Raising Your Kids to Love your Alma Mater

    NCAA March Madness

    March Madness (AKA: NCAA College Basketball Tournament) begins today, and all I know is that this orange-and-blue household will be cheering for our Florida Gators. And, although our baby can clap along, she’s not quite sure why Mom and Dad are so excited watching the TV. If you can’t wait until the day your little one can yell “Go Gators (or insert: Knights/Bulls/Noles/Canes),” get a head start and begin exposing them now to your beloved sports team.

    Here are five ways to introduce your baby to your Alma Mater:

    Accessorize from the Very Beginning

    As my hubby and I are both University of Florida alumni, we knew our baby would be coming home from the birth center in Gator garb. I just didn’t want her covered in orange & blue (plenty of time for that later)! So her coming home outfit was a white onesie with pink dots, and I added pink Gator accessories to that: booties, a cap and a blanket — just perfect.

    maternity photo gators

    There is definitely no shortage of sports team apparel in this state! Whether it’s at an on-campus store or at Target, you can pretty much find a Gator bow, Knights onesie or ‘Noles tutu somewhere around town. Can’t find quite what you are looking for? The major universities all have online shops, but my fave place to find unique collegiate apparel is Etsy.

    TIP: On Etsy, don’t just search for your favorite sports team. Try searching by color combinations. A vendor on the west coast may not realize their black & gold baby headband is perfect for a little UCF Knight.

    Sports Shop quick links: FSU, UCF, UF, UM, USF

    Decorate Baby’s Room

    alligator blanket

    Now, I’m not saying to decorate the nursery in full-out garnet, black or gold, but subtle touches can easily be brought into consideration when planning Baby’s room.

    • Hang a framed photo you took of a campus landmark, or have a friend paint a fun picture.
    • Find linens using your favorite team’s colors.
    • Place a stuffed mascot doll in
      Baby’s room; bonus points if you
      find one that plays your fight song!

    Play by Play


    Kids learn through play, so this is the perfect time to introduce them to some of your favorite college traditions.

    • It’s never too early to teach your little fan the songs of your alma mater.
    • Help them with their hand/eye coordination by teaching them the Chomp, the Chop, or the U.
    • Play games! Whether you toss around a soft ‘Noles football, color in the USF Bull logo or find a musical alligator, incorporate your mascot into playtime.

    Visit Campus

    There’s no better way to show your child why you love your alma mater than a visit to the campus. Each one has its own unique history and holds a certain nostalgia.

    • Let your kids experience hearing the carillon bells, a visit to the reflecting pool, posing with campus statues or a stroll among other campus landmarks.
    • Bring a ball or Frisbee, and let them run around the same grass you used to lay down and study on.
    • A football game may be high on your list, but don’t forget to take your child to other campus sporting events, too. I’ve seen first-hand in Gainesville how excited little kids are to go to a gymnastics meet, or how they love to cheer on baseball players.
    • Many campuses have kid-friendly features — make sure to research them before you go. UF has the Florida Museum of Natural History and a cool football complex that any football-loving kid would love to see. Also, for the past six years UCF has hosted Light Up UCF, a family-friendly holiday affair.

    And For Good Measure…


    To ensure their blood pumps orange & blue, black & gold, or other color combo:

    • Show them lots of photos of themselves in your university’s colors!
    • Buy a team blanket and keep it in the car for impromptu picnics or playtime at the park.
    • Bibs, burp cloths, pacifiers, sippy cups, books — you think of it, and you can usually find a logo’d item, and if not, again, turn to colors. We recently found an orange and blue chevron print pacifier clip that we love!
    • For Baby’s monthly photo markers, use team mascots and colors. That’s 12 months of exposure to your team!
    • For your baby photo sessions, incorporate your fave team into some of the shots. (Why not start with maternity photos?!)


    Jaclyn Rhoads is the founder of Grow Gators. She is also a marketing communications professional and adjunct for the University of Florida’s new graduate degree in social media. She and her husband Jesse (a fellow Gator) are currently trying to teach their 1-year-old daughter Lily to do the Chomp.


    1. When we wanted the kids to raise their arms so we could get their little shirts off for changing clothes, we’d yell “Touchdown Gators!” They’d put their arms up in a touchdown signal, and off comes the shirt. Score! GO GATORS!


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