Football Tailgating with Kids + {Tailgate Bingo Printable}

Nothing says fall quite like football. Our family is full of serious sports fans and all day tailgaters. It’s a tradition that we hope to enjoy for years to come, and right now that means sharing it with young children. Boy, football with babies and preschoolers is quite different than our co-ed days. Today I’m sharing a few tips to help make tailgating with kids full of fun. Football’s a game of downs, so let’s go!

First Down:: Get Hyped

It’s never too early to start with a show of school spirit. In our house the first game day of the year is a holiday. I dye breakfast foods purple, everyone gets a new team shirt, and Dad leads chants. Create silly pandemonium. Watch YouTube videos of past season recaps. Let the kids put football stickers on game days in your calendar. They’ll play off of your enthusiasm.

tailgating with kids

Now’s also the time to research amenities at the stadium. Is there a room for nursing moms? Early access to stadium bathrooms so you can bypass port-a-potties? What’s their policy on baby wearing? Are you allowed to bring a diaper bag into the game with kids drinks/snacks?

Second Down:: Improve Your Coverage

At the risk of sounding un-American, I don’t recommend grilling at tailgates. Depending on your kid-to-parent ratio you need as many free hands and eyes as possible. For some reason, young children don’t think shooting the breeze around a grill is as fun as dads. Grills take time and focus; a chafing dish is your best friend. Make your tailgating menu quick and ready to serve. Here are some best bets:

Breakfast- individually wrapped breakfast burritos (like these) can be made and frozen in advance then reheated in your trusty chafing dish.

Lunch- a giant sub sandwich made on an Italian loaf. Load up one side with cured meats and stinky cheese, while the other side is kid friendly. Ready to slice straight from the cooler. Just add chips and fruit for an easy outdoor meal.

Snacking- another chafing dish winner that we affectionately call “tailgate meatballs.”

  • One bag frozen meatballs (Italian or turkey works)
  • One jar chili sauce
  • One jar red pepper jelly (found by the fruit jellies)
  • Combine ingredients in chafing dish (or crockpot if you have power), heat and enjoy. Also great on buns as meatball subs.

Dinner- Chili! Prep your favorite chili recipe in advance and reheat in your chaffing dish. If you must eat meat that’s been flamed, you can roast hot dogs on skewers over the sterno to make chili cheese dogs.

Third Down:: For the Love of the Game

There is so much fun for kids beyond eating and people watching at a tailgate. From classics to unconventional, tailgate games are sure to be a hit.


  • Washers/ Cornhole
  • Ladder Golf
  • Giant Jenga (also great for general building, not just Jenga)
  • Bubbles- always fun
  • Sidewalk Chalk/Paint (homemade paint like this one works great on a blacktop)
  • Balls/Frisbees for a game of catch
  • Tailgate Bingo {see below for free printable} split up for a little friendly competition or do what I’ll be doing: giving it to my oldest with an old point and shoot camera so he can do a photo scavenger hunt
  • Football Bingo for older kids during the game

Click on the image to download the printable!

WMB Tailgate Bingo

Fourth Down:: Call an Audible

tailgating with kids

Parenting requires flexibility and when it comes to sporting events that might mean cutting down on quantity for quality. Take into account game time, weather and travel time. You know your kids. If six hours of non-stop tailgating and game watching is beyond them, then plan accordingly. Do you go up for the tailgate and drive home while listening to the game on the radio? Or skip the tailgate and just hit up the game? If you plan for the “worst” your kids might just surprise then you won’t be as disappointed if you have to cut out some of your fun. If it’s any consolation, by the time they’re in their teens you’ll likely have to drag them away from the stadium.

What are your tried and true tips for tailgating with children?

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