Football squares for kids: a Super Bowl tradition
We were picking numbers for our Super Bowl squares. I’ve done football squares for kids as long as I can remember, at least since 2004-5 when The Bigs would have first been interested in football (and especially since the Patriots were playing in those Super Bowls).
I learned about football squares a long time ago at one of my jobs. We had a football pool every week during the regular season where we ponied up (maybe $10, I forget) and picked the winners of games. I only vaguely remembered how that worked and I may have won once or twice during the four years that I worked at that company. I always looked forward to the Super Bowl because that was when we did “squares.”
For the two weeks between the playoff games and the Super Bowl, we’d recruit people to buy a square for $5.00.
The (grown-up) way it works is like this.
- Draw a 10×10 grid of 100 squares.
- Write the name of one team along the x axis and the other on the y axis.
- Sell each square for $5.00, for a total of $500.
- When the grid is filled in with names or initials, pick numbers. Write them along the axes, assigning a numbered pair to each square.
- Watch the game and award cash prizes at the end of each quarter based on the score. For example, if the score is 13 to 7 at the end of the quarter, the person who has the square with 3,7 coordinates wins the prize. Award $100 at the quarters and $150 at the half and final.
If you want more detailed instructions, other options, or to play online, go here.
Adapting football squares for kids
Football squares for kids is exactly the same as the grown-up version but no one pays to play. I divide up the squares evenly and let everyone write their names in a certain number of squares, depending on the number of people. But that is the end of fairness. More about that later.
Because no one is paying to play, the prizes are not money! (No gambling is involved here.) Instead, we give out age appropriate trinkets and candy. One year when we were feeling a little flush we gave out iTunes gift cards. Another year we gave out a small prize every time the score changed.
My son helped me finish the grid. I’d pulled cards out of a deck — ace through ten — and held them face down. (We have chosen numbers out of a hat in the past, but doing it with cards means I don’t have to sacrifice 10 sticky notes or rip paper into scraps.) He picked cards at a time and wrote the numbers along the axes on the grid of 100 squares. We picked for the Patriots first, then the Falcons.
There will be 11 of us at our Super Bowl party, so we each got nine squares and there’s on left over.
The reason you choose numbers after the names in the grid are filled in is so everyone has an equal chance to get “good” numbers. Good numbers are related to likely football scores. Having 5,5 is not so good. Having 7,0 is good.
When I first started football squares for kids, I let everyone see what the prizes were. Now I make mystery grab bags. I have let the kids choose which bag they want for each quarter, but for the past few years I have assigned the bags to the quarters because I make the half and final bags more deluxe, the same way it would be done if the prize was money.
So, while everyone has an equal chance to win before the numbers are picked, there have been some years where people have been bitterly disappointed by the numbers they ended up with. They’ve become inconsolable with a last-minute score change. It’s “just not fair” if someone wins two quarters and someone else doesn’t with any. Some people can’t handle it that the prizes are different. They can’t watch because they can’t stand the suspense.
At dinner last night we talked about they mystery square (4,9) that doesn’t have anyone’s initials. We thought if “?” wins a quarter we’d decide collectively what to do with the prize.
A learning opportunity
On one hand, football squares for kids can cause conflict. Typically if I win a quarter I give my prize to the kid who is thrashing about the unfairness of it all or likely to be. Sometimes one of the other kids does that. This year, two of my kids were with me when we bought the prizes so there is not so much tension related to the unknown. (What they don’t know is I have subsequently augmented the bags.)
On the other hand, football squares for kids is a fun way to learn that life isn’t always fair, that you win some and you lose some, that sometimes you need to share with those who are less fortunate than you, that your brothers are kind of generous after all, that it’s only a game, and so on.
Why not give it a try?
What are some of your Super Bowl traditions?