The Olympics – My favorite time of every-two-years

The 2014 Winter Olympics are coming up in a few weeks and I can’t wait.  Even though I’m not incredibly athletic nor much of a sports fan otherwise, the Olympics (either Winter or Summer) are one of my favorite things ever. It is not just about the athletic achievements but about the dedication and passion for something that humans can all strive towards. I also love the international aspect of it and how for a short time, it seems like we are all just one big human race and not separated by any boundaries.

Anyway, this is also a time that I think is full of teaching moments and opportunities for kids. I’ll break it down into the two most obvious themes.

International Unity

Politics aside (I’m not a fan of Russia’s anti-gay policies), I really love that people of all different races and cultures can come together in one city for 16 days and relate to each other as members of the same worldwide family. Theo received this game as a present a few years ago and I’ve always loved it, especially the back:

The game consists of matching up faces on cards, but each face is a picture of a child from a certain country. The back lists the countries the faces match up with. We’ve had more fun talking about the different countries and locating where they were on the map than doing the actual matching component.

We’re a little map-crazy in this household because my family growing up was very international (I’ve lived in multiple places in my life and each member of my family was born in a different country, on 3 continents). My brother currently lives in Europe and my husband/Theo’s dad lived in Germany for a few years, so I’d like to give Theo an awareness of our place (literally and figuratively) on this planet. In his bedroom, we hung a huge world map which we got from a wonderful local store that specializes in maps, Utah Idaho Supply / Map World:

From a very young age he was able to locate Salt Lake City, Utah on the map (“Where do we live?”) and also other key areas such as Richmond, Virginia (where my parents live), Seattle (where his cousins and aunt and uncle live) and, of course, London. We’ve also used it to identify the origins of different restaurants we frequent (India, Pakistan, Tibet, Thailand, etc.). It is a wonderful resource to have and cost around $30 at the map store.
I also bought these inexpensive placemats from a local toy store, which were about $5 each:
We used to keep them in the playroom as reference materials but started actually using them as placemats when we eat. I love the conversations that start out with just random observations about a place on a placemat.
All that said, the Olympics are a great time to discuss the different countries, identify them by their flag/uniforms (a friend of mine is looking for small versions of the worlds’ flags to show her daughter), locate them on the map, and discuss their cultures (and perhaps delve into skin color/ethnicity/race issues). When else do we have the chance to have so many “real-life” examples of people from different countries right on the TV in our own homes?
Sports/Athletic Determination
Whether or not your child (or you) is athletically-inclined, I think everyone can enjoy watching someone be at the top of their game and achieve a life-long goal. Being in Utah, we can appreciate the Olympics as a former host city, and create a sense of wonder and applicability by visiting various Olympic sites, like the Olympic Cauldron Park where you can see the torch, and the Utah Olympic Park and Utah Olympic Oval where actual events took place in 2002.
Theo the Future Gold Medalist
If your child gets inspiration from watching the athletes during the Olympics, lucky for us, we have options for training right here! At the Oval they have classes for kids in ice skating and hockey, but also in speed skating and curling (!). Figure skating classes start at age 3, speed skating at age 5, hockey at age 6 and curling at age 8. I’ve talked about alpine skiing for kids on a previous blog post, but some of the more esoteric sports like ski jumping and bobsled and skeleton are also opportunities you can try at the Olympic Park.
There are also the life lessons on continuous practice, determination, perseverance, and dedication that are sometimes hard to explain in a concrete manner, but that are easy to explain when you have a story and example to use in the form of these top athletes.

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