Outings + Activities

Let the Backyard Games Begin: Six Steps to a DIY Olympics Bash

0712_-_olympics_-_rotatorThere are those of us who will use any excuse to throw a party — and a once-every-four-year international display of patriotic camaraderie, physical stamina and mental endurance, perseverance of the human spirit and Michael Phelp’s shoulders is as good as any. Add an Olympic theme to your next backyard barbeque for an afternoon of fun and games.

How extravagant you get is up to you, but homemade kid crafts top store-bought decorations for this kind of a casual get-together. Here are a few ideas for flair and guest amenities to get you going.

1. The right invite. Invite family and friends and give them a head’s up on what you have in mind. Let each family pick a country to represent, or match up participants into teams of four. If you plan a potluck, guests can bring a dish from their country and may choose to dress up in the corresponding flag colors — how elaborate they get will vary, but it’s a good idea to set parameters with your guests’ budgets in mind. Keep the tone light-hearted and casual, explaining that participation in events will be completely optional — you’ll just make it so much fun everyone will join in once they’re there.

2. Make a flag banner. Download flag templates or find them on the official Olympic website and let the kids pick out 10 to 12. Fold sheets of regular copy paper in half and draw the flag on both sides with the top of the flag closest to the fold. String them on ribbon or string using tape or staples to secure. You can also attach them to straws for handheld wave-able decorations or make mini versions and put them on bamboo skewers or toothpicks to stick in appetizers or cupcakes.


3. The winner’s podium. Find three sturdy stools or boxes that are safe to stand on. Ideally, one would be a bit higher than the other two. Position them in front of a blank wall, with the tallest one in the middle. Between events the guests can stand on them for photo ops, no gold medals necessary, but if you decide to give awards, this would be the place to do it. Let the kids decorate. The classic Olympic design is easy to make out of 5 sturdy paper plates, some string and tape and paint in blue, black, red, yellow and green.

4. Awards. You can use our simple template, or design your own medals. Use frozen juice concentrate can lids, yogurt lids or cut circles out of cardboard, and paint them or use metallic craft paper. Use whatever you have handy in the way of ribbon or string to make the medals (purple is the color used for this year’s awards.) Make sure to have plenty on hand, you should have at least one gold medal per guest.

5. Team colors. Use an old scrap of plain white or natural cotton fabric such as an old cotton sheet or muslin. Cut or rip strips about two inches wide by at least 24 inches long. Set them out with fabric pens or markers and let each team design their own headband.

6. Plan the games. Any game you can play outside is a potential Olympic sport. Choose games that are fun and rely less on pure athletics and more on luck and those special skills like transporting an egg by spoon. Sack races, egg tosses and relay races are old standbys for a reason. They are fairly simple and make for excellent “epic fail” photo opportunities. For game ideas check out the Zoom games page on PBSkids.org.

Ask your guests to arrive one to two hours before you plan to start the games. You want everyone to have an opportunity to socialize and settle in. You can supply face paints headbands or arm bands so teams can get into the spirit. You may have to rearrange teams to even them out, making sure there is a fair distribution of sizes and ages on each team. You’ll want to leave flexibility for late arrivals and no-shows. Make sure everyone knows that the main goal is to have fun!

Let the games begin!

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