Invite neighborhood kids to your backyard or a nearby park and create your own Olympic games! Start with a torch run through nearby streets to set the right mood. Have all the invited athletes carry a flashlight, or create a pretend torch using paper-towel tubes and orange tissue paper. As an alternative, hide torches throughout your yard or the park and start off the games with a scavenger hunt. Once all the torches are located, celebrate with a parade.
Kids can compete individually, or you can form teams made up of siblings, whole families, or just friends. Or how about Main Street against Oak Street? Each team can make its own flag and wear t-shirts of the same color. Decorate your yard with flags from around the world or make an Olympic symbol (five interlocking rings) by taping streamers onto a large piece of white paper or inexpensive fabric. You could even use hula-hoops!
Use your imagination to come up with competitions that will work with your particular group (in terms of ages, interests, number of participants, and whether or not they're competing in teams). These ideas will get you started:
- 25-Yard Dash: Teams of five race on their hands and knees; each "runner" goes 15 feet and tags the next teammate who does the same, and so on until all team members finish.
- Shot Put and Discus: Substitute water balloons and Frisbees for the real things, and see who can throw them the farthest.
- Hurdles: Race through an obstacle course (obstacles should be lower than the shortest participant's kneecaps and should have soft edges and sides).
- Gymnastics: Freestyle dance and acrobatics on a soft mat.
- Pentathlon: Relay race with five silly legs: potato-sack, cartwheeling, crab-walking, egg-on-a-spoon, walking backwards, or whatever goofy method of locomotion you can come up with.
- Volleyball: String up a net or just a clothesline (make sure it's higher than the tallest child's head). Substitute a lightweight beach ball for a real volleyball, and challenge kids to toss it back and forth over the net.
Make gold medals for every participant by having kids paint small paper plates gold. Write "I Went for the Gold!" on the front and add a piece of yarn to let it hang around each participant's neck. In the real Games, winners receive a certificate as well. Consider creating your own. Be generous and clever with the categories: Award prizes for kids who come in first, but also those who try hard, show good sportsmanship, or compete with creativity and flair!
PDF Download a printable award certificate
Finish up your games with appropriate snacks. Try a potluck of ethnic dishes to go along with the international theme. Or let sports be your inspiration, with multi-hued sports drinks, cupcakes or cookies iced to look like soccer balls or bicycle wheels, or sandwiches cut into star shapes (for superstar athletes).