Teach your kids about the Summer Games

Aug 1, 2012 at 3:00 p.m. ET

From the very first Summer Games at the ancient site of Olympia to the winning athletes, teach your children the basics of Olympic history and encourage them to put their knowledge into practice with these fun craft projects.

Craft for kids

As we start counting down to the 2012 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, it's a great time to harness your children's excitement and enthusiasm for the games and take the opportunity to teach them a little about the event's history. Steeped in tradition and mythology, your kids will love learning about Ancient Olympia and the rituals that were held there. Read on for a basic rundown of the event's history and some fun activities you can try to boost your children's learning.

A basic history of the Olympic Games

The early days

It's believed that the very first Olympic Games were held way back in 776 BC on the ancient site of Olympia. The area was covered in shrines, temples for gods such as Zeus and Hera, and of course many sporting facilities for the various competitions, such as the hippodrome. It's believed that the event was associated with religion and dedicated to the Olympian gods. The games were linked to the cult of Zeus and held for almost 12 centuries but were banished in 393 AD by the emperor of the day who disputed "pagan cults."

The athletes

All free male citizens of Greece were allowed to compete in the ancient games. With a goal of uniting the cities of Greece and bringing its citizens together, the event didn't discriminate between social classes. It was a different case for women however, as married women weren't allowed to watch or compete in the games, while unmarried women were entitled to attend.

Winning athletes would receive a palm branch and red ribbons tied around their head and hands after the individual competition. An official ceremony was then held on the final day of the games to congratulate the victors. The winner's name, their father's name and their homeland was announced, and an olive branch wreath was placed on the top of their head as a victory crown.

Fun activities for kids

Build Olympia

Help your child to create a 3D diorama of the ancient games site, Olympia. Encourage them to include key buildings such as the hippodrome, giant Temple of Zeus and shrines. They can use toilet paper rolls for columns, cardboard for concrete walls and crepe paper for grass.

Collage athlete

Gather materials around the house like fabric and egg shells and let your child construct a textured collage of a victorious Olympic athlete. If your child is young, draw a pencil outline of the athlete, then let them glue various bits and pieces onto the paper. Include red ribbons around their hands, fern branches as stand-in palm tree branches and twigs as olive branch crowns.

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