The Immaculate Reception. Wide Right. The Philly Special. Depending on who you are and when you were born, these are either iconic Big Game moments whose memories you cherish or performances you only know about from highlight reels.
Which is to say: There are big games you remember, and big games where you were too young (or, you know, not-born) to enjoy. And if you have kids, or plan to have them at your party this year, you know whether they’re too young to appreciate the impossible catches, improbable field goal misses and finely executed trick plays this year’s game might offer. And you need to plan accordingly.
After all, a football-watching party with kids—no matter the age—is different from one you would’ve thrown B.C. (before children). You’ll probably skip the keg, the questionable wagering, the four-letter reactions to plays both good and bad. (Well, maybe…) But here’s how you should plan, based on how old the kids are.
If they’re newborns…
Ah, baby’s first Big Game. A special occasion he or she will no doubt treasure for the rest of his or her days. Or, you know, forget. Because babies.
The game: If they’re really new, your baby probably won’t even wake up while you watch the game, so long as you and your friends can follow it without jumping and cheering. That said, you might want to DVR the thing, in case your little bundle of joy decides to wail through the second quarter. Your friends won’t mind, right?
The food: For you: Whatever you want. For the baby: We’re thinking milk. Yeah. Definitely milk.
The activities: You providing play-by-play for your newborn. The deeper and more analytical you go, the funnier it is. Trust us.
If they’re toddlers or pre-schoolers…
The game: Honestly, your kid is probably more excited for the halftime show. Not because they’re huge music fans or anything, just because dancing is more their speed.
The real dilemma is whether to DVR it. This shortens the game, and you can skip the commercials your kid won’t understand anyway. But you’ll have to skip social media, and the game will last even later than it already does. (It typically starts at 6:30 Eastern, though that hadn’t been confirmed at press time.) Tough call.
The food: If your kid is still at that glorious age where they’ll eat anything, then probably the usual mix of healthyish proteins, veggies, and whatever else they like. If not, well, they’ll just have to eat the same pizza, chips and other indulgences the rest of us eat on this most blessed of Sundays.
The activities: This is the hard part. There’s no way your kid is gonna sit and watch four or more hours of football. Coloring books, football-themed or no, will help. Taking a football break around halftime might help, too. Your best bet might be getting your friend or relative who likes football the least to volunteer to engage with the kids. Just be sure someone’s bringing that person nachos—they’ve earned it. Oh, and if you can dig up one of those retro tabletop electronic football games, congrats: You just won the big game.
If they’re in elementary school…
Now you’re talking. This is the age where the game not only starts to matter, it starts to Matter—these are the legacy-defining years where your kid’s favorite player can do no wrong, unless he does. Expect full engagement, at least until bedtime, when the kid will either fight the yawns like a tailback breaking tackles, or succumb like a quarterback dragged to the turf by a fierce defensive end.
And hey, they might get some of the jokes in the commercials, too.
The game: Sound on, all the way, including commercials.
The food: The usuals—pizza, popcorn, 7-layer dip—are the usuals for a reason. If you’re hosting a few kids, treat them to some decorated cupcakes. (And expect the sugar high to crest around halftime, leading to a crash around the end of the third quarter.) Bonus points if you get them involved in the decorating ahead of time.
The activities: Face painting is always fun, and suitable for a football game. (Heck, maybe the parents will want to get in on it.) Bingo is a dependable play, and you can find free printable cards online for the Big Game. (Fair warning: They won’t impress your friend who can talk cover-2 defenses at length.) And if it’s nice out (or even if it isn’t), you can always go outside and throw the ol’ pigskin around yourself.
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If they’re in middle school…
The weird thing about Snapchat™-addicted tweens is they might be super into football, and they might be super into … anything other than football. We’ll trust you to know what you’ve got on your hands here.
The game: On live with sound, though understand your football-loving kid might have sharper analysis than you do, thanks to social media.
The food: The usuals. But twice as much. Seriously, these kids can eat.
The activities: No matter their level of passion for football, your kid’s a ball of energy and emotion just waiting to explode. If you have, say, a ping-pong table handy, now’s the time to deploy it. Or get out the Nintendo Switch™ and demonstrate the joy of Tecmo Bowl™ at halftime.
If they’re in high school…
First of all, congrats on getting them to even consider coming to your party. You must have an elite-level nacho game. Just brace yourself for the full range of raw emotion that only a teenager can exude.
The game: Your house, your rules, right? Maybe if your teenager has a job, and paid for that TV himself … ah, who are we kidding? Your teen is watching this game somewhere else in your house. You can watch it however you want.
The food: The usuals. But three times as much. Seriously, these kids can eat.
The activities: Besides digging out baby photos and wondering where the time goes? If you get to share some room, or better yet, couch space, with your teenager, just enjoy it. (Even if your prop bets go bust.)
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Tecmo Bowl is a trademark of Koei Tecmo Holdings Co., Ltd.
Louis Wilson is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in a wide array of publications, both online and in print. He often writes about travel, sports, popular culture, men’s fashion and grooming, and more. He lives in Austin, Texas, where he has developed an unbridled passion for breakfast tacos, with his wife and two children. This article is sponsored by Haven Life Insurance Agency. Opinions are his own.
Haven Life does not endorse the companies or offer the products and/or services discussed here.