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Olympics out back

Start training future Olympians as you host your own events in the backyard

Start training future Olympians as you host your own events in the backyard

August 08, 2008|By CRYSTAL SCHELLE

For the first time in modern history, China is raising the Iron Curtain and opening itself to the world. Beijing, the capital of China, is hosting the Summer Olympic Games, and, during the next 17 days, athletes from around the world will compete for national pride and Olympic medals.

Although dragging the kids to the other side of the world might be out of the question, why not show them what the Olympic spirit is really about? Gather the kids, their friends and their parents for your own Olympic events. Some of the sports might require some field trips, but it'll be worth it. After all, sportsmanship isn't something that can be won in competition.

For all of these homemade Olympic sports, we strongly suggest adult supervision.

Judges, equipment and prizes

It wouldn't be a competitive sport without a panel of judges. Invite family and friends over for the evening to help judge as well as to root for your young Olympians.

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The great thing about medals is that kids don't really care if they're purchased or made. They just like getting them. Save yourself time and purchase some at a party store. Or cut out medals from hard cardboard, punch a hole at the top and weave a piece of ribbon through it. They'll all feel like champions.

Awards platforms can be made from sturdy wooden boxes that will support a child's weight. Be ready with a copy of "The Star-Spangled Banner" to play.

To keep the kids happy, award medals after each event, just like the real Olympics. Pick up some cheap, write-on-wipe-off boards for your judges to score. Ask your friends to come dressed as the country they want to represent on the panel.

The food

Traveling to foreign lands means tasting the cuisine. During at least one day of your hometown Olympic event, treat the hungry athletes to Chinese food.

If you're feeling like an Olympian chef, try "wok-ing" up a few Chinese dishes. Go to www.chinesefood.com for some simple dishes.

And, it might not be as authentic as the food our Olympians will be feasting on in Beijing, but at least here in the United States there's always Chinese takeout.

Synchronized swimming

Sure, the kids don't know who famed actress and synchronized swimmer Ethel Merman was, but that shouldn't stop them from doing a group activity in the pool. Synchronized swimming, or what was once referred to as water ballet, can be even more fun when there's a group of kids. Best of all, it can easily be done in the shallow end.

To get yourself a synchronized swimming team, get a group of kids into their bathing suits and give them each a cheap shower cap and $1 googles. With a marker, write "USA" on the shower caps and the team is ready.

Put on some music, provide some direction, and encourage team work. It can be done in the shallow end or in a wading pool. Don't be afraid to get wet yourself, jump in and show them your moves.

Badminton

Just think, if they only told you in middle school that badminton was an Olympic sport, you might have stuck with it. In fact, U.S. Olympian Bob Malaythong is on his way to becoming a rock star.

Badminton is a great game for hand-eye coordination. It doesn't take as much strength to hit a shuttlecock as it does, say, a tennis ball. There's some running involved and counting as they keep score. Kids can practice sportsmanship, which teaches tykes the true Olympic spirit. The most fun might be seeing how many times the shuttlecock gets caught in the net.

Trampoline

Yes, yet another Olympic sport to which many people respond with a "really?" But it actually is an Olympic sport. Athletes are judged on twists, somersaults and jumps. Erin Blanchard is the United States' only trampoline competitor this year.

If you have a full-sized trampoline, let the kids make up their own routine. Even with a smaller trampoline, the kids can each take a turn giving their artistic interpretation of the sport.

Always think safety. Set up spotters to prevent falls. Just don't block the judges' view.

Rhythmic gymnastics

This is one of the artistic Olympic sports that combines art with athletics. Although there were a few hopefuls, there are no U.S. Olympians in this sport this year.

The "official" ribbon-and-stick unit (simply called the ribbon) used in rhythmic gymnastics can be a bit pricey, but try a local party story. We found ribbons with pretty handles and long flashy ribbon for good twirling for less than $5 each. Or just take a dowel rod and attach about two yards of wide, light ribbon so athletes can see it wrap in the wind behind them.

Let the kids pick some good dance music and make up a two-minute routine. Who says Miley Cyrus can't be what they perform their floor routine to?

Parents might want to set up a few ground rules because in the hands of an inexperienced young Olympian the stick or rope might be a little dangerous. Most of these items can be easily found at a dollar store.




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