This summer's Olympic games and our obsession with them present a perfect opportunity to teach our kids some valuable life lessons.
It can be hard to teach kids to work together. We can force them to do projects together at school and encourage them to work as a team when they head to sports games, but sometimes that only goes so far.
Tip: Point out how well Olympic teams work together and connect that to their successes. In rowing, for example, teams must be completely in synch to get fractions of seconds ahead of their competitors.
The lesson: Good results really are a product of working together.
Most kids aren’t exposed to sports like fencing, rowing or taekwondo like they are to hockey, baseball or football.
Lesson: Through Olympics coverage, your kids may discover a sport previously unknown to them (or a better understanding of an unfamiliar sport) and want to try it themselves.
Tip: Most of the 36 different summer Olympics sports – everything from mountain biking to tennis – are accessible in Canadian communities.
Very few kids will ever sit down and try to memorize different countries’ flags, symbols and colours.
Tips: But as they watch the Olympics, they’ll start to realize that Dutch athletes are always in orange (even though the Netherlands’ flag has no orange on it), the Australian flag has a small Union Jack in its top left corner to represent its connection to the British Empire and the Japanese flag features a red circle on a white background.
Lesson: They’ll absorb this information and learn from it when they see these symbols in real-life situations.
Two years ago, the world got a feel for what Vancouver is all about. This year, it’s London; in two years, the spotlight will be on Sochi, Russia.
Tips: Between sporting segments, Canadian broadcasters usually produce a series of did-you-know type videos on the host city and country.
Lesson: Your kids may not yet have the attention spans (or interest) to watch a documentary on the history of England, but they may learn some interesting facts between boxing matches at the Olympics.
Lesson: Athletes’ individual stories of perseverance can be inspiring for anyone, especially kids.
Tip: Canadian cyclist (and, in the winter, speed skater) Clara Hughes has been quite open about her battles with depression and how she overcame tough times. Use her story – or any other example, such as Joannie Rochette skating following her mother’s death – as a conversation starter with your kids.
Lesson: Every Olympian had to start somewhere, even the superstars.
Tip: Remind your kids that at one time, Michael Phelps didn’t know how to swim. Even he took swimming lessons. Then he practiced, practiced, practiced until he was the top athlete in his sport.
Patriotism is infectious during the Olympics. Even your youngest kids will feel a sense of Canadian pride between July 27 and August 12.
Lesson: They’ll see more Canadian flags, hear chatter about Canadian athletes (we’re sending over 200) and learn that us Canucks have plenty to cheer for on an international stage.
Tip: Start a family chant of “Go Canada Go!” and everyone will be feeling the Canadian spirit.
Lesson: Kids don’t always realize how different other cultures can be.
Tip: This year, Saudi Arabia is sending its first female athlete to the Olympics. That said, it’s also always amazing to see how athletes and fans from around the world are so similar, too. The Olympics present the perfect opportunity to talk about customs, cultures and different nationalities with your children.
* Don't miss our guide to kids and the Olympics, including recipes, party ideas, fun facts and more! www.todaysparent.com/olympics >
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