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Three Ways to Use the Olympics as a Learning Opportunity for Children

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  Written by Nicole Skellenger on 11 Aug 2016

If your family is anything like mine, you may have a lot of Olympics television watching in your near future. While many of us may limit screen-time at home, the Olympics may be an exception in your home, and it is in mine. Thankfully, there are a variety of learning opportunities for our kids as we watch the games. As we watch the Olympics, there are many themes to discuss with kids including sportsmanship, winning and losing, hard work and dedication, exercise, and the list goes on and on. However, globalism is what is most uniquely Olympics. We don’t often see people from all over the world in the same location for a positive reason, for sport. Here are just three ways to get your kids connected to the world while watching the summer games:

  1. Geography – Perhaps you might take out a map or a globe and point out locations of the countries and each team completes. You may talk about which hemisphere the country is in, the nearest bodies of water, climate, etc. If your children are old enough, you may even be able to talk about what other names these countries have had, or what type of government is in power.
  1. History – The opening ceremony offered an opportunity to talk about several important topics with our kids in a joyful way, couched with bright colors, music and dance. The ceremony presented an overview of Brazilian history, the portrayal of these issues was done in such a way that a parent could explain what a child is seeing in an age appropriate manner – including immigration or slavery. Depending on your child’s interests, the Olympics could be a great opportunity to go where their curiosity leads, whether that be a specific sport, country, historical dress, or anything in between.
  1. Culture  – You many notice and discuss cultural differences between teams. For instance, a Russian gymnastics floor routine may include more turns and what looks a bit more like ballet, reflecting their cultural background. You may talk about what a celebration might look like for a country’s team. What types of music might they listen to? What foods would they eat? You may even create a small celebration incorporating what you learned about a specific country.

There are countless other ways to enrich the experience of a watching the Olympics for your children. Simone Biles’ adoption story may also be a topic of discussion, talking about the ways that families are built. You may also point out the similarities between countries or have your child point them out– Did you notice that all of the synchronized divers are counting to 3 before they dive? Did you notice how many Olympians from different countries had selfie sticks at the opening ceremony? While we are worlds apart, we are also alike in many ways.

For children born abroad, this may also be an opportunity to see their country being represented in a positive way. Because many of the countries where internationally adopted children were born are resource poor, that is often the focus of what we learn about these countries through typical news media, but we know there is so much more! The countries may boast beautiful vibrant dress, a history of vivid storytelling, an impressively resourceful food culture, rich cultural traditions and list goes on and on. The Olympics offer an opportune time to discuss and celebrate your child’s country and culture.

In sum, don’t feel too badly about letting your kids watch too much television during the Olympics, it’s just a televised learning opportunity!

Photo Credit: Akiwitz



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