11 Ways to Keep Bored Siblings from Driving You Insane at the Ball Field

I’ve had several of you write and say that there’s nothing your younger kiddos would rather do than cheer on their brother or sister playing the game they love. These comments are often accompanied by photos of adorable youngsters sitting on the edge of their folding chairs in rapt attention to every pitch, secondary lead and batting stance.
For the rest of us, however, reality just isn’t that pleasant. My younger son used to require 76 trips to the concession stand, 41 trips to the restroom and at least a hundred times asking when we were leaving. If you’re in the same situation, then hopefully this post will help.
11 tried and true suggestions from veteran kid juggling ballpark parents. 
1) Have them keep the score book. Stop laughing. No, seriously. Elementary school kids can learn how to score a baseball game. It’s a good thing to know. (Makes you feel kind of important to have a special skill. That is until you become the designated scorekeeper every, single, game. But I’ll save that complaint for a different article.)
Teaching a younger sibling to keep the score book is a good way to share the game with him/her, making observations, discussing strategies, pointing out tactics and explaining the reasons behind them. We’re often chatting with other parents during games. Why not share some of that commentary with our kiddos? (I do realize that this idea may be easier said than done, but it’s definitely worth a try.)
2) Plan ahead for playmates. A few years ago, when my son Jack was a bored little tournament brother, we created a group text just for parents with younger siblings on our team. A couple days before each tournament, we’d all check in to see which kids would be there and who was bringing what in terms of toys and snacks. For tournaments when Jack was the only sibling, we’d bring a friend along. (Bringing an outside friend might not be an option for far away tournaments, but it was great for local ones.)
3) Hire a team sitter. If several parents are willing to chip in for the cost of a sitter to entertain and care for team siblings, then that’s money well spent. Get together with other moms to create a list of dependable sitters and take turns coordinating for each tournament. Sometimes older brothers or sisters or fun grandmas make the best sitters.

4) Make sure they’re comfortable. We’re all painfully aware that a kid’s whining level increases exponentially when they’re cold, hot, tired, feeling bad, hungry or thirsty. This, in turn, exponentially increases a parent’s need for alcohol (so I’ve heard).

Just like making sure your player’s bat bag is packed, plan for sibling needs on those loooooong days that often turn into nights at the field. Pillows, blankets, a sweatshirt, comfortable shoes, an extra change of clothes, baby wipes, a battery powered fan, plenty of snacks, their own chair and a place to retreat are essentials.
A small tent with bedding has been a life saver for many a travel ball parent with a deliriously tired little kid on their hands. It also makes a great play fort when they’re awake.
5) Extra bats, balls and gloves. One thing my son Jack and his roving pack of sibling companions often did to entertain themselves was start their own ballgame on an empty field nearby. The kids would be occupied for hours playing wiffleball, kickball, soccer and wall ball.
During one painful tournament, when our coach brought in three “stud guest players,” many of us parents began to migrate over to the sibling game where at least our younger kids were getting plenty of playing time. 
6) Lighten up on the rules and let them be kids. I remember a few years ago sitting near a mom who was constantly yelling at her kids, ages three and five, to sit still and watch the game. She was miserable. The kids were miserable. And we were miserable having to listen to her constant scolding and fussing. A daylong baseball tournament is no place to obsess over your kid’s clothes getting dirty or forcing them to stay within five feet of you at all times. Let them explore their surroundings, fetch home run balls from the woods, catch tadpoles in the creek, climb a tree, play in the dirt, eat some dirt. If several siblings are running around, playing together, take shifts with other parents to keep an eye on them. (See #3. It really is a good idea.)
Mom Leanne Magyarics advises “put them in their dirtiest play clothes and let them play in the dirt.”
Andrea Michelle Roten says “our youngest has his bag of ‘diggers’ and he only takes them to the fields. He can usually find dirt, gravel or something else to dig.
7) Have a team “fun bag” that comes to every tournament. Stock up on sidewalk chalk, masking tape, card games, coloring books, crayons, marbles, bouncy balls, play makeup, stickers, jump ropes, frisbees, play dough, matchbox cars, etc.
Danielle Schibi Sullivan suggests going to the dollar store for these items. “Let them create games with it… hopscotch, 4 square, road courses, etc. Dollar store ping pong paddles with balloons makes a great game of “Keep the Balloon Up.” 

“We have mostly little sisters on our team,” says Melissa Harrison. “We have a big bag of craft supplies that everyone contributes to (stickers, yarn, beads, pipe cleaners, whatever you want to clear out of your own craft stash). Sometimes they make such ‘wonderful’ works of art.”

8) Their own set of wheels. I know some of you cringe at the thought of packing a bike on top of the 7,864 other things you have to bring. And this idea isn’t practical for smaller, more crowded, tournament facilities, but I’ve seen youngsters entertained for hours off-roading on their bikes, scooters and big wheels, especially if there are puddles. Yee haw. (Don’t forget helmets.)
9) Books and other wind down activities. Yeah, I know you’re thinking, “books? Wow, she’s really scraping the bottom of the barrel now. What’s her next suggestion? Benadryl?” Well, no. That’s a different article.
When the kiddos are all “funned out,” it’ll be good to have some quiet time options so they can unwind. Lounging in their tent under a fan with a new book from the library, a coloring book or sticker book, is often just what the doctor ordered for some quality downtime.
10) Plenty of snacks and drinks. It’s common knowledge that a bored kid is a hungry kid. This phenomenon was first observed in younger siblings of the first Greek Olympians in 776 BC. (Also the year the first concession stand opened.) Greek parents complained for months about how many drachmas they spent on ring pops and Sour Patch Kids because they didn’t pack enough snacks that weekend.
Nearly 3,000 years later, it remains true. If you don’t have an array of fun and filling finger foods on hand, you’ll spend your 401k at the concession stand. Hint: bring items that they sell there – Twizzlers, blow pops, M&M’s, etc. (Hey, I never said this was a nutrition article.)
11) Last resort-electronics. I wanted to leave this one off. I really did. But let’s be honest here. There are times when you need an “in case of emergency, break glass” sort of contingency plan to divert the looming volcanic meltdown that’s sure to be heard near and far. When used sparingly, there’s no shame in a fully charged iPhone with a few favorite games on it. Hey, a parent’s gotta do what a parent’s gotta do.
We’d love to hear your ideas for keeping everyone happy at the ball field. So share them in the comments.


Angela Weight

Founder and publisher of Travel Ball Parents.com, Angela Weight is still a little shocked to be running one of the most popular youth sports parenting sites on the web. Click the ABOUT US tab to read her story.

3 thoughts on “11 Ways to Keep Bored Siblings from Driving You Insane at the Ball Field

  • May 31, 2018 at 6:39 pm

    I really like your 11 suggestions and will implement in upcoming summer workshops for school kids.


  • July 26, 2017 at 10:19 pm

    Great list! We have a lot of littles on our travel team and even at Little League, and they love play doh sets, hot wheel cars/racetrac, bubbles and large duplo blocks!! The blocks are always a hit and they love it, they never leave my car!


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