Every Friday night, you're in the bleachers. You're a faithful supporter of your kid's athletic activities, but is there a way to connect with your child while he's playing soccer? What about during your daughter's basketball games? Absolutely—and it won't take any extra time out of your day!

Game time is as fun for kids as it is for parents, and youth sports can provide ample opportunities to bond. You don't need to become the team coach to share meaningful moments with your kids during their games. Getting involved is easy with these ideas:

  1. Shake Up the Warm-Up
    You're already getting your child to the game in time for warm-ups. Instead of wandering around during the pregame practice, ask the coach if you can lead the team in a routine to get their muscles moving. Turn on face-paced music to pump everyone up as you help the team stretch out. Offer to collect runaway basketballs or serve volleyballs for some hitting practice. Not only will you burn a few calories, you'll also get to meet your child's teammates, offer some pregame pointers, and see how she interacts with the coach.
  2. Be a Cheerleader
    For some sports like swimming or tennis, it's not safe or polite to get too close to the action. Instead, flaunt your love and support more discreetly from the sidelines. If you have a banner, wave it. Wear the team's colors, a lucky T-shirt, or bring along a sign to show your team spirit. You can even bring your family dog and make him the team mascot—tie on a bandana to match the uniforms. Your kids will know you're paying attention, and you might inspire other parents to get proactive in cheering on their children, too!
  3. Lend a Hand
    Coaches appreciate helping hands on game days, so why not trade your seat in the audience for a position on the field? Help your kid's T-ball team get helmets on before they take the field or fill water bottles for the football team. By being involved with the team, you can sneak motivational high fives and words of encouragement to your child and his teammates during the game as you pass out orange slices—and possibly steal one for yourself!
  4. Pack a Snack
    Give them food, and kids will know they're loved! Fill a snack-size zip-top baggie with two healthy snacks (think grapes and pretzels, or dried fruit and carrots). Zip up the bag and clip a clothespin in the middle to keep the foods separate. Instead of finger foods, pack a smoothie in a plastic bag—when your kid is ready to eat, snip off a corner and let her slurp away. Short on time? Keep it simple with a post-game peanut butter and jelly sandwich (cut in the shape of a football, perhaps) and your hungry kid will be forever grateful.

The opportunities to connect don't end with the game. After she's done playing, greet your child with a special handshake and share your favorite part of her performance. Mix together kids, parents, and youth sports, and you've got a recipe for successful bonding. Next time you're sitting on the sidelines, get your head in the game and focus on your favorite little athlete.