Before we start, a bit of advice from a football mum...
Kyd and I have had season tickets for 8 years now (since he was 4), over this time we have seen a lot, heard a lot and witnessed some amazing and awful football. His independence, people skills and concentration skills have blossomed and I would recommend taking your kids to football at least once in their lives.
Do your research! Many clubs have policies in place and will be as helpful as they can before you book, if you can't find what you're looking for, phone them. Check out their website and see what they have to offer families that match, you'll find they often have really cool activities for kids around the ground before the game. Football is a family game and our kids are the next generation supporters, clubs are constantly trying to get more families through the doors and they have been incredibly successful in the past decade at making football a great place for kids. HOWEVER, you can't expect the older generation of football fans to control their behaviour in a family friendly manner, many have big hold ups about it and it can get quite feisty if confronted about it. Clubs are aware of this and have responded in making areas of the stands family friendly. Make the most of this. The kids will have a better time in an area dedicated to them. Some clubs even have activities to do if they do get bored during the game, kids packs and special food and treat boxes.
With that in mind, here are some HONEST things you can expect when you take your kids to football...
1 - IT'S LOUD
For little ears Football grounds are like putting several televisions up to full blast and putting them in a bowl to make it louder. If your child is sensitive to noise... it's not the best idea you take them. If they aren't but are young or you don't know how they'll take it... take earmuffs, ear defenders or headphones with their favourite music on.
2 - IT'S PASSIONATE
Football fans are very passionate about their team and the game. You may be able to control your passionate/excited side when around your child but others there won't. If/When someone scores there are two responses; a roaring cheer whilst jumping around hugging people OR an angry, sweary tension built hatred of the other team. It can get quite hairy but as long as you are aware and your child understands and won't be scared of that, it can be a beautiful thing. Do your research though, many clubs have a family section which is less aggressively passionate and made for families with young children.
3 - IT'S SWEARY
The language at football hasn't, and will never, change despite the campaigns easing the amount of it, it will always be there. Football has been a swear word fest since the beginning of it's time and although some can control their language if they see a child around, others can't and often won't. You need to prepare for this. We have used the 'What is said and done at football, stays at football' solution since Kyd was 4. It has worked nicely and he's never repeated anything he's heard and knows it's wrong. Talk to your child first and you'll ease the shock. If you don't like the people you are sat with don't kick off or confront them, go and speak to a steward and ask if they can find seats elsewhere and explain the situation. If they can help, they will. Again, do your research before buying tickets, clubs have family facilities for a reason and this language is monitored closely there.
4 - IT'S COLD
Depending on the season you're in at the time, football is really cold and wet. You are sat about doing not much and little people will feel this the most. Make sure you bring extra layers for them to add on if they get too cold, there is nothing worse than a cold whinging child when you're trying to watch the game you've just spent a small fortune to watch.
Checklist for leaving for football in winter,
- leggings, long johns or tights under trousers
- big socks
- extra jumper in bag
- A waterproof coat with hood
- ear muffs if needed
5 - IT'S BORING
90 minutes is a long time for a young child to keep their attention on one thing, especially if they aren't a huge fan of football already. Add in the fact they've just had to travel to be there too and their boredom can often begin before you even get there. Be prepared for them not to want to sit down and wanting to go to the toilet just to do something. You tend to spend more time in the concourse than your seat in the second half especially. Bring a tablet or a DS, charge your phone and download some games, a colouring book, a book in general, anything that will distract them and keep them happy. You'll thank me later.