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Flipping the Gridiron: Tackling My Son's Obsession With Football

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When I met my husband 14 years ago, he turned me into a football fan. He was passionate about his team, and I joined his bandwagon. Now, our 4-year-old son has done the same. But he, well, he has taken it to an entirely new level.

The kid is obsessed, and until lately, it was driving me crazy! What did he want for the holidays? A football helmet. What does he do every single morning with his basket full of horses and other animal figurines? Set them up to play a rousing game of football, of course. "Who do you think will win, Mom?" he asks me repeatedly. I was finding myself worried about this scenario. He loves football, but I absolutely do not want him to play football as a little kid. Beyond this, I was also concerned that being crazed for football was making him -- I'll be honest -- less intelligent. I know I shouldn't care about that, but it frustrated me to ask him what he did in preschool that day, only to be answered, "We played football," followed by a detailed description of the game that I know they didn't play.

Yes, I want to spark other interests in our son, and believe me, we try. But in the meantime, instead of fighting against this football obsession, I'm embracing it and turning it to all of our advantage! Taking this new perspective has been such a relief, and it's making us happier. Below are the four key ways that we are using our son's obsession to springboard to get him excited about math, reading and other cognitive skills through football.

  1. Jersey Numbers: He always wants to know players' numbers. "What number is RGIII? What number is Peyton Manning? What number is RGIII?" He has them on rotation! Now, instead of simply telling him a number to satisfy him, I'll write it out and ask him to identify the number for me. It has been the quickest way yet to get him recognizing larger numbers. Ok, so he might still say "two-ty-three," but he's getting there.
  2. Memorization: We've started keeping track of information that we already shared with our son. What is the name of Seattle's team? Who is the 49ers quarterback? Does Baltimore have a team? We used to answer the same question multiple times just to get peace and quiet. Now, we track what he already knows. I'll say something like, "Hey, I remember Daddy told you about Seattle's team yesterday. Can you remember what it is? I'll give you a hint, it starts with a s-s-s sound." Now, he knows it's coming and earnestly tries to remember on his own before asking us.
  3. Score Math: We play all sorts of games with scoring and football. When his horses are "playing football," our son will shout, "They scored a field goal!" I'll be honest, I used to try and get him to play quietly. Now, I ask him, "How many points do the Austin Familiars [yes, that's the name of his favorite made-up team] get for a field goal? And how many points did they have before the field goal?" Then, we count up the points together and keep a running tally as he plays.
  4. A Reading Habit: We still get the paper newspaper delivered each morning. We used to answer incessant questions about the sports page. Now, my husband sits him on his lap, peruses the entire paper, saving Sports for the end. It has gotten our little guy truly excited to read the newspaper each morning! Of course, he asks about every single football photo, but now he also reads the comics with his dad, and I've noticed an uptick in his interest in any children's book that has to do with sports. His new book obsession is with wrestling and a great little story called , a tale that builds on his interest in sports, and also allows us to talk about characters and emotions with him.

So, while I'll still try to get our little guy to turn his attention to the arts or other sports, I'm going to go ahead and indulge this interest for now. What tricks do you use to turn your kids' interests (obsessions?!) into something positive?


This was originally posted on Zoobean's blog.