To Timbers with kids, or not to Timbers with kids? With the first home game of the season around the corner, that is the Portland question.
My six-year-old son — I call him Nugget — started going to games when he was two and a half years old. He’s a kid who has soccer in his blood and lives for the Timbers. Over time, we have found ways to make the experience enjoyable for a young child. If you’re considering taking your kids to a Timbers game, here are some questions to ask yourself — plus tips for having a great time if you decide to go.
Will your child love it, or find it overwhelming? First of all, games are loud. Like, really loud. There is yelling, chanting, singing, cheering, and a chainsaw. Yes, a chainsaw. All of this can be overwhelming and even scary for some children. While Nugget thrives on the energy level, his older sister is less impressed. If you think your child might enjoy the spectacle of a game but not the sound level, consider noise reducing headphones.
Which seats to choose? Nugget wants to be in the middle of everything, so we buy tickets for the Timbers Army. They are among the most reasonably priced tickets, and that’s where the action is. Don’t expect to be sitting much as everyone around you will be standing, jumping, waving flags and scarves, chanting, cheering, and treating spectatorship like its own sport. There are drums in the stands, Timber Joey is on the field below the Army sawing log slices for each Timbers goal, smoke bombs are set off when the Timbers score, and streamers go flying. Army seats are general admission- first come, first serve. Because of his intense love of the game, Nugget is more than happy to show up almost two hours before kick-off. Not all children will be up for arriving so early and then hanging around another two hours for a game. If you arrive closer to game time, just know that you will not get the best seats. Think ‘nosebleed section.’
If you want to ease into your first game experience, you can purchase reserved seats away from the Army. While fans still have fun, non-Army areas tend to be more laid back. You can sit and still see the game (usually), it’s not nearly as loud, and language tends to be cleaner. And with an assigned seat, there is no need to arrive so early.
What kind of language are you comfortable with your child hearing?Being in the Army is fun. It’s energizing and feels like you joined a community you didn’t know existed. However, language isn’t always kid friendly, a few individuals over indulge in the available alcohol, and the heckling of the opposing team can make you wonder if some people missed Kindergarten kindness lessons. Many chants have undesirable language in them. I found the lyrics online and made up some kid appropriate substitutions and taught him those. He doesn’t know the difference and is happy to sing along with lyrics that don’t make me cringe. This is less of an issue outside of the Army, but still something to think about.
What about food? There are lots of kid-friendly food and drink options, but they are expensive. While Nugget usually talks us into some treats, security at the gate has always let us bring in a few snack packs to tide him over. Drinks can be trickier due to security precautions, so we bring an empty water bottle to fill up there.
Are there things to do for kids? Face painters are often on site for free face art. Again, go early to avoid a long line.
If you are going for your child’s birthday or other special event, you can get a pre-game announcement. The message is read by the game announcer and they will share a picture on the scoreboard if you choose to submit one. Nugget’s birthday is during playoff season, and we have done this at two playoff games. He loved it! You can find information about the face painting and the special announcements on the Timbers website under Match Experience.
Streamers are often thrown from the stands when the Timbers score, especially in the Timbers Army. Stop at Dollar Tree to pick some up and join in the fun!
Another low cost way to keep kids busy is making confetti. This is one of Nugget’s favorite pre-game activities. Make your own by tearing extra programs into small squares. Then have fun celebrating when the Timbers make a goal!
What should my kid wear? Nugget loves to represent his team. He has Timbers everything. Wearing Timbers gear adds to his excitement and makes him feel like part of the Army. But I refuse to pay full price. I frequently find officially licensed shirts on Amazon for under $5 and sweatshirts for under $10. Whether you choose to load your kiddo up in gear or not, just make sure they are in something comfortable and appropriate for the weather and the changing day-to-night temperatures. Since the stadium is not fully covered, you may be in the glaring sun or pouring rain depending on the day and location of you seat. Make sure you’ve got sunscreen, jackets, or hats and you will be ready to go!
A Timbers Game with Kids:
What it’s not: guaranteed kid-friendly language, quiet, a perfect fit for every child
What it is: fun, loud, high energy crowd, outdoors, great for people watching, entertaining, a sports fan’s dream. It’s also a place, where, if your kid is like mine, you may see smiles of pure joy that can’t be beat. PTFC!