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How to Catch the Olympic Spirit with Your Kids!

Walk with me down memory lane for a moment.  The year was 1996 and yours truly was an awkward high schooler with a desire in her heart to be a part of something bigger than herself.  That summer the Olympics came to Atlanta, GA, close to home for this Floridian.  I remember watching entranced by the Olympic Spirit and caught up in the passion of the games.  So many of the events are fun to watch but there is something special about the gymnastics, especially women’s gymnastics.  That summer was pretty monumental for those young girls, girls my own age…affectionately referred to as “The Magnificent Seven.”  I’m sure you can recall what I am referring to.  Just in case you don’t remember let me take you back.  In the final round of the team competition Russia was leading by .87 of a point.  USA needed to show up big time in order to take the All around Gold medal.  Unfortunately some of the women faltered and one of the women fell twice on the uneven bars.  No one really remembers that though because of what happened next.  Kerri Strug was on her final rotation-the vault and fell on her first attempt badly damaging her ankle.  At this point all seemed lost for Team USA and it looks as if they would be destined for the silver medal.  Cue: Unfathomable Olympic Memorable Moment.  With a badly sprained ankle, Strug took to the ready position for her final vault.  With the weight of the world on her teenage shoulders she ran as fast as she could before catapulting herself into the air twisting and rotating her body in a matter of seconds to land almost perfectly, on.her.feet.  She quickly raised her ankle from the ground into what is now a legendary pose, saluting the judges and securing the gold medal for the United States.  She had done it!  With the bravery and courage only a fearless young athlete could muster she declared that she too was a part of something bigger than herself.  She won the medal for her team and her country.  A truly memorable Olympic moment. 

I still get goosebumps thinking about it and, interestingly enough, the way I felt in that moment, with tears running down my cheeks led to my first published written word.  I was so inspired that I wrote a letter to the Editor of my local newspaper commenting on the spirit of the games.  It was published and I had my own little Olympic victory.

All that to say, I am just a teensy weensy bit excited about the opening ceremonies tonight! How about you?  We will be watching with our boys (5 and 3) and here are FIVE tips to make the most of time in front of the tube:

1. We are planning on recording the events and watching on DVR, so we have at least a 15 minute delay.  Why?  So we can pause or fast forward through the commercials.  Sure not all commercials are bad but we want to be able to sensor graphic or sensual images that often times come in major advertising.  We also want to be able to sensor the national news coverage.  Because NBC is airing the games there will most likely be a lot of promotion for their news programming and in light of the tragedy in Colorado and overall violence in the news we want to be able to monitor what our boys are consuming via the television.

2. We are prepping the boys on what makes the Olympics so special.  If you haven’t thought through this yet, it’s never too late to start.  What does make it special?  For me, the things that first come to mind are almost all of the countries of the world coming together for a common purpose, the American pride, the stories of the athletes themselves, so many teachable moments on sportsmanship, geography, hard work and perseverance.  For instance, Our boys know that the Olympics are being held in London this year and that provided a great opportunity to teach Owen (our five year old) some basic geography starting with Scottsdale as his home, in the state of Arizona, in the country of the United States, the Atlantic Ocean separating our country from Europe and where London was.

3. We want to take advantage of teachable moments, priority #1 for us: Sportsmanship! As a Mama to two boys, one of which is so very competitive that tears are often shed over a simple board game, any chance we can get to talk about winning and losing is one we will gladly take.  The spirit of the Olympics is always powerful at the end of a race or competition when athletes shake hands and congratulate one another.  We are practicing this already at home and seeing people do it on TV will be a wonderful reinforcer.

4. We want to talk about hard work and dedication.  Instant gratification is something that I struggle with in this digital age and I can only imagine how hard this will be to overcome as my children grow up.  It is no easy feat to become an Olympic athlete and we want to talk about practice, not giving up when things get hard, and following through with a goal.  Sure our boys are young and haven’t even started to play organized sports yet but this is a time to lay the foundation for the attitude we want them to have in life and these lessons are certainly not exclusive to the Olympics.

5. Finally, it is a chance to gather as a family and create some fun memories.  We are having our own opening ceremony party tonight just the 4 of us.  During the parade of Countries we are going to have the boys pick their favorite flags and then look them up and find where that country is on the map.  I also printed out a simple coloring sheet of the American flag for them to color.  You can print it out here.   Later this weekend we are going to make our own medals (gold, silver, and bronze card stock and ribbon) and it is my hope to give them out to each other for things we think someone in our family excels in (ex: Daddy gets a gold medal for being the best tickler in the family).  I am not a naturally crafty Mama so when I see a theme I am going to jump all over it for inspiration.

I hope this has encouraged you to think about the Olympics as a family activity, I am so excited!  I can’t wait to watch the swimming and gymnastics and the marathon.  Those runners are so inspiring to me!  So how about you?  Are you excited to watch the Olympics?  How are you going to watch with your family?  Go Team USA!!

P.S. The US Swim Team has gotten on the “Call me Maybe” bandwagon.  While swimming may seem like an individual sport, I love that they came together as a team and made this:

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2 Responses to How to Catch the Olympic Spirit with Your Kids!

  1. Beth July 27, 2012 at 8:17 am #

    such great ideas! I love the map and flag lesson. We used to hold our own Olympics with our friends in their backyard. The making of the medals, laying out the events, judging – it was a full week’s worth of work and excitement!

  2. Ron Palm July 27, 2012 at 8:19 pm #

    I enjoyed your story, it brought back those precious moments in our family’s life when my son Robby was “7” and my daughter Katherine was “5” in 1996. As I read your story, I revisited that space in time and the magic of that memorable point in time for me while we tried to share the Olympic excitment with our children. I close my eyes and smile at the thought of Robby & Katherine sharing what they thought as we watched and shared that experience with us.

    Thank you for the warm & fuzzy smileback,

    PS I just smiled again at the thought of joy we will enjoy when our children relate their Oiympic Parential moment with us down the road in our lives.

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