Transform the buzz of the upcoming London Olympics into a backyard festival for your kids and their friends! Take a day or even a week to fully plan, prepare, and present the many elements that make this festival fantastic. From arts and crafts for invitations, programs, and crowns, to work with equipment, field prep, and sporty play, there’s plenty to engage everyone, young and older alike. Here’s how to host your very own Olympics:

Prepare. Have your child help you with these steps to get ready for the party:

  • Up to a week beforehand, decorate and give invitations to friends and neighbors. It’s great to have an appreciative audience! You can even call your friends to the competition with your very own homemade Olympic torch!
  • Discuss and decide your program of events, and write it up on a big sheet of paper (for the athletes) and, if you like, on smaller pages as programs for your guests.
  • Decide if the athletes will have “uniforms”, which could be as simple as shorts with colored t-shirts, and help them be sure they are clean and ready for their big day.
  • Gather music-making instruments (kazoos are always great) to accompany any parades or events, or select some tunes from your music collection to accompany the festivities.
  • Begin practicing the Olympic activities, and develop the rules you will need to agree on.
  • Make crowns to award all participants. Leaves woven with florist tape or wire or decorated paper crowns will make everyone feel honored, and a bead on a string or ribbon makes an excellent medal if you wish to acknowledge “winners”. (Make sure you have enough for everyone to get one!)
  • Prepare snacks for your guests and athletes, and plan an especially nourishing breakfast for the morning, and a family-friendly Olympic feast after the Closing Ceremony. 
  • Set up areas for your events, and seating for guests.
  • Choose a judge. At least one person is selected to be the honored judge, and can wear a sash or hat or other garment that distinguished his important and essential role. Judges should introduce each event and review rules so everyone hears them and understands them, and starts and stops each activity. This is a good job for a distinguished parent or older child.

Play. After a rousing parade of athletes, let the games begin! Any of these events are easy to understand, perform, and appreciate:

Beach volleyball: Set up a low net or simple rope at the average head height of the players. Using a lightweight beach ball or even a balloon, play volleyball with as few rules as possible other than “get it over the net”. Non-competitive scoring can be made by counting cumulative passes before the ball touches the ground.

Weight lifting: Children can create this event with everyday objects around the house and yard. Heavy cans (tomato sauce, for instance), boards, light hand weights, or even the family cat can stand in for a weighted object to lift. Scoring can be made by counting how long the athlete can lift the object. Add challenge and hilarity by having to carry the object from one place to another.

Jumping: A standing broad jump is simple to prepare if your space is small. Create some kind of marker for a starting line, and a simple stick in the ground to mark finishes. The front of the toe or back of the heel of the landing foot works well – just be consistent. Running and jumping over a low rope (held by helpers) is also an easy and fun challenge. After each successful jump, the height can be raised slightly for the next round. 

Jump rope: Whether single jumping with a short rope, group jumping with a longer rope, or even double-dutch, jumping rope is a sport everyone enjoys doing, watching, and counting, and everyone usually knows a song or two to accompany the jumps.

Balance beam: This can be as simple as a line on the ground, deck or driveway, or a raised 4 x 4 if you have one handy. Children can practice tricks such as walking with eyes closed, changing direction, turning, balancing a bean bag or small pillow on the head, one-footed balances, and fancy dismounts. Add music to enhance this event.

Rhythmic gymnastics with ball or hoop: Whether improvised or rehearsed, moving beautifully with an object is an excellent challenge. Music is essential for this event, which can be done in a designated “arena” that the children can clear and arrange for safety. Set a time limit, say, 1 minute, for the most beautiful dance event ever.

Running: Races can be short or long, depending on your space. If you have a crowd, relay races are not only fun but help children of various sizes and abilities work together. Old favorites such as three-legged or egg-on-spoon races are great for racers and viewers alike. Low hurdles and obstacles can be added for older children to go over, under, around and through.

Consider other unique events your landscape might inspire – rolling down a hill, for instance, running around the block, or climbing stairs. The children will have lots of ideas!

Finish your Olympics with a rousing Closing Ceremony with music, a parade of athletes, and the crowning of all participants for their courage and hard work. Then, let the feasting begin!