Growing up, I absolutely loved the Olympics – the excitement, the competition, and the pageantry. I was thrilled by the exotic places I saw on television and fascinated by the young athletes.
Even as a young child, I remember my heart swelling as the Star Spangled Banner rang out when the athletes received their gold medals. I loved “playing Olympics” in our living room and keeping track of the medal race between the USA and the Soviet Union. And, ok, I’ll admit it – I might have even had an embarrassing childhood crush on Bob Costas. Suffice it say, I really loved the Olympics as a kid!
But I didn’t understand until I became an adult how much I learned from experiencing the games with my family. Without even realizing it, I learned about teamwork, dedication, and pursuing a goal. I learned about geography and other cultures, about politics and patriotism. I saw male and female athletes competing at the highest levels, winning and losing on the world’s biggest stage.
So much as changed since I was a little girl watching the Olympics in my living room in the 1980’s. The Soviet Union is dissolved, Bob Costas has finally retired as the commentator, and I no longer have big bangs or a crimping iron (thank goodness). But what hasn’t changed at all is the magic of the Olympics.
The Olympics were a special part of my childhood and I’m looking forward to sharing the Games with my own children for the first time this February. The 2018 Olympic games are in Pyeongchang, South Korea and begin this Friday!
Here are a few fun and easy ways to make the most of the Olympics in your home this winter.
Start with an Olympic-themed Movie Night
Before the beginning of the Games, set the stage by watching movies about the Olympics! For younger kids, this is a fun way to introduce the process of the Olympics in one sitting (the years of training, the intense competition, the medals and pageantry). For older kids, it’s an entertaining way to build excitement and get into the Olympic spirit.
Go all out with popcorn and snacks and make it a big family event. Depending on the age and interests of your children, great winter Olympic movies to consider are Cool Runnings, The Cutting Edge, and Miracle. Parents will enjoy re-watching these nostalgic favorites, too!
Create Your Own Opening Ceremonies Parade
Little kids love parades, so what better way to kick off the Games than with your own Parade of Nations? This idea can be as elaborate or as simple as you want it to be. If you’re a “Pinteresty” parent, go big! If you’re not (like me), keep it simple. It’s just about making memories.
Tailor the experience to the age of your children. Toddlers will love carrying an Olympic torch (maybe a baseball bat wrapped in foil!) and marching around to the Olympic theme and the national anthem. For school-aged children, add more detail. Let kids pick a sport and a country to represent. They can dress up for their sport of choice and learn about their “home” country. You can find the country on a map, learn a little about the people and culture, and create the flag out of construction paper.
Once all the athletes are dressed and flags are ready to fly, fire up your Alexa, play the national anthems, and let the Games begin!
Try Out a Winter Olympic Sport
Get adventurous and try out an Olympic sport – or create your own version of one! Take to the ice at the Dr Pepper StarCenter in Frisco, which offers regular open skating hours as well as one-time learn-to-skate classes. If you’re interested in skiing, several DFW area ski shops (including Sun and Ski) offer indoor instruction for first-timers.
Want to experience the fun of the Olympics without leaving home (or spending money)? All you need is a little imagination. The driveway can make a great mock ice rink for a family hockey game and roller blades can transform into speedskates for a big race.
Older kids might enjoy reading up on some of the more obscure winter sports (like curling) and trying to re-create a version at home. Texas kids will get a kick out of exploring these lesser-known winter sports and trying something new.
Keep Score with the Medal Count
This is sort of like Fantasy Football for the Olympics and will be especially fun for older children. Each child can draft a country to “be” for the two weeks games (the Netherlands, Canada, Germany, and Russia are historically top performers, but “underdog” countries could be fun too!). Kids can learn about their countries and make a medal count scoreboard.
This is fun for a couple of reasons. First, it is another chance for children to learn about a new country (in a way that is appealing to older children, especially sports fans). Also, everyone loves a competition. Finally, all of the events become more fun when you have someone to cheer on. Having a “team” encourages kids to watch events that might normally be outside of their interests and to experience something new. Of course, we will all be cheering for Team USA but it is fun to support (and learn about) other countries, too!
Set Up Your Own Commentators/Judges Booth
Kids will love pretending to be commentators for the Games! This is a very easy, spontaneous way to involve children in watching the events. You can have a host “in the studio” to introduce and preview the upcoming event and then “on the scene” commentators to give the play by plays.
Mute the TV when the events start and encourage your little commentators to introduce the athletes and narrate the performances. This gives kids a valuable opportunity to enhance their verbal skills through pretend play and actively engage versus passively watching. (Props are a plus and are super easy – a spoon makes a great microphone!)
Another simple idea is to be judges for subjective events like figure skating. Make simple scorecards to hold up and have fun announcing your opinions. You can even keep track of your scores in a quick spreadsheet and see how your rankings match the real judges at the end of the event.
If you really want to go all out this February, combine all of the ideas above and host your own Olympics. Round up the neighborhood kids, pick several crowd-pleasing events (street hockey, sprinting, even potato sack races) and let the Games begin! The kids are guaranteed to have a blast and you are certain to earn a gold medal for creative parenting!
Now, more than ever, it seems the world needs something positive, something to celebrate, and something to bring everyone together. Enjoy the magic of the Olympics and incorporate some quality family time into the mix.