Let the games begin! The Olympics bring together athletes from across the world to compete in sports such as gymnastics, soccer, and track and field. The Games are a wonderful way to get your child excited about sports while also teaching them about sportsmanship, friendship and respect, and perseverance. Here are some ways to help your child catch the Olympic spirit while developing valuable social and emotional skills that can better prepare your child for school and life. (Oh, and they’re fun, too!)
Make an Olympic Flag. The interlocking circles on the Olympic flag serve as a symbol of friendship between competing countries. Celebrate the games by making your own Olympic flag. Help your child draw or paint the five colored circles (red, green, blue, yellow, and black) on a piece of white construction paper or cardboard. Then tape or glue paper onto a popsicle stick or straw. Afterwards talk about the similarities and differences of people from different countries. Explain that while athletes come from around the world, speak different languages, and celebrate different cultures, they share many similarities and interests. It is important to appreciate the similarities in the friends we make while also celebrating the differences. You can even have your own Olympic parade afterward!
Watch an Olympic Competition. There is nothing better than the Olympics to watch good sportsmanship in action. Choose an Olympic sport to watch with your child. While watching, ask your child what she thinks it means to be a good sport. Point out different ways the Olympians treat each other with respect. During individual sports, athletes often shake their opponent’s hand at the start of a game. During team sports, athletes work together and cooperate to achieve a common goal. Athletes show good sportsmanship by being respectful of their teammates and the other team, regardless of whether they win or lose. In fact, during the Olympics both teams congratulate each other on a job well done when the game is over. Remind your child that it’s about how you play the game and try your best, not about who wins or loses. It’s important to have fun, play fairly, and be proud of individual accomplishments, such as helping your team score a winning goal.
Create an Obstacle Course. An obstacle course is a great way to teach persistence. Use balls, pillows, and other household items for your child to jump over, run around, and crawl under. If your child gets frustrated completing one of the obstacles, remind your child that through practice and hard work she can overcome the obstacle. Point out that athletes often get frustrated, but that they persevere and try their best. You can also remind your child about the power of “yet!” This simple word conveys the idea that it takes practice, commitment, and self-control to learn new things. It’s not that your child can’t do something, it’s just that she just can’t do it “yet.” This idea can give your child the encouragement she needs to persist and feel good about her accomplishments.
Make your Own Medal. No Olympics can be complete without an awards ceremony. Together, make your own Olympic medal and talk about what it means to feel proud. Cut out a small circle using construction paper or cardboard. Use gold and silver markers or paint to color the medal. Punch a hole at the top and place ribbon through the hole. Then ask your child how he thinks an athlete feels when he or she wins an Olympic medal. Explain that proud means when you feel really good about yourself because of something you have done. Ask your child to think of a time when he worked really hard at something and felt proud. Encourage your child to march around with his Olympic medal and think of the time that he felt proud!
The Olympics provide thrills and excitement, but also endless teachable moments that can help your child love to learn. Take advantage of the games this summer and turn the excitement of the Olympics into valuable learning opportunities. Watch together and help your child become smarter, stronger, and kinder!