Prior to having kids, Super Bowl Sunday meant inviting all your pigskin-loving friends over for a rowdy get-together full of things like beer and cursing out the refs at the top of your lungs. Now that you have little ones, some of the activities you once deemed socially acceptable seem decidedly less appropriate for a kid-friendly Super Bowl party. After all, little ears should never hear the kind of trash you talk to your friends pulling for the opposite team.
So, what’s a football fan to do? Is it possible to have a kid-friendly Super Bowl party? The mere idea of trying to wrangle up enough sitters or calling in favors with family members can seem impossible. Thus, the logical thing to do is just let the little ones be part of the festivities too.
Of course, certain considerations must be made in order for both big and little guests to enjoy this hallowed day in sports history. Here are a few fun ideas sure to score with everyone.
Establish clear rules about alcohol
Make sure all your guests know ahead of time if BYOB means “bring your own beer” or “bring your own baby.” While it’s highly likely your close friends will be just as excited to come hang at a kid-friendly shindig, you want to give them ample time to make other arrangements if they want to booze it up during the Super Bowl.
Because, really, the last thing you want is to have to explain to a room of 5-year-olds why Aunt Carrie is passed out in a bowl of nachos on the living room floor (we speak from personal experience). If you want to serve drinks but keep it light, consider some of these fun Super Bowl cocktails.
Pregame with kids in the kitchen
Idle hands are the devil’s playground, and that’s especially true when you’re talking about kids. If you give them something to keep them busy until kickoff, it minimizes the chances they’ll plow through every bag of chips in the house and/or punt your friend’s purse into the toilet.
One super-fun way to distract them (and make precious memories in the process) is to have them help you whip up some adorable-slash-tasty party snacks like this football-shaped cheese ball.
Get the recipe from Leite’s Culinaria.
Have a screening room set up for the kids
In a perfect world, kids and adults could coexist in the same room watching the same TV for an entire football game. However, this is the real world, where Super Bowls stretch on for hours — while their novel fascination doesn’t always last as long for little ones. Not to mention that, depending on your routine, it might be time for your kiddos to wind down before the game ends.
Prepare for either eventuality by having a separate screening room set up for children (if possible). If they get tired of watching the big game or just get tired in general, they have a place to chill out while enjoying the ambitious antics of Phineas and Ferb. All you need is a blank wall, a white sheet and a projector.
Serve Super Bowl sundaes at halftime
By the time halftime rolls around, kids may be just about ready to call it a night — in which case Super Bowl sundaes (like Super Bowl Sunday, get it?) can either act as an end-of-evening dessert or a sweet treat to give them enough energy to last a teensy bit longer.
We recommend keeping it as simple as possible by tossing the ice cream and toppings on a tabletop and letting guests serve themselves buffet-style. No matter which team takes the trophy, the host who offers a buffet-style ice cream sundae bar wins.
Keep a solid roster of games on the sidelines
Despite your best efforts to corral the kiddos in a separate space, little ones will inevitably spill out into the communal area as the evening wears on. And, hey, that’s OK! After all, you might have a Super Bowl superfan in the making.
But if you want to watch the game and the kiddos are dying for something different to do, reach into your giant bag of parenting tricks and pull out a board game. Or a video game. Or even a classic kids game like hide-and-seek. As long as the littles have something engaging to do, they’ll be happy to let you cheer on your team.
Recruit an older kid to be team captain
If you have a preteen or a teen (or one of your guests does), your night just got a whole lot easier — by paying them to keep an eye on the younger kids, you’re teaching them the value of work. But, you know, you’re also making it more likely the evening will go off without a hitch for both the kids and adults in attendance.
Plus, the older kid isn’t likely to complain too much. Watching over kids in a houseful of adults is a pretty sweet gig to get paid for.
Go hard or go home
We know, we know… since you’re hosting, you’re already home. Still, we’re talking about the Super Bowl here, and this is one heck of a sporty slogan. Let’s go with it, eh? So if you’re going to throw a kid-friendly Super Bowl party, you should embrace the chaos.
Go all out with cutesy decorations the kids will love. Laugh it off when your son runs through the house half-naked at halftime. The people who love you will love being in your home, even if the pint-size guests are louder than the crowd at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
And if they have kids in attendance too, they might just declare you the real MVP for putting together a fun night for the whole fam.
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A version of this article was originally published January 2019.