young girl doing hula hoop as part of backyard Olympics

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Ten activities for your own backyard Olympics

The Summer Olympic Games provide the perfect inspiration for your family, or even neighborhood, to create an Olympic competition in your backyard to teach children how to incorporate fun and creativity into exercise.

Not only does it promote physical activity, but friendly competition teaches children about teamwork and how to be a gracious winner or loser. Before starting your backyard Olympics, consider holding an opening ceremony and ask Olympians to take an oath of good sportsmanship like athletes do at the Olympic Games.

Here are 10 ideas for your backyard Olympics that are active, fun, affordable and accessible to just about anyone!

Backyard Olympics Listicle - Bean Bag

Bean bag toss

Materials: bean bags, large plastic bowls or crates

Arrange bowls in a straight line and assign points to each bowl. The bowl closest to the start should have the lowest point value and the most points for the bowl farthest from the start line. See who can get the most points in just three turns.

Backyard Olympics Listicle - Water Balloon

Water balloon relay (or race)

Materials: water-filled balloons, adult sweatpants, watch or stop watch

Get as many water balloons to the finish line in the shortest amount of time by carrying them in your sweatpants (while you're wearing them). Start the timer before your child fills his or her sweatpants with water balloons and stop the timer when they cross the finish line.

Backyard Olympics Listicle - Hula hoop

Hula-hoop-a-thon

Materials: hula-hoop, watch or stop watch

Kids should keep their hoops moving as long as possible and are eliminated when their hoops touch the ground. Make the contest more challenging by calling out instructions every few minutes. Some fun suggestions include: 

  • touch both hands to your head
  • stand on one foot
  • move to your right and hop in place.

Backyard Olympics Listicle - Beach Ball

Beach ball race

Materials: beach ball, water gun

Each child should move his or her beach ball from the start to the finish line using only water spray from a water gun to move the beach ball. The first person to get his or her beach ball across the finish line wins.

Backyard Olympics Listicle - Frisbee

Frisbee throw

Materials: Frisbee

Mark a start line and various distances on the ground. Each child gets three attempts to see who can throw the Frisbee the farthest. Throwing technique should be flexible and match the child's abilities. 

Backyard Olympics Listicle - Water Balloon Shotput

Water balloon shot put

Materials: water-filled balloons

Mark a start line and various distances on the ground. Each child gets three attempts to see who can throw their water balloon the farthest. Encourage kids to try the shot put "glide" (start with back facing the direction of the throw, glide backward in the direction of the throw, then turn and release the shot put all at once) and "spin" technique (start with back facing the direction of the throw and use a whipping motion to run and pivot into the release) to add a little challenge and silliness.

Backyard Olympics Listicle -  pool noodle

Pool noodle javelin

Materials: pool noodle

Mark a start line and various distances on the ground. Each child gets three attempts to see who can throw his or her pool noodle the farthest. Encourage kids to try different throwing techniques including standing still and the "run-up" approach (start about five strides away from the line, facing the direction of the throw, then accelerate quickly toward the throw all while completing the throwing action).

  Backyard Olympics Listicle - egg race

Egg race

Materials: hard-boiled egg, spoon

Arrange kids at the start line with eggs resting in spoons. The hand that is not holding a spoon should be tucked behind their backs. Kids should race to cross the finish line with their eggs still balanced on their spoons. If the egg falls, then it's back to the starting line!

Backyard Olympics Listicle - balloon hockey

Balloon hockey

Materials: air-filled balloons, pool noodle, laundry baskets, watch or stop watch

Children compete to see who can get the most balloons into a laundry basket using just their pool noodle. This activity works well as an individual or team completion. For individual competition, each kid should have his or her own basket, and for the team competition, baskets should be assigned to each team.

Backyard Olympics Listicle - balance beam

Balance beam

Materials: can of water-based athletic-field paint

Paint a straight, even stripe on a flat section of lawn, which is the "balance beam." Ask your participants to perform a series of increasingly difficult maneuvers without straying from the stripe. Award points for completion of each maneuver. Some fun suggestions include: 

  • walking forward
  • walking backward
  • hopping on one foot
  • doing front rolls
  • doing cartwheels
  • doing 360-degree spins on one foot.

At the conclusion of your backyard Olympics, hold an award ceremony complete with medals and music to celebrate the winners and all Olympians' good sportsmanship. Just because the Summer Olympic games are held once every four years, doesn't mean you have to wait that long to do this again. Make this an annual event with new games and challenges and next time around involve everyone in the planning.

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