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Let the Games Begin

The Olympics are an educational opportunity and wonderful distraction during the unpredictable month of February as Calgarians count down to Spring. With the right ideas and activities, you can keep your family entertained and informed before, during and after the games.

The Winter Olympics are coming to Canada in February and along with it, all the pageantry, color, excitement and learning opportunities a parent could hope for. From the little ones to the teens, there is something to do, learn or keep track of during the games, as well as cheering loudly for Team Canada. For the little ones, there is the excitement leading up to the start date of the Olympics; why not have your own countdown to the opening ceremony slated for February 12?

When the kids were little, I purchased a world book of flags with stickers, and the kids created their own flags of participating countries for the opening ceremonies. If you make the flags small enough, you can tape or staple them to straws and have your own parade of flags, add a little face paint, a winter toque and, presto!, an instant celebration around the living room, up the stairs and through the house. Take pictures. Who knows, maybe you have a future Olympian on your hands? Don’t forget marching music, along with a heart felt rendition of Oh Canada. Now that you have the kids’ attention, this lets them know that the Olympics are truly something wonderful and worth celebrating. Display the flags on the fridge or by the TV.

Flag books are interesting reminders of how vast and diverse this planet is. Each family member can be responsible for spotting certain flags. For the young ones, give them the Canadian flag to spot as well as those that pertain to your own heritage. Make it a treasure hunt. Look through newspapers and magazines and cut out pictures of flags and athletes; make a collage of pictures. The local papers always have terrific Olympic coverage. How many flags can you or your family identify before and after the games? Have your tween keep track of the statistics for the family. Who improved the most? Who memorized the most? Make up your own family flag, logo or coat of arms and display it proudly.

Your tweens can also keep track of the medal count, (I’m sure it is printed in the paper daily) but encourage them to gather their own information from more than one source. This is a skill they will need to develop for research and writing essays as they progress through the school system. Our family also created impressive life-size drawings of Gold, Silver and Bronze medals from past Olympic Games and kept those on the fridge, along with the changing daily medal counts that the children were in charge of. If you want to make medals to display, save the tops of frozen orange juice tins; they are nicely rounded with no sharp edges. Cover them with tinfoil, fabric or colored paper and glue a wide ribbon to the back. If the young ones want to wear the medals, you already know the ribbon could get caught and pose a choking hazard – so be careful.

The older teens, although they are busy balancing their own lives, can participate on a more mature level. There are always stories of triumph and tragedy that unfold during the Games. They could gather the stories making news headlines and share them at the dinner table. If your teen plays a sport included in the Winter Olympics, have them track an athlete. What was the road to the Olympics like for that person? Where did they train? What roadblocks did that athlete have to contend with: Funding? Injuries? Motivation? How did they balance a job, school and training? This is a perfect time to discuss your teens’ goals, whether they are sports-related or not.

Many topnotch athletes are not only leaders on the field, but they are leaders off the field as well. How does your teen share their particular talent with others? If your teen is going to be applying for a post secondary scholarship in the future, volunteering is one area that every awards committee looks at when making their decision. Never too soon to start discussing or planning the future with your teen or younger kids. The road to personal success takes dedication, courage, motivation and the ability to manoeuvre around roadblocks. See if they can make that connection for themselves while watching the games.

Yes, the Olympics are coming and, as promised, there are numerous teaching opportunities for families while waiting for, watching and reading about the Winter Olympics. Don’t just spend your time on the couch; spend your time participating with your own team of future Olympians! After the games, don’t forget to tune into the Paralympics that start in March. It promises all the drama, excitement and skill of the Olympics that precede it.

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