bed or car trunk you can effectively limit the area in which your tot can roam.

Toddler-Friendly Foods

Many of the delights on which adult tailgaters munch aren’t appropriate for a toddler. Ensure that your tot has some tasty treats of her own. Patty up some slider-sized burgers to throw on the grill for your little one. Fill a bag with easy-to-grab-and-go munchies such as cheese crackers and graham cracker cookies. Pile some pre-filled sippy cups into the cooler because your toddler will need ample water and juice, particularly if your tailgating experience occurs in warm-weather months.

Activities Galore

Your tailgating experience will almost certainly leave much to be desired if you don’t plan some activities for your toddler to participate in. For example, get some beanbags in the team colors and have your toddler try to throw them into an empty bucket from varying distances. To keep an artsy toddler occupied, print some coloring pages featuring images relevant to the sport or team you are there to see and pack some crayons or markers that she can use in coloring the images.

Fostering a Family-Friendly Environment

While you can’t control the behaviors of all of the tailgaters you will encounter, speak with those in your tailgating party about bringing your toddler. By letting them know a youngster will be there and by asking them to refrain from drinking to the point where they are out of control, you can set the stage for a more family-friendly tailgate experience.

About the Author

Erin Schreiner is a freelance writer and teacher who holds a bachelor's degree from Bowling Green State University. She has been actively freelancing since 2008. Schreiner previously worked for a London-based freelance firm. Her work appears on eHow, and RedEnvelope. She currently teaches writing to middle school students in Ohio and works on her writing craft regularly.

Photo Credits

  • barefoot little basketball player image by Jaimie Duplass from