How do you keep a toddler busy at a big brother or sister’s sports game or practice?
Imagine you have a baby and a toddler… and you’re sitting at your six-year-old’s soccer game.
You desperately want to watch and cheer and maybe even chat with some other parents.
BUT... your toddler keeps trying to make a run for it across the field to try and play soccer too.
You need a plan to make this work and actually get to see your sports super star in action!
I've compiled a list of my favorite activities to occupy toddlers at sibling sports games- in no particular order- and I am sharing them with you.
The goal for these ideas is for you to teach them to your kids so that they can entertain themselves and you can sit back and watch little Jimmy get his first soccer goal.
You are going to love these activities! They are all simple and require very little effort on your part.
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Why do you bring little siblings to sports games?
That's what I ask myself sometimes when it is extra crazy and I feel like I am managing a circus.
Here's why going to support siblings is important to us...
1. In our family, we have a goal that we always show up and support each other as often as we can. This is why siblings come along.
This family goal has made me determined to figure out how to have a positive experience with my little toddlers at their sibling's games.
Some of my best memories as a kid were at sibling's soccer or baseball games. Family relationships can really flourish when you get outside of yourself and help encourage someone else.
2. Younger kids can practice a lot of important skills at big sibling's games and practices.
These skills can include...
- using their imaginations
- getting along with others
- making new friends
They can also learn a lot about sports from watching and cheering.
Here are some of our best ways to keep toddlers entertained and busy at sibling’s sports activities.
1. Bring a lot of stickers
Stick them on yourself, books, the stroller, your wagon... anywhere!
It doesn't even matter if they don't stick for long. Part of the fun is pulling them off.
RELATED: Looking for more ways to help toddlers burn off energy and stay busy? Check out these 25+ Quick Activities to Burn Off Toddler Energy.
When you give the stickers to your toddler, pull off the background of the stickers. This makes it much easier for little ones to pull them off the sticker paper without your help.
Sticker books from Melissa & Doug are fun "on the go" options as well. These Sticker Activity books have a cute scene along with related stickers. These Make a Face sticker books let kids create funny faces.
Cereal necklaces are perfect for sports games or practices. Give your child a piece of pipe cleaner or string and a container of Fruit Loops or Cheerios and make a necklace. Half the time will be spent eating the necklace and materials... but that should still keep your child sitting and busy!
Bring a few different types of snacks all mixed together along with a few small containers. Have your child sort the snacks by type and then eat them.
Fishing for Snacks
Give your child some carrot sticks, hummus, and goldfish crackers. Have them dip the carrot sticks in hummus and then use the carrot stick to try and pick up the goldfish cracker. This fishing game is so fun!
Make Homemade Lunchables
Put crackers, cheese, and sandwich meat in a bento box and let your toddler build her own cracker sandwiches.
Bring some cut up fruit in a tupperware and a coffee stirrer or skewer (with the pointy ends cut off). Have your child build their own kabob.
Even just peeling oranges partially or bananas and then letting your toddler try and finish peeling and pulling things apart can be a simple snacktivity that keeps them busy for a few minutes.
3. Magformers or Magnatiles
These are great to toss into your purse or backpack and bring on the go! Magformers are our favorite, but any magnetic toy will work great.
We love it when we meet up with a friend on the sidelines of the soccer field. Kids are often so much happier when they have a buddy.
The sooner you introduce your kids to the other little siblings on the sidelines, the quicker you may find them occupied and not bothering you!
Cars are so easy to fit into purses. Monster trucks and bigger cars are great for grassy fields. You can use other materials to build ramps as well!
These little toys that come wrapped in plastic eggs have been a lifesaver for our family. My kids adore opening them, but get even more excited to play with the little figures with their siblings.
If you're at a sports event, why not bring a ball for your toddler? Little kids love to imitate their big siblings. Find an area near the game where your little one can kick or throw their own ball without getting in the way of the actual game. Soft or squishy balls work great for this too, as do those sticky velcro ball catching toys.
My kids bring playdough with us everywhere. Typically we put a few small cookie cutters or mini rolling pins in the bag along with some small tubs of Play-Doh. We also usually bring a large book to play on top of, since sometimes we don't have tables available. The kids just put the book on their lap and play with their playdough or play on a bench.
Does your toddler have a few favorite books? Any he likes to read to himself or look through? I love bringing a variety of board books to sports games and practices, especially ones with animals and ABC books with a lot of pictures.
10. Bug hunts
Kids are fascinated by bugs. Whenever we have outdoor games and practices, we usually spot some spiders, ants, or beetles. Sending kids off with a small magnifier to look in the grass, on the pavement, or on nearby bushes can be so fun! We also love hunting for worms and then just watching them when it has recently rained.
At sibling sporting events my motto is "Whatever it takes to get through the day."
Sometimes that means that you whip out a Dum Dum lollipop and pass it off to your toddler. This may buy you a few minutes of time where your toddler actually sits down and doesn't run away.
I like Dum Dums because they are pretty small and don't have anything inside.
12. Water Wow books
Water Wow books, Paint by Number, Aquadoodles, and even Crayola Color Wonder drawing books can be popular activities for kids who are waiting. These are easy to slip into your purse and last for awhile. You can find these in our Amazon Store under "on the go with kids".
Teach your kids some simple positive cheers to yell to your older child's team. Helping them cheer for a sibling gives them a feeling of belonging.
There is never a bad time for bubbles. You'll probably be the toddler magnet at the soccer game, so bring extras. Bubble wands are great to bring, or you can pull out the big guns and bring a bubble machine. Then your hands can be free AND you can watch the game, while the littles try and pop the bubbles.
15. Spray bottles
Spray bottles can save the day when it is hot and when its not. When we are waiting, my daughter loves to spray the flowers and the plants wherever we go. They are also a great way to get your toddler to stay hydrated since they always have to spray their mouths too!
16. Favorite toys and stuffed animals
Toys that are beloved that your child already will play with at home for hours... are great ones to bring with you to sporting events. With that said, these are the items that are most precious to your child, so you'll want to have a specific designated area where your child can play with them so that they don't get lost.
My daughter's "fluffy dog" and Paw Patrol toys get brought to so many sports games and practices!
17. Boogie Boards- These are LCD writing boards that wipe off and you can write on again and again.
18. Obstacle Course- Whether you're on the sidelines or the bleachers at an indoor bball game, you can get kids moving. At indoor bball games we've sat in a section of the bleachers and let the kids walk back and forth across our section and see if they can tiptoe to the wall and back or take giant steps to the wall and back. You can give them several movements to do (walk slow 1 step, take a big step, turn in a circle, sit down) and then repeat them. Our goal is to always do this in the least disruptive way... so we try and sit away from other people.
19. iPads/phones (use as a tool)
Why not just give your toddler an ipad or iphone the whole time?
First things first. There is no judgement here.
If you let your child spend all afternoon on a device during Jimmy & Susie's soccer games while you enjoyed the game. Awesome!
I typically like to keep devices as a tool to use when I really need them. Most of the time, sibling sporting events aren't those times for me. I like to use them on long car rides and airplane flights.
There are times when I will bring devices to sporting events, especially for intense tournaments where I want to be able to give all my attention to my big kid.
PS- This toddler chair with a 5 point harness is one of our favorite "go to" items for sports games with toddlers.
If all else fails and your toddler is determined to turn the field into her own track, EMBRACE IT.
Think of it as an extra workout for the day and dress appropriately. LOL. You''ll also probably get to meet a lot of people you wouldn't have otherwise who are running around just like you!
Hopefully now you feel armed with a few new good ideas to try with your toddler or preschooler at your older child's next sporting event.
Here are a few other waiting activities for toddlers and preschoolers that you could try as well. These work great at sporting events or even out to eat at a restaurant!
- Waiting Games for Kids by Hands On As We Grow
- 18 Quiet Games To Take Anywhere by The Pragmatic Mom
- Restaurant Kit for Toddlers by Busy Toddler