I’m a fan of watching the Olympics, but I’m even a bigger fan of watching it with my kids. The Olympics is a great conversation starter. There is much that can be learned from the sports and the athletes and from the Games.
Hard work, determination, sportsmanship, courage, teamwork, endurance, and perseverance are just some of the character traits that the kids get to see in action. The athlete profiles in particular allow us to discuss the importance of those traits in getting them to where they are now.
The Olympics makes this huge world feel smaller and provide an easy forum for learning about different countries, their flags, traditions, and geography (have a map or globe nearby for those moments when a child pipes up with “where is Algeria?”).
There isn’t anything that brings out the flags and anthems and feelings of pride of country more than the Olympics. In our family, we are cheering for Canada (of course!) and Ethiopia (because two of our precious kids were born there) and the Netherlands (where The Husband’s parents are from).
The Olympics is a visual for kids of what can happen when you set goals, pursue your passion, work hard, and don’t let obstacles get in your way. Watching Natalia Partyka of Poland compete in ping-pong with only one hand or Oscar Pistorius from South Africa, the world’s first double amputee to compete in the open Olympics in running is inspirational. It is also a great way to show my special needs kids that the only limits that exist are the ones we put on ourselves.
There is something about all cheering for the same thing that brings a feeling of unity. We also made our own backyard Olympics and cheered each other on!
Winning Isn’t Everything
The Olympics is full of inspiring stories of people who beat the odds just to get where they are at and who are winners without ever stepping foot on a podium. At the last Winter Olympics, Canadian figure skater Joannie Rochette stepped onto the ice and skated two days after the unexpected death of her mother, winning the bronze medal in an emotional performance dedicated to her mom. Just lacing up her skates after such a loss made her a winner.
There is much that can be learned about history through the Olympics (from Ancient Greece to years that the Games were boycotted and the reason for that to conflict between countries). This year, just the Opening Ceremonies alone gave us enough material to talk about for a long time (wars, the Industrial Revolution, popular culture…)!
Those are just a few of the reasons that the couch will be our classroom for the next few weeks!