Every two years a vast amount of the world comes together in a rare moment of unity. For better or worse, the Olympics give nations an opportunity to interact with each other on a separate plane from the normal political agendas. For our kids, it offers a chance to value other cultures and countries, expand their vision of what makes up the world, and imagine future greatness for themselves. But, truth be told, watching random events on TV can lack some excitement. Here are a few ideas for connecting your kids to the events in order to add meaning to what they see.
Try This at Home
Many of the sports in the Olympics, especially during the Winter Games, can only be seen there. None of us catch the New York versus Miami Biathlon teams on NBC. Kids watching will lose interest in a flash because they can’t even begin to imagine what is going on. To combat this, take your kids to the park and reenact the sport as best you can. A slide becomes a luge. A hill becomes a ski jump. Even a vague familiarity helps kids feel part of what the athletes on your screen are doing.
Every Olympic Games ends with new heroes and thrilling victories: Nadia Comaneci, Jesse Owens, the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” hockey team, and so many more. Tell the stories of these people and events to your kids. Give them the chance to engage in the history of what is happening now. This also prompts them to put themselves in the story. What could they do? Who will they be?
Pick a Side … or Three
Adopt a few countries or athletes. Watch, keep track of their progress, and cheer for them. When kids invest on a more personal level, the events themselves mean more. As you follow their stories, especially during medal ceremonies, talk about how much work goes into to making it to this arena and how proud the athletes must feel to be there.
A great way to take advantage of the international aspects of the Games is to learn about the host country. Eat their food. Watch their cartoons. Learn how to say “hello” in their language. Especially in cases such as this year’s host, Russia, older kids can dive into some of the greater issues surrounding the country. What are their challenges? What are their strengths? Where have they come from?
Every kid is different. Some will begin to dream about the days they will be an Olympian. Others might not care. But spend some time giving them the chance to be inspired. Positive and peaceful national interactions like these don’t come around very often.