Fitness experts often discuss the importance of playing and exercising with your family, but watching sports together has benefits as well. You’ll spend time together and share your passion and excitement for a team or a sport. You bond over a common interest or have fun playfully antagonizing one another’s favorite teams. Even if your kids aren’t fans of your favorite sport, you can make spectator sports fun for the whole family.
So turn on a game, a match, or a competition. Gather the family and have fun.
Join the chants
Whether you’re watching a game in a stadium or from your own living room, chanting can get everyone excited. Teach your kids the usual call-and-response cheers. Explain the cheers about specific players or just sit back and watch your kids boo as loud as they can. See if they can come up with their own cheers – with bonus points for terrible rhymes.
Explain a player’s backstory
It’s easier for viewers to empathize or get excited about a player when he or she is more than just a number, a helmet, or a set of pads. Pick a player you know well and explain his backstory or why this particular game might be important to that player. Is it the captain that’s been on the team for years or an up-and-coming player on a hitting streak? Has the player overcome an injury or a tragedy to make it to this game, or is she simply fun to watch in interviews? Point out when that player comes into the game or has a great play, so you can cheer together.
Track statistics together
All sports can hit a lull in the middle sometimes, so consider tracking something through the game. You can use a scorekeepers pad and teach your older kids the official symbols to track each play. If you want something easier, make a chart track one or two statistics, such as goals and assists or 3-pointers and 2-pointers. Maybe make a poster to track rare events over a whole season, or make a list of different things that happen during games and turn them into bingo boards.
Look for strategies
For older kids, part of the fun of sports can be trying to understand why teams and players make certain plays. Why did the pitcher throw a strike at that point? Why did the quarterback call for a passing play? Was that soccer foul intentional or just a bad tackle? You won’t be able to answer every question, but you’ll get your kids thinking about cause and effect. They may even come to see sports as skills with real strategy instead of a game that’s all luck.
Watch the players who aren’t active
Have your kids watch the players who aren’t involved in a particular play. Where are the midfielders when the strikers have the ball? Where is the wide receiver on a running play? Where is the point guard standing when the basketball’s thrown back in or the pitcher when a baseball comes from the outfield to the plate? Watching the other players adds a new twist on a game that seems so familiar, and your kids might not be as bored on a blow-out game if they have something else to watch. Plus, they might see how much a player runs even when it might not matter.
Find the life lessons
Change the way in which you talk about sports. Talk about the hard work and determination the players have. Talk about the importance of coming back from mistakes or learning to handle losses without giving up. Explain how to take criticism or listen to coaches. Sports are full of teachable moments if you know how to reframe what you’re seeing.
Play during the game breaks
Between innings at a baseball stadium, games pop up on the scoreboard or sometimes in the field itself. Make your own version of game-break games. Come up with a list of quick activities to play or go down the couch so each person come up with their own two- to three-minute activity every time the game goes on commercial break. Set an exercise to an action in the game, such as jumping jacks every time there’s a pitching change or swinging your kids upside-down after every field goal.
If all else fails, use food
Sometimes, no matter what you try, your kids just won’t get into a sport you love, so make the event special anyway. Make a favorite nacho dip for every football game or hot cocoa for hockey games. Only order chicken wings when your favorite team is playing. Get your kids excited that the game is on, even if they end up paying more attention to their food than anything happening on the screen.