Most people think of tailgating as something a bit wild and crazy but I don’t because my family made it a child friendly event and you can too. My parents started taking me tailgating when I was about 5, so for me it’s always been a family event. They would pack the “grown-up” food and the “kid” food which kept everyone happy. They also packed games and books for myself and the other children. Because of the families they would invite, I didn’t realize that there weren’t many other children tailgating until I was a teenager. My husband has never been tailgating and doesn’t know how to tailgate, I’m not sure why exactly but most likely because his family, like many others, didn’t associate tailgating with children. So it’s only right that I do my part to share my experience and knowledge on tailgating as a family so a great American tradition can be child friendly.
First up is the food, standard tailgating food like chili or brats may not appeal to your children so bring something special for them. Pick foods that can be cooked with the equipment you are already planning to bring. Most people grill, so bring simple burgers and hot dogs for the children. If you’re a tailgater that starts early bring their favorite cereal for breakfast or do something easy but special. Good, but healthy, little snack foods can include baby carrots, cut up apples and other little fruits and veggies. Just remember your children’s preferences and your ability to store/prepare the food you bring for them.
Next up is the entertainment, my family used to go tailgating for at least 6 hours but they were always able to keep me entertained. Games are a great family activity that gets everyone feeling competitive and excited for the upcoming events. There are a few important things to remember when picking out tailgating games for the whole family. Do not pick any board games, the small and lightweight pieces can easily get lost or blown away. Avoid cards, as well, for the same reason. Playing “52 Pick-Up” isn’t exactly a blast on a windy day. Bean Bag Toss, Hillbilly Golf, and any form of catch are great easy games that keep the whole family entertained. It’s also a good idea to invite other families, let the children play together while the adults watch and relax or play with them.
Finally, remember to be safe, have fun and make it special for the whole family. Set a designated perimeter for the children by using your tailgating equipment as markers. Mine was always the back tire of the trucks in our groups and the edge of our canopy, beyond that I was with an adult. Using such simple markers and having all of the adults watching out, makes it easy for the children to know the boundaries. Using a buddy system where one child is partnered up with one or two adults is also an effective system that keeps the children from wandering off. I’ve touched on the ways to keep the children with the group but safety within these designated areas is something that is easily forgotten. So invite a few families and take up a little more space, this way your group can designate a play area that’s away from the hot grill and sharp knives. Most importantly, have fun and pass on the tradition of tailgating. Hopefully these tips will help you plan your next family friendly tailgating party and I hope to hear some great stories and new ideas.