Thursday, August 29, 2013
The Goofy Olympics
During the Olympic season one year, I came up with an idea to give my bored little ones and their friends something to do. We had our own Olympics. Most of the events were just variations on standard party games, but by representing them in a homemade Olympic format, it turned out to be a bit hit.
We started by calling it “The Goofy Olympics,” so they understood the wacky tone of the event from the beginning. While everyone changed into shorts and t-shirts, I quickly crafted prize medals. Now, here in New Orleans, gold, silver and other colors of aluminum Mardi Gras doubloons are plentiful, so I hot glued these to ribbons. Until I thought of using Mardi Gras doubloons, I planned to cover plastic poker chips or cardboard disks with foil for the same effect, which anyone could outside of Mardi Gras range can access.
To prepare the field, I made borders for lanes out of crepe paper, just stretched across the grass. I soon realize they needed to be secured in some way, so I made little u-shapes out of wire coat hangers and shoved these into the ground to hold the crepe paper in place.
Instead of “pin the tail on the donkey,” it was “pin New Orleans on the Map of the US.” Shot putt became tossing a beach ball into a laundry hamper. Discus was Frisbee throwing at a target (instead of for distance, so we wouldn’t lose it over the fence.) Because my yard’s not that big, speed races lapped back and forth from the fence on one side of the yard to the other. We had slow-motion races, but those were more difficult for the littlest ones to comprehend. They kept running all out. And there was broad jump, high jump, and hop-skip-and-jump jump.
We kept a formal score sheet, so the more eager contestants could keep checking their status. And to add the right atmosphere, we played the themes from “Rocky” and “Chariots of Fire” in the background.
Because our “contestants” ages ranged from about 2 to 8, I had to find ways to equalize the challenges to give everyone a fair chance at a medal. Older kids had to throw off-handed and, of course, starting lines were moved up for the little ones. Some times I’d announce the judging criteria after the event to make sure everyone would win something. The “crawling under two low chairs” event definitely favored the youngest.
At the conclusion of each event, the winners stood on cinder blocks of varying heights to receive their medals while I played the Star Spangled Banner on kazoo (I didn’t look for a recording, because I thought the kazoo would be funnier, which it was.)
So, I spent a few minutes putting together a one-day goofy event for some bored children, and it was a hit that kept them busy until the sun went down. They enjoyed it so much, they asked to do it all over again the next day. Although I was tied up and couldn’t be outside with them all day, I could still keep tabs on things. So, I challenged the two 8-year olds to be the judges instead of contestants and manage it themselves. It worked. The event was another success, and included even a few more kids than the first day. The 8-year olds rose to the occasion, using their imaginations to modify a few of the games and picking up the beginnings of some leadership skills along the way.
So, when are your next Olympics?
Sid Berger - Guest Blogger
Chief Imagination Officer