Sunday Funday #3: Family Olympics

A little competition never hurt anyone, right!?  OK, so maybe my family goes overboard and a little competition can get out of hand, but if your family can maintain civility - then Family Olympics is a great way to get everyone active and have some fun.

Is Competition Good for Kids?

There’s a lot of debate about whether “healthy” competition is good for kids or not.  Here are some of the reasons that experts support appropriate competition for children (see more at this article from

  • Competition can help kids see the connection between hard work and rewards
  • Competition imitates real-life, when they are older, they will likely be in classrooms in college where they may be competing for internships or scholarships and/or in jobs where they are competing for promotions.
  • Team competitions help children learn how to play a specific role within a team, and also teach them teamwork and collaboration
  • All people will face victories and defeats in their lives, exposure to competition when you are young helps you to develop great sportsmanship and typically gives children practice at winning and losing gracefully

The Family Olympics - Healthy Competition

Some families will enjoy family olympics where the whole family is on one team, competing against a challenge or the clock.  Then there are no winners or losers, per se.  While other families will want to divide the family into two or three teams and compete against each other.  Either option will set the stage for a fun and active day.

Designing the Day

As you’re selecting activities - try to pick a range of activities that will give each team a chance to be successful.  For example, smaller children will probably be more successful at a game of “limbo” while an older child might win at hopscotch.

It’s also fun to put your own family spin on the activities - if Hopscotch is your game, perhaps the “Smith Family Hopscotch” includes a different shaped field?  Or special rules that make it easier or more difficult.  See some great variations on Hopscotch HERE with thanks to

Great ideas for Family Olympic Games

Playground Olympics

Does your family live near an awesome playground or park? Look around, what challenges can you create in the park? Speed down the slide? Jumping distance off the swings, safety first, of course?  Balance on the teeter-totter?  Chin ups on the Monkey Bars?

To even the games out, make everyone do one chin up for each year old they are, or hold a plant for 10 seconds for every birthday they’ve had.

Mountain Hike Olympics

If you live in an area where you could go for a hike or longer walk, and you have dirt trails, there are some fun challenges you can create along the way.  

    • Hiker Bingo - make a bingo square with plants and animals on it - the first hiker to get a bingo wins that event  (here’s our Hiker Bingo Template - you’ll want to change the squares to match your environment)
  • Stream Crossing - even if you don’t have a stream, you can create a fake river with a couple ropes (to represent the shores), and some cardboard squares to represent stones.  Challenge your family to cross the river by working together. HERE are some great instructions for a river crossing activity.
      • Fox and Chicken Stream Crossing - this is more of a puzzle than a physical challenge - but you could recreate it by giving each member of your family a role.  The challenge?  A man has to get a fox, a chicken and a sack of corn across the stream. He only has one boat.  He can only carry one of them at a time.  He can’t leave the fox with the chicken, or the chicken with the corn - so how does he get all three across the river?
  • Spider Web - string ropes across two trees to create a spidery web - family has to get through the web without touching the web and they can only use each opening one time - which usually means that someone will have to be lifted through the web.  HERE is a video of a team doing this challenge. Super fun.

  • As a fun twist on Mountain Olympics - you could create a story with clues for your family - instead of competing against each other - the whole family has to complete the hike together and they have to solve these problems as they go along in order to complete the hike.

    Basement Olympics

    Some of the HIker Olympic ideas will work in the basement - the Spider Web and Stream Crossing, or any problem-solving activities.  But you can also go old-school physical fitness with some super-fun challenges.  Why not create an obstacle course, that includes crawling under a table crab-walk style? Or jumping competitions for distance and/or number of jumping jacks.

    There are several great websites available that will create a treasure hunt for you, and very inexpensively. You just enter a location in your house (like “silverware drawer” or “Mom’s Shoes”), and they create a puzzle for kids to solve.  Try a couple of these to make it super easy to create a fun treasure hunt for any day (or a special day. Like Easter or Birthday).

    No matter how many clues you create, your kids will remember your Sunday Funday treasure hunts / olympic games.  These are times when you and the kids work together to solve problems and have fun in a way that is very different from a typical Sunday.  The other advantage? You get to see your kids’ problem-solving skills at work!

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