Olympic-themed Fitness for Kids

By Ingrid Ichesco, MD

The Olympics are such a tremendous event that unites nations and the world as we watch and cheer for athletes who have dedicated years to rise to the top of their sport. It’s also a great time to get active and host some of your own mini-Olympic events. You don’t have to be a world-class athlete to have world-class fun in your own backyard.

Just like in the real Olympics, it’s all about sportsmanship and doing your best. It doesn’t have to be about who wins; it’s about having fun and being active.

There’s no shortage of options. Pick some events you like and recreate them at home. Here are just a few ideas.

Javelin throw — Giving a child a spear to throw across the backyard or at the park is a pretty bad idea, but substitute a pool noodle for the javelin and you are ready to fly. It won’t go as far, but it’s fun trying (and safe).

Shot put — A real shot put weighs 16 pounds for men and eight pounds for women, but you can recreate the shot put with a much lighter weight object. A softball works well. Just be sure to “put” the shot, not throw it. 

Races — Challenge each other to races of various lengths or race against the clock to see if each child can improve his/her time. Do simple sprints, assemble teams and do relay races, place objects on the ground (like pool noodles) and pretend they are hurdles, and give a longer distance run (maybe around the house or block) a try. The options are endless. If you do relay races, use an empty paper towel roll for your baton. Practice the handoffs.

Rhythmic Gymnastics — Rhythmic gymnasts compete in a variety of events using balls, hoops and ribbons. Create your own routines using a playground ball, hula hoop, or long ribbons. Have fun with individual and team routines.

Water sports — depending on the skill level, have swimming races of varying lengths and strokes. You can even just race while jogging in the water across the pool (it’s harder than it looks!). Have some fun and create your own synchronized swimming routine. It’s fun to try to copy some of the amazing moves those athletes do.

Team sports — set up a net in your yard and play badminton or volleyball. Have your own round robin tournament with friends and family. You can do the same thing with a game of basketball, kickball, or soccer. Kids can also get creative and make up their own team games!  Just remember to keep the focus on fun and sportsmanship. Also, keep the activities age appropriate.

Just like the real Olympians, you’ll want to stay hydrated and nourished during the games. Be sure to drink plenty of water (especially outside on hot days). Eat healthy meals. Use this as an opportunity to talk to your children about how food is fuel for your body and the better fuel you use (healthy food), the better your body will perform. There are almost always a few stories during the Olympics broadcast about the athletes’ nutrition. Watch those together and discuss how healthy (or unhealthy) your diets are and how you can provide your body with even better fuel.

The Olympics are a great inspiration to have fun and be active as a family. They may even spark an interest in a new sport.