Teaching children about the Olympics

The 2016 Summer Olympics begin Aug. 5 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Teach your children about the history of the Olympics, Brazil and summer sports.

There are many learning opportunities for adults and children alike during the Olympics.
There are many learning opportunities for adults and children alike during the Olympics.

On Aug. 5, 2016, all eyes will turn to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for the 2016 Summer Olympics. This exciting time of year, when thousands of athletes from around the world come together to compete in 28 different sports, occurs just once every four years. There are many learning opportunities for adults and children alike during the Olympics. Take time to watch the games with your children and learn about Rio de Janerio and the history of this amazing worldwide event.

The host city for the 2016 Summer Olympics is Rio de Janerio, or Rio, in Brazil. Rio is the second largest city in Brazil, and the sixth largest in the Americas. Brazil is the largest country in South America. Rio was founded in 1565. Part of the city has been designated as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a Cultural Landscape. Rio is one of the most visited cities in the Southern Hemisphere and is known for its beautiful landscapes, beaches and mountains, celebrations during Carnival, and the statue of Christ the Redeemer that sits atop Corcovado Mountain and was named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Brazil also is home to the greatest variety of animals of any country in the world.

Rio de Janerio will become the first South American country to host the Olympics when the games begin Aug. 5. Due to the location in South America, this will be the first Summer Olympics to take place during the host countries “winter” season.

To expand your children’s knowledge of Rio de Janerio, Brazil and South America, consider one of the following activities:

The first Olympic Games occurred in 776 B.C. in Greece. They were dedicated to the Greek god Zeus and took place in the same place every four years. This four-year period became known as an “Olympiad.” The first games included only men and the following sports events were held: running, wrestling, boxing, pankration (a primitive martial art), equestrian events and the pentathlon (five events: running, long jump, discus, javelin and wrestling).

The first modern Olympic Games took place in 1896 in Athens, Greece. The first year, women were not allowed to compete, but four years later, women officially were allowed to compete. Unlike the original Olympic Games, the modern games move from city to city. The Olympic Games still take place every four years, but in 1994 the decision was made to hold the Summer and Winter Olympics separately, and have alternated every two years since.

To expand children’s knowledge about the history of the Olympics, consider one of the following activities:

  • Visit the official Olympic website to learn more about the ancient games, the mythology surrounding the games and the original sporting events.
  • Read books about the Olympics. Suggestions for children in first through fourth grades include “G is for Gold Medal: An Olympic Alphabet” by Brad Herzog, “Magic Tree House #16: Hour of the Olympics” and the coordinating non-fiction “Magic Tree House Fact Tracker #10: Ancient Greece and the Olympics,” both by Mary Pope Osborne and Natalie Pope Bryce.
  • Download the official Rio 2016 mobile app for the latest information on the games.

This year, the Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XXXI Olympiad, will feature more than 10,500 athletes from 207 nations. The games will feature 28 Olympic sports across 41 disciplines with 306 events. Events will take place in 33 venues in Rio and five additional venues in Brazil. New events this year include rugby sevens and golf.

To expand your child’s knowledge about the sports included in the 2016 Summer Olympics, Michigan State University Extension suggests one of the following:

  • Participate in an Olympic Sport! Unlike many of the winter sports, it is relatively easy for children and amateurs to participate in a summer Olympic sport. Athletes will compete in swimming, running, cycling, rowing, tennis, gymnastics, shooting sports, equestrian competitions and much more. Encourage your child to try something new. Summer is a great time to find short summer camps in a variety of different venues and time commitments.
  • Watch videos of previous Olympic Games at the official Olympic website.
  • Learn more about the 28 Summer Olympic sports. How many has your child tried? Could they imagine becoming an Olympic athlete? In what sport?

This fun and exciting time comes around only once every four years. Take some time to learn about the Olympics, Rio de Janerio and enjoy the 2016 Summer Games!

For more information about early childhood education and other topics, visit the MSU Extension website.

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