The last time I played with a four year old I was four
April 5, 2010 3:26 PM   Subscribe

Is a four year old too young to enjoy/remember going to see basketball?

I've got my niece for a day coming up and I need to figure out something to do with her... Do you remember going to any games at that age? Or is there some other trip you remember from that age? They live across the country so I don't expect to see her every so often growing up, but I'm hoping to give her something exciting and special to remember or to sort of connect with my name and face when I call her. Would another activity be more memorable do you think? Other ideas?
posted by golakers to Human Relations (23 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I remember going to a game of the World Series at 4 years old.
posted by The World Famous at 3:28 PM on April 5, 2010

I don't remember any individual sports events from that early, but I do remember that we went, and that it was exciting, and that I liked going later on because I remembered how much fun it was.

I know my girls always had a blast at sporting events even as babies, because it's exciting and it's fun to have a place for sanctioned screaming and because people think kids at sporting events are pretty cute and they get a lot of attention. Plus, junk food and souvenirs. Hard to go wrong.

So get her a shirt or a hat and a hot dog and a frozen lemonade or whatever the fun treat is, and scream real loud, is what I say. And take lots of pictures, because my girls get a massive kick when a picture rolls through the screen saver slideshow of Baby Them at sporting events.

She'll remember that you guys had a fun, crazy, screamy good time.
posted by padraigin at 3:34 PM on April 5, 2010 [3 favorites]

I certainly remember NOT being taken to the 1979 World Series at age 4, while my brother was.
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:35 PM on April 5, 2010 [5 favorites]

There isn't a single thing I remember before I was 5, and that was a major earthquake. I also remember breaking my nose at age 5. Lots of people have some memories from earlier, though, I'm just saying that it's possible that no matter what you do, she won't remember. Unless, you know, some buildings fall down.

I do, however, know about some cool things that happened when I was younger, because the stories were always told, and in some of them I've re-created memories that I know aren't real memories (I also have a very vivid memory of visiting my mother in the hospital when my sister was born at age 4... but that didn't actually happen, so I know my brain has some false memories floating around in there).

And... you're not asking will she remember in 20 years, you're asking if she'll remember in a month or so when you call her. In that case, I don't really think any event in particular will be more memorable than a Fun Day spent with Uncle GoLakers :), especially since I have reason to believe you are a big basketball fan and you will make the day especially fun.
posted by brainmouse at 3:37 PM on April 5, 2010

I saw Raffi in concert at age 4. I remember "Baby Beluga" sounding much better live than it did in my Playskool cassette player.
posted by sallybrown at 3:49 PM on April 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

Buy an enormous tub of popcorn just for her... and she'll be sure to remember.

Also, if it's an NBA game, you might considering getting some ear-plugs. I have had to leave several events/movies because of loud volumes.
posted by jimmereeno at 3:59 PM on April 5, 2010

It's not really about what they'll remember when they're 30. It's what they'll remember the next morning, and those memories go on to build life experiences. My four-year old daughter doesn't remember some (huge) events in the past, but she does have one hell of a detailed memory. She uses the memories she has now to make decisions about her world.

I don't have a lot of memories from before 5 years old, but I probably liked racing BMX between ages 5 and 10 because my mom apparently went apeshit with encouragement when I'd fly down the sidewalk on my tricycle when I was three years old.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 4:00 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

A lot of research says that babies' and children's brains develop the ability for long-term memory that they can meaningfully recall later in life around age 3 (some research says it can happen even earlier than that). Emotional cues related to an experience also encourage memory retention by a lot--having a lot of fun, having affection for the person one's with, etc.--so take her, and have the greatest time ever! :)
posted by so_gracefully at 4:05 PM on April 5, 2010

She will have a great time, if you remember you are there for her to have a great time. Don't expect to give the game the kind of attention you ordinarily would, and every minute of the great time won't be about the game either, but about being with you.
posted by Some1 at 4:11 PM on April 5, 2010

Not basketball, but we took our then-5 year old to a major league baseball game. It was scary-loud, and we left after the third inning. I think an indoors basketball game would be worse in that regard.

Does your city have a zoo? Our kids always loved the zoo at that age, and it's also a place where they can run around if they need to.
posted by mosk at 4:13 PM on April 5, 2010

I have 9 grandkids. I took them everywhere. Not one can remember any thing we did at age 4.
posted by JayRwv at 4:38 PM on April 5, 2010

Guessing from your name that you really like basketball. Does she really like basketball too? Is she OK with loud events? Some kids don't like loud places, and it's hard to talk to someone over the noise and ear plugs would make it even harder. How comfortable is she with you? My instant reaction is that she's going to be in a loud, crazy place watching adults play a game for several hours, away from her parents and usual routine with an adult she doesn't know very well. Will it be memorable and will she connect your face to it? Almost certainly. But maybe not in the good way you're going for.

A lot depends on her and the kind of relationship you have with her. Remember that in addition to being a child, she's also a human being, so you can also ask her what she wants to do, but keep in mind that just because she's agreed to do something doesn't mean that she fully grasps what she's agreeing to, so also check with her parents. One more thing to think about: taking care of a child means putting your own desires aside, including your desire for her to think of you as fun and exciting.
posted by AlsoMike at 4:51 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

I took my son to his first baseball game when he was 2 1/2, and we've been to several more since. He's now 4 and certainly remembers them with great enjoyment. Whether he'll remember as a grownup I don't know, but does it matter?

That said, if you live in a place with an impressive zoo, most kids like that more.
posted by escabeche at 4:52 PM on April 5, 2010

I can remember significant bits and pieces of the first movie I saw in the theater, at age 3 - it actually had sort of a big impact on my life, although the reasons why are irrelevant here. But I know from photographs I was taken to do all sorts of things when I was 3, 4, 5 and older that I retain no memory of. That doesn't mean they didn't make an impact on me in some way, though. I don't think whether a child will remember an event later is a really good reason for doing it or not - just whether or not you think she will enjoy it now. If you want something that's definitely going to be memorable, give a nice thing she can keep rather than an event. (But don't skimp out on the event, whatever you decide it should be.)
posted by frobozz at 4:52 PM on April 5, 2010

Take her, but don't plan on staying the whole time. She might get overwhelmed by the noise or the people, so make sure she knows you can leave if it gets to be too much for her.

I say if you involve her in anything you are passionate about then she'll remember it. Not necessarily what you did with her, but the fun feelings will remain. For me it was working on cars with my dad. I certainly don't remember the first time I 'helped' him, but over the years it was kind of a special thing we did together. My other siblings didn't seem as into it as I did, so it was something I got to do with just him and me. It wasn't always fun, but I got my dad all to myself for that time. Even now, cars are always something I can talk to my dad about. If you are passionate about the game, take the time to explain what's going on (over and over), and buy her junk food and souvenirs, then she'll have a blast watching Uncle GoLakers at the game. You might even get another Lakers fan for life! Definitely take lots of pictures! Video would be awesome too, then she can watch it over and over to 'cement' the memory.

If you want the games to be your 'thing' with her, try sending her things in the mail. Lakers shirts in her sizes as she grows (so she can always wear your team), letters updating her on the players that she liked at the game, pictures of yourself at games, etc.
Also, you could have somebody take a picture of the two of you at the game then have it framed and give it to her to put in her bedroom at home.

P.S. Watch the junk food intake. Too much food and fizzy drinks added to excitement can be a recipe for puking. If you can try to get her a water bottle instead of soda, and it wouldn't hurt to bring some tums. And you might want to think about the bathroom situation. She will have to go at least once during the game. I don't know if sports arenas have family bathrooms, so you might have to send her in by herself. Talk it over with her before so she is comfortable with it, and bring hand sanitizer.
posted by TooFewShoes at 4:54 PM on April 5, 2010

If they don't remember the specific details of it, or anything about it, she'll remember the feelings associated with having a fun day out with a family member whom she loves, and who loves her -- and in the moment, memory be damned, she'll have a good time if you keep her fed and watered and engaged. TooFewShoes has very wise ideas about bathrooms and sodas and pictures.

The best thing you can do is make sure your own expectations are reasonable; don't expect her to remember it, or think you're the best person ever. Just go, have a good time enjoying her company. That takes pressure off her; you'd be amazed how impactful (negatively) pressure like that can bear on a child, even when you don't intend it.

And finally: be prepared to leave if they do have a meltdown or get physically sick. Nothing makes a kid feel safe like knowing their caretaker will abandon big epic events without complaint to take care of you (and you can imagine what "just sit down and be quiet, the game will be over in an hour" leaves a memory of.)
posted by davejay at 6:21 PM on April 5, 2010

My 10-year-old remembers a surprising amount about things that happened when he was three. Not necessarily the things I would expect him to remember.

Basketball could be good, especially if you know the venue well enough that you're not going to be stressed out figuring out how to get back to the parking ramp and so on; especially good if you can avoid getting into a situation where there's a big crush of people. That could be scary. A lot depends on the temperament of the 4 y/o you'd be taking.

One memorable thing I did with one of my kids at that age was dinner at a fondue restaurant. Child-friendly because it's one food per bite, not a bunch of suspicious grownup ingredients mixed together, and you'd most likely be doing a lot of the cooking for her, which will make her feel doted-upon. We brought a couple books, knowing it would be kind of a drawn-out experience, and that felt pretty luxuriant.
posted by lakeroon at 6:33 PM on April 5, 2010

Take video and pictures while she's there, and she'll remember it because it'll be reinforced every time she looks at the pictures or watches the video. And, yes, get her so much candy she makes herself ill. Most of my childhood memories involve someone buying me more sweets than I should ever have been allowed to eat.
posted by little light-giver at 7:32 PM on April 5, 2010

Maybe she will not remember or enjoy the experience as an adult does but I did take my son to a Nationals game when he was three and now, at age four, when he sees the aerial photo of Fenway park on my desktop, he says with authority "I've been there". He has not been to Fenway but I am fairly certain he is remembering that trip to the ballpark. He loved the action on field and in the stands as well as the feel of the park.

Me? I remember going to the art museum at age four. It made quite and impression on me. I went with my mother as it was something she wanted to do while my sisters attended ballet class. And there's the key — half of the visit is about *you*. I say go for it.

Echoing some of the other comments though — kiddies are sensitive to noise (this is a physical thing relating to their ear canal, IIRC) — and make certain it is family friendly*.

My boy loves any hands-on museum activity. The subject matters less than having the feeling that he is in control. You might think about things like that. Just today, in fact, even though he had no desire whatsoever to go to the National Arboretum, he loved it when he could set the agenda — in particular holding the map and directing *us* to our next location. And no, he can not read a map. Every child is different though so be flexible. (You might not stay for the entire game, for example.)

*(I would *not* bring my son to FedEx field, for example, after the experience I had there at an Eagles-Skins game. *I* don't even want to go back. I sometimes wonder about the two young boys a few rows in front of us whose mother was…well, let's just say I'm old school on this off-topic. Mothers, don't let your boys see you as anything but a saint.)
posted by Dick Paris at 7:41 PM on April 5, 2010

Nothing makes a kid feel safe like knowing their caretaker will abandon big epic events without complaint to take care of you

My earliest memory is of being 3 or 4 years old, and at a water park with my parents. My dad and I waited in a long, long line to get to the top of a water slide -- I remember the line because there were some teenage boys being sweet to me on the wait. We got to the top, and I took one look at the long drop and refused to go down, in his lap or otherwise. He picked me up, turned around, and walked me back down the stairs, smiling cheerfully at the folks we'd been waiting with and shrugging his shoulders.

So if you have to leave because she's frightened and overwhelmed, just know that that can be a wonderful, lifelong memory for her, too.
posted by palliser at 7:51 PM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everybody! I think I'll plan on taking her to the game with ear plugs and an escape valve to the kids museum in case she gets overwhelmed. You guys sound like great parents/guardians.
posted by golakers at 6:08 AM on April 6, 2010

She won't remember a thing. So take her to somewhere she'll enjoy - if it's a basketball game, great!
posted by feelinggood at 6:39 PM on April 6, 2010

I'd really love to hear how it went. Please come back and update!
posted by TooFewShoes at 9:25 PM on April 12, 2010

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