The Olympic Games can be the most inspiring sporting event for young people. The Games promote international peace, friendly competition and, of course, physical exercise. Recreating the Games at home can be enormous fun, and educational too! Here’s how to do it. Much of the following assumes you have a back garden, but the activities could also be done in a local park.
Setting the scene
First off, we think that you need to make your back garden look less, well, like your back garden! The Olympic stadium has some special features, wherever in the world it is. There's the Olympic flame and the Olympic rings for a start. Plan a crafty afternoon or evening making up some of the Olympic Games 'must-haves' and it will make a huge difference to the experience.
You'll want to have an Olympic Torch Relay of course for your summer games. You should be able to fashion an Olympic Torch out of things you have at home. The simple way is to make a cone from a sheet of paper or card and then fill it with a 'flame' made from some crumpled-up tissue or crepe paper in a suitable colour.
The Olympic flame burns throughout the Summer Olympics - who could forget the complex Olympic Cauldron at the London 2012 Olympic Games?. You could utilise a garden lamp or lantern for the same purpose in your Olympic opening ceremony. If you're feeling particularly ambitious make a 'flame' made from a stool, a fan, some ribbon and wire.
The Olympic rings are blue yellow black green and red. The colours were chosen because at least one of them appears in the flag of each country represented at the Olympic Games. When you host your own Olympic Games you can make your own with painted hula hoops or make a smaller version by cutting out the centre of some paper plates, painting and then glueing together. You can even make some using the art of origami!
Every Summer Olympics has its mascots - remember Wenlock and Mandeville from London 2012? Enlist the help of a couple of soft toys to do the job for your own Olympic Games. Give them sashes or special outfits and make up some appropriate names for them.
Finally, you'll have to have some medals - try making some with Aqua Beads or Hama Beads if you have some at home, or cut some out of cardboard and paint or colour with metallic permanent markers. Or how about baking some medal cookies for the winners? Because although we have seen them try, no one has ever bitten into one of those gold medals yet!
Each country should have its own uniform for your summer Olympics. Okay, it may just be a different coloured shirt. But get creative if you can - cowboy hats for the USA team, togas for Italy, for example. Or they could carry a flag - this is a good chance to make this a bit educational, but don't let on to the kids. Paint some flags from participating countries, tape to a garden stick or broom handle and your young athletes can wave them at the opening ceremony.
You'll need a scoreboard that you use for each event, and then a medals table. If you have a blackboard, whiteboard or easel, then your task is easy. How complicated you make it is up to you - or whoever gets the task of making the boards. We like the idea of using Velcro so that country names and medal tallies can be moved up and down and altered, but if that is a step too far, a simple sheet of paper or side of a cardboard box is good enough. Let's not make this hard work - it's supposed to be fun!
Games for one
If you're at home with an only child (or only one old enough to take part) you're going to have to get a bit creative - or get involved yourself - when you host your own Olympic event! You could get them to have a few goes at the same event - but represent different countries for each go. This is a good way to give them the incentive to do better each time. Otherwise, we love the idea of competing against the neighbours or joining up with friends or family using an app such as Zoom or House Party. This could be hilarious - even if a bit chaotic!
Now it depends how seriously you're taking this - and this could depend on whether your kids are older, or particularly sporty. In this case, they will appreciate if you make the events as authentic as possible. For younger children, or those who are less physically able, fun is the key, rather than factual accuracy.
Here are some of our favourite ideas:
Gymnastics - rhythmic gymnastics using ball, ribbon or hula hoop. To encourage inclusivity, make sure there are plenty of points for 'artistic interpretation' to make it an even playing field for younger or less able children.
Shooting - get the Nerf guns out - or water guns if the weather's nice this summer - and set up your own targets. Some cardboard boxes with circular holes cut in make great target ranges.
Showjumping - fashion some jumps from sticks, toys, cushions - whatever you have. The 'horse' should have a skipping rope around their waist, which is held by the 'rider'.
Horse riding - littlies can get in on the act as they are given a piggyback by older kids and parents.
Obstacle course - jump over plant pots, wriggle under a goal net or large blanket, wind in and out of some bamboo poles, balance along a sleeper or low wall. If this is too tricky for your children, you could draw an obstacle course with chalk on the garden path or drive. Set up a hopscotch court, some lines to follow, and so on.
Paper plane throwing - not everyone is great at physical sports, so introduce some different elements - an expertly folded paper plane is just as worthy of a medal!
Skateboarding - each Olympics sees new sports added (and some taken away). Tokyo was to be the first Olympic Games to feature skateboarding - but now it will be your back garden summer Olympics where it will make its debut. To avoid accidents/include younger ones, how about getting a doll or teddy to ride the skateboard or scooter around a course?
Sailing - set up the paddling pool, or make a 'river' from a length of drainpipe, and compete to sail some paper boats from one end to the other. Follow a tutorial on folding a traditional paper boat. Older kids could make a candle-powered boat.
Water polo - while you have the pool out, they can take part in water polo. Make sure you add goggles and swim hats for an authentic experience.
Fencing - it's not often you let them poke at each other with sticks, so this should be fun. We suggest something relatively safe - pool noodles are fun and liable to be uncontrollable enough to make this an even fight whatever the children's age and ability.
Relay races - forget the boring old baton! Make this one for laughs by getting teams to carry a big cuddly toy and pass to each other - or run around with an inflatable ring around their tummy. It'll be fun watching them trying to get that off and pass it to their teammate.
Clothes relay - this is another fun game, which is a great leveller if you have different ages/abilities. Set up the course with a hat, a scarf, a shirt or t-shirt, trousers, skirt and shoes. Hint: Making ridiculous combinations of oversized items adds to the entertainment value for spectators...
Team games - tricky if you don't have enough children to make up sides and your pets aren't sufficiently talented enough to go in goal or wield a hockey stick. Basketball is a good choice, as you can play one on one. Get creative with other team sports such as football, netball, rugby and more. Get competitive with skills-based competition - keepie-uppies, goal shooting for footie, ball throwing for rugby, and so on. Find more football training ideas with these online coaching sessions.
Tennis, table tennis and badminton - it's simple to set these up for tournaments. If you don't have a net, use the washing line and a sheet as a makeshift net. Create a 'net' on the kitchen, dining or garden table using a strip of cardboard or some food boxes. Boxes of rice or lasagne sheets are a good size for table tennis nets.
We have lots more ideas for games events in your back garden here.
Make it really special by getting all the Olympic Games participants to march around the garden with some suitably stirring music playing, and then present the medals.
If you can manage a podium, all the better. Otherwise, a sleeper or low wall with 1 2 3 chalked on will suffice. You could make an olive/laurel wreath for each head - dig out those festival headdresses - or make your own using leaves from the garden, green paper leaves or daisy chains.
Finally, finish off your special Summer Olympics with an Olympics feast! If the summer games have been blessed by good weather, finish off the day with a winners' barbecue or picnic. Make some Olympic ring biscuits or iced ring doughnuts in the correct colours, and Olympic Torch ice creams in cones. Decorate cupcakes with Olympic 'rings' made from Smarties and bake homemade pizza decorated with rings of black olives, pineapple pieces, pepperoni and so on. Olympic torch servings of fries can be served in cones or cups. Bowls of blueberries, blackberries, pineapple, melon balls and strawberries or raspberries can also look like Olympic rings.
Mum of one teenage boy, near Leighton Buzzard, Beds. Born and raised in the Home Counties, Naomi has explored much of London, along with Beds, Herts and Bucks, with her son and husband. When she’s not driving to various skateparks around the UK, Naomi loves finding somewhere new to explore or a new activity they can all try.