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Let the Games Begin!


August 11, 2004 -- At last, we've found a time when TV may lead to physical activity! Watching the Olympic games can be a good opportunity to get your kids interested in the fun and enjoyment of being active.

Swimmer Jenny Thompson, the most decorated female Olympian in U.S. history, pointed out how you can use the games as a springboard for learning about dedication, drawing on her own experiences.

"It takes drive to be out there, and it's not easy," Thompson said. "You have to put in hard work and consistency with practices. My mom supported me in what made me happy, and that was swimming. She never pushed me or made it a stressful situation ? she just supported me."

Parents who want to elaborate on these lessons can also talk about the value of setting goals and the drive it takes to achieve them. So many Olympic competitors push through difficult situations to become the best athletes in the world, making their amazing personal stories good examples of success.

"The celebratory spirit of the Olympics can be inspiring for introducing your children to a wide variety of new physical activities such as crew, kayaking, team handball, diving, discus and javelin," said Charlene R. Burgeson, executive director of the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE).

NASPE President Dolly Lambdin added, "Encourage your kids to go out and just do it ... on an appropriate level. Instead of throwing a discus, use a Frisbee. Instead of using a shot put, throw a softball. Just enjoy the activity and get out there with them."

Other ideas of how to use the Olympics for family fun:

If you're watching: The Opening Ceremonies

At the opening ceremonies, the Olympic torch is carried into the stadium after a long journey. Make a torch and take turns carrying it.

If you're watching: Track and Field

Mark off a distance and use a stopwatch to time how fast your kids run. Compare the times.

If you're watching: Gymnastics

Have your child try to do some of the balance beam skills on a line on the floor. Or, have your son or daughter practice doing somersaults. A perfect one gets a perfect 10!

If you're watching: Swimming

Splash around in a pool or hose yourself off with a sprinkler! If your child can swim, time how fast he or she can do one lap.

If you're watching: Diving

Discuss judging, good sportsmanship, success, failure, and fair play. Little kids can count how many flips the divers do.

If you're watching: Kayaking, Canoeing or Crew

Get out a mop and have your child practice "paddling" or "rowing" on the carpet or lawn. Race across the room by wiggling your tush and using your heels (standing up is disqualifying!).

If you're watching: Fencing, Judo, or Tennis

Ask your child to show you some of the movement skills.

If you're watching: Soccer

Buy a ball around the same size and either roll it back and forth, or have a kick in the yard or at a playground.

If you're watching: Badminton, Archery, Fencing, or Hockey:

Ask your child what time it is at your home. Then help them calculate what time it is in Athens while these competitions are going on.

If you're watching: Basketball

Set up an old pail or garbage can and have your child throw scrunched-up pieces of paper or beanie baby-type type objects into it. Assign different point values for tough shots farther from the basket, and practice adding up the numbers of the goals.

If you're watching: Baseball

Set up an old pail or garbage can and have your child throw scrunched-up pieces of paper or beanie baby-type type objects into it. Assign different point values for tough shots farther from the basket, and practice adding up the numbers of the goals.

If you're watching: Handball

Try your own match on the side of the house. Or buy a ball the same size and have a catch.

If you're watching: The Closing Ceremonies

Get out a globe or a map and show your child where he or she lives and where Athens, Greece is located. Find where your favorite athlete lives and determine what season it is there.

If you're watching: Any of the Olympic games

If you really want to get into the spirit of the games with your kids this summer, why not throw an Olympic-themed party? For great ideas on how to do it, click below.

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