A girl and her father chase after a soccer ball, laughing

8 Summer Olympics-themed sports games for young kids

The Olympic Games bring the world together every two years to celebrate athletic excellence and fair play. Adults and kids alike love the pageantry of the torch relay and closing ceremonies, the fun mascots and overall excitement, as well as the chance to watch top-level athletes compete in a variety of sports.

Last summer’s Olympic Games, the XXXII Olympiad, were supposed to take place in Tokyo, Japan, from July 24 to Aug. 9, 2020 (and the Paralympic Games from Aug. 25 to Sept. 6). Sadly, they had to be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, they’re scheduled to take place July 23 to Aug. 8 this summer.

Related read: The most important thing your kids can learn from the Olympics

In the now-2021 Olympic Games, baseball and softball will return to the Summer Olympic Games for the first time since 2008 and karate, sport climbing, skateboarding, and surfing will make their debut.

With over 11,000 athletes from 206 nations participating, the Olympic Games will be an inspirational event for the whole family. Why not take part in some Olympics-themed fun at home this summer?

Young kids may be too small to play many of these sports the “real” way, but age-appropriate adaptations will capture kids’ imaginations and give them a taste of the Olympic dream.

Here are eight ways you can bring the Olympic spirit to your own backyard. You can play these games with your family or use these suggestions as a starting point to plan a Summer Olympics-themed sports day in your neighbourhood or at your child’s day camp.

Tip: If you’ve got a big group, divide the kids into “countries” (teams) and begin the fun with a flag ceremony to start the day off right! Teams can rotate between activities to keep the fun going. Physical distancing requirements to limit the spread of COVID-19 vary from community to community, so be sure to follow all your local public health authority’s recommendations regarding gathering size and keeping appropriate distance between families. 

Related read: Questions to ask your kids while watching the Olympics

8 games to play on a Summer Olympics-themed sports day:

1. Discus

How to play: Line the kids up at one mark and use a frisbee (can either be foam or plastic). Mark each throw and see how far the “discus” can be thrown. 

Equipment required: Frisbee, a rock, or other marker to keep track of the distance of each throw.

2. Volleyball

How to play: Set up a sports net or, if one isn’t available, have two kids hold a piece of rope or pool noodles to create a “net.” See how many times kids can get the ball over the net before it drops. You can use a real volleyball, but a beach ball or balloon may be more appropriate for younger kids. For a fun twist when playing with older kids, lower the net and have the kids play the game seated or on their knees.

Equipment required: Net (classic, rope, or pool noodle) and ball (volleyball, beach ball, or balloon).

3. Relay race—with a twist

How to play: After explaining the typical relay race performed at the Summer Olympic Games, switch it up to add more fun. Instead of four participants per team, eight can participate with sets of two with their feet tied together with bandanas or ties (think a three-legged relay race). Have each set of three-legged runners “sprint” to the next set and tag them before they can run to the next set. 

Tip: If it’s a hot day, use the typical four runners but instead of a baton, have them pass off soaked sponges. 

Equipment required: Material to tie feet together for three-legged relay race, water, and sponges for “classic” relay.

4. Rhythmic gymnastics

How to play: Using hoops, ribbons, balls, and music, give kids lots of room to get creative with their equipment.  Kids can swirl with their ribbons, pose and balance with balls, and use their hips or arms to rotate the hoops.  

Equipment required: Hoops, ribbons, balls, hoops, and music.

5. Basketball—with a twist

How to play: Channel children’s inner Steph Curry with a game in which kids of all heights can succeed. Using two laundry baskets, tubs, or buckets, and a fun substitute for a ball (how about a bean bag, rubber chicken, or a shoe?), kids pass to each other and attempt to successfully toss the item into their team’s basket. Players can only take three steps before they pass the throwing item or take a shot.

Equipment required: baskets, throwing items.

6. Balance beam

How to play: Using an actual gymnastics beam isn’t the only way for a child to learn balance skills. Indoors, use painter’s tape to make a straight line on the floor. Encourage the kids to walk forwards, backwards, and sideways. Outdoors, use a plank of wood, a rope, or make a line with chalk for the same activity. When your child masters a straight line, add semi-circles or zigzags to add a bit more of a challenge.

Equipment required: balance beam (chalk, rope, wood).

7. Hurdles

How to play: Jumping over Olympic-height hurdles will probably (definitely!) be a challenge for your kids. Sub in different items to make hurdles, mark a distance for the kids to run and jump, and send them off a-jumpin’!  Hurdles can be items as simple as boxes, pylons with pool noodles duct-taped between them, or bales of hay.

Equipment required: choice of hurdles.

8. Soccer

In addition to just playing a game of soccer, you can set up soccer skills drills to help kids practice their kicks, learn to control the ball, and sharpen their aim.

How to play: Use various games to pay homage to the great game of soccer.

  1. Divide each team up into two and place half of the team at one end and the other at the far end of a course. Depending on the space available, place five to 10 cones in a zigzag pattern along the course (if you don’t have pylons, improvise with recycled milk jugs or other objects!). At the word “go,” the first player on each team must dribble a soccer ball around each pylon. When the player reaches the end of the course, they must tag their next player who performs the same action. The team that has all their players complete the course wins.
  2. Make a target on a wall using chalk or tape and have kids take turns shooting the ball at the bull’s eye. Depending on the age of the kids, make the target lower or higher.
  3. Turn soccer into soccer bowling by having kids use soccer balls to kick down different objects such as empty bottles, a giant Jenga tower, or plastic bowling pins.

Equipment required: Soccer balls, pylons, tape/chalk, items for “bowling” down.

Hosting an Olympic-themed sports day is a fantastic way to come together as a community to catch the excitement of the games and the joy of participating in a range of fun sports—and a great way to practice fundamental movement skills too!

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