Every four years, the Summer Olympics shine a spotlight on familiar and lesser-known sports and the amazing athletes who compete in them—and this year is no exception.
Most kids will never get to compete in world-class games. But the plan below shows how to create fun activities based on real Olympic events. Give your kids a chance to test their own feats of athleticism at home, in your backyard or neighborhood park, now and for the rest of the summer.
Olympic Event: 100-meter dash
Converted for Kids: 100-foot dash
What to Do: Stake out 100 linear feet on a sidewalk or driveway, or in your backyard. Let kids race solo for the first run of the day; you keep time. Then let kids compete in one-on-one elimination races, to determine the final winner.
Olympic Event: Archery
Converted for Kids: Water balloon toss
What to Do: Set out a 6-foot ladder. Assign a point value to each space between the ladder’s rungs. Start at zero and add 10 points for each space from the bottom to the top. Hand out foam darts, beanbags—or better yet, water balloons, and let kids take aim. Whoever racks up the most points prevails.
Olympic Event: Golf
Converted for Kids: Wiffle ball golf
What to Do: Recycle out-of-season hockey sticks or borrow golf clubs from a kid-size set and clear an outdoor space for golfing. For holes, scatter a few giant-size plastic cups around the lawn and tip them sideways. Let kids take turns hitting Whiffle balls into the cups. Kids with the lowest score medal.
Olympic Event: Beach volleyball
Converted for Kids: Beach-ball volleyball
What to Do: Tie an extra-long ribbon or a heavy-duty string between two trees and get the volley going. Have one kid serve; players cover their side of the court. Play singles or doubles, and keep score like the pros.
Olympic Event: Discus throw
Converted for Kids: Firsbee (or pool tube) toss
What to Do: Hand out Frisbees, but what’s even more fun—and actually more challenging—are inflatable pool tubes. Kids toss tubes one at a time, while an official (you) marks the distance. How far can the tubes go?
Olympic Event: Balance beam
Converted for Kids: DIY balance beam
What to Do: Draw two thick parallel lines with sidewalk chalk. Make sure your “beam” is 6 to 10 inches wide and about 15 feet long. Kids can perform routines. Encourage them to hop on one foot, balance a book on their head, or twirl a Hula-Hoop while they travel across the beam.
Olympic Event: Fencing
Converted for Kids: Pool noodle fencing
What to Do: A Styrofoam pool noodle is a hilarious substitute for a traditional saber. Hand out smocks or old T-shirts. Then dab one end of each noodle in washable paint and let kids score points dotting (not stabbing or hitting) their opponent.
Olympic Event: Weight lifting
Converted for Kids: Sir and Lady Lift-a-Lot
What to Do: Let kids show strength by lifting faux barbells, fashioned out of a sturdy stick and two buckets partially filled with water. Call this an individual event and slowly add more water to boost the challenge.
Olympic Event: Ping pong
Converted for Kids: Paper plate and balloon ping-pong
What to Do: Use chalk to draw a line (widthwise) across a picnic or patio table. Create a paddle by taping a craft stick to a paper plate. Give one paddle to each player and encourage kids to volley with balloons and score points like the champions. (Save this game for a wind-free day or play in the garage.)
Olympic Event: Basketball
Converted for Kids: Ping-pong basket bowl
What to Do: Set out a single plastic or metal bowl on a large indoor or outdoor table. Have kids stand at one end of the table and toss Ping-Pong balls into the bowl, free-throw style, at the other end of the table. Award points to the player who throws the most balls into the bowl within, say, one minute. Or set up a series of bowls with different point values.