The Olympic spirit is in the air, and even though we are thousands of miles away from where the games will take place, there are still many great ways to cheer on Team USA. Even as a child, I looked forward to the Olympics to root for my favorite athletes and to relish the global camaraderie. The events are not only fun to watch, especially those that only get air time during the Olympics, but also there are many great lessons that can be learned from watching the games together as a family. We got a hint of this just watching the trials. The games can be a great way to teach our children about the world, different sports, and the all-important value of good sportsmanship. Here are some simple and fun ways to make watching the Olympics both entertaining and educational:
Research: The games can be about more than just sports, such as a unique opportunity to share the global spirit. Using a globe you can point out the different countries represented, where the games are taking place (England), and where they originated (Greece). New technology comes in handy here; there are some great apps with maps, country flags, and even brief explanations of how the different sports are played. Make a point to watch some sports your children may not have seen before, such as synchronized swimming/diving, archery or badminton. The app 2012 Summer Games is a great place to search for different sports and get basic facts and rules for each event. For young children, identifying colors on the flag and associating them with countries is a good way to get them interested. They might have fun with the app AllTheCountries, which has pictures and videos of all the countries competing in the games.
Values: Watching the Olympics can also be a great time to talk as a family about some important values associated with sporting events and life in general. For starters, point out examples of good sportsmanship — athletes shaking hands, congratulating each other, and cheering on their teammates. In our family, we established a rule that no matter who wins a sporting event, a board game or even a race to the car, everyone needs to shake hands and say “good game” or “good job.” This is a life lesson that is all too valuable, because nobody likes a sore loser. The Olympics are a great way to bring home the point that in the end it doesn’t matter who wins or loses but that just being there and representing one’s country is truly an honor and a privilege. As a family, you can also talk about how hard the athletes had to work to get to the games and the sacrifices they made along the way, such as moving, getting up early, and practicing for long hours. For older children who have found a sport they love, this can hit home, and for younger children who may resist going to practice, the lesson of perseverance and hard work will benefit them in more
than just sports.
Create your own Olympics: In between watching the games, try creating a few of your own. Invite some friends over if you have a backyard or meet at a park and set up some simple games with things you already have to make hurdles, a balance beam, or a blanket for somersaults. Encourage your kids to practice against themselves and cheer on the others. They will love trying what they have recently seen on TV. During the trials, my son thought he was the next Michael Phelps and though he is only fouryears old, the next day at his swim lesson he put so much gusto into his backstroke, I thought he might hurt himself. Depending on how involved you want to get, a great arts and crafts project would be to have the children make medals complete with your own medal ceremony.
For a few short weeks this month, before school starts and we are all back to our hectic routines, I suggest letting your children stay up a little later, bending the rules about screen time and enjoying some time together watching your favorite sports.
Go Team USA!