Olympic-themed family fun!

The Olympic Games in Rio is in full swing and the Paralympics are just around the corner, running from 7-18 September. Although young children may not understand the ins and outs of all the sports, it’s still exciting to see people competing, and the opening and closing ceremonies can be really fun to watch – on catchup if they’re on too late. Here are some ideas to help you and your child really get into the Olympic spirit.

Hold your own Mini Olympics

All the sporty events we’ve suggested work best if you have a few children taking part, so it’s a good idea to organise a get together with some other little ones, perhaps at a local park. You can still have fun with just one child, though – time your little one with a stopwatch function on your phone (or just do old-fashioned counting!) and then challenge them to beat their own time, or to time you, and see if they’re faster. A little economy with the harsh truth often works well here! You can buy cheap shiny medals online or from many supermarkets (sometimes shelved with the party bag items), or make your own by following our crafty suggestions below. 

Bean Bag races A basic running race, with the added challenge of keeping a soft bean bag on your head. If it falls, you have to put it back on to continue.

Obstacle course Something low to jump over, a bean bag to throw into the centre of a hula hoop, and some stepping stones (paper plates) to balance along are all ideas, but use whatever you have at home to create some good obstacles.

Ping pong ball and spoon Eggs aren’t the best idea around young children, so a ping pong ball is a good alternative. Make sure the spoons are nice and deep otherwise the balls will roll out too easily.

Sack race The big, sturdy canvas shopping bags that are now widely available make good sacks for racing in, as children can hold the handles and easily jump along inside the bags.

Get involved in some Olympic-themed crafts

Olympic rings

Collect five cardboard toilet rolls, and cut them so that each is around 10cm high. You’ll then need to paint each tube a different colour – the traditional colours of the Olympic rings are blue, black and red on the top row, with green and yellow on the lower row. Paint the tubes both inside and out, then, once they’ve dried, glue them together in their rows. You can also glue the bottoms to a sheet of cardboard to mount them, which makes them easier to display on the wall.


These are very straightforward; just cut out circles from cardboard, punch a hole in the top of each one, and thread through string or ribbon so they can be worn around the neck. You can colour yellow, grey and orange to represent gold silver and bronze, or write the numbers 1, 2 and 3 on them. If you’re feeling really ambitious, you can cover the cardboard circles in different colours of foil; silver is obviously basic tinfoil, and posh chocolate bars are often covered in gold or bronze coloured foil.

Flags of the world

One aspect of the Olympics that’s great for young children is the chance to learn about people from different countries. The opening ceremony is a great opportunity to see all the different flags from the countries of the world, and while you’re watching the Games, you can keep a lookout for the different colours on the athletes’ kits. Flags are great for colouring in, too, and you can keep the final result to decorate your house and give it an international vibe; visit www.activityvillage.co.uk/flags for great printouts to colour.

Olympic torch

There are loads of good Olympic-themed craft activities around if you search online, but the best is the fantastic Olympic torch from the CBeebies website – visit www.cbeebies.co.uk/makes to find it. It’s quite ambitious, but a great way to get chatting about the tradition of the Olympic torch, so your child will know what’s going on if you watch the opening ceremony together and see the torch being brought into the arena.

Why not try making some Brazilian food, too?

These Brigadeiros are basically delicious South American chocolate truffles. There’s some heating involved which you can do ahead of time, then the chilled mixture is safe for your child to handle, so you can do the rolling and dipping part together.

Steps for an adult to do

  • Melt together 3tbsps butter, a 400g tin of condensed milk, a splash of vanilla extract, and 4tbsps cocoa in a heavy-based pan. Bring to the boil, stirring constantly, then reduce the heat and stir for 10-15 minutes until the mixture is thick and shiny and pulls away from the bottom of the pan.
  • Pour the mix onto a buttered plate and chill for at least two hours.

Steps for your child to help with  

  • Scoop up the mixture and roll into balls around 3cm diameter.
  • Dip them into chopped nuts or dessicated coconut to decorate.

Written for the Pre-school Learning Alliance by Siobhan Godwood​.