Kid-Friendly Olympic Pentathlon
Have your kids caught Olympic fever, yet? Mine have been chattering about the games since their Olympics-themed Gymnastics Expo in early June.
We're also multi-generational fans of D'Aulaires' Greek Myths, a bedtime story favorite.
The Olympics are a wonderful opportunity to learn about other countries and cultures, study up on your Greek mythology, and get moving! We've been making Olympic-themed crafts over here and having fun with (slightly) organized athletic competitions. Plus we are practicing "good sportsmanship"--a good skill to work on at any age.
One of the signature events of the Olympics is the Pentathlon. Right at the start, you have a quick lesson about the root pente, meaning "five". Just think of a pentagon! Like most Olympic contests, the Ancient Pentathlon tested skills needed in battle. The Ancient Pentathlon consisted of long jump, javelin throw, discus throw, a race, and wrestling. A modern pentathlon was introduced in 1912. Designed to reflect a more modern soldier's skills (a good history lesson about Europe at the time), the contest included: fencing, pistol shooting, freestyle swimming, show jumping on horseback, and a cross country run.
Here is my kid-friendly, educational Olympic Pentathlon you can do at home. Don't forget a fun opening ceremony with a torch relay and the Olympic anthem!
Water Pistol Shooting (inspired by the Modern Pistol Shooting): Put out a number of cups and bowls of different sizes. Ask the children to put them in order from the largest to smallest diameter. Have them trace concentric circles and color in every other circle to make a target. Fill buckets with water and a different color of food coloring for each contestant to fill her water pistol. Take aim at the target and fire. Then, move further from the target and try again. Is it easier to hit the target when you are closer or further away?
Frisbee Throw (inspired by the Ancient Discus Throw): Draw a starting line and have each competitor throw a Frisbee. Measure the distance by taking a string from where the Frisbee landed and pulling it parallel to the starting line. Then, take a second string, perpendicular to the first, to find the distance. You can also measure the distance from the starting point straight to the Frisbee. This is great measuring practice. For even more learning, have children draw the results on graph paper. Draw a right triangle from the starting line (A) to the distance you measured for the competition (B), then to where the Frisbee actually landed (C), then back to (A). How far was the Frisbee thrown if you do not consider the accuracy of the throw? Which is a more fair measure--should accuracy count? High school students can use trigonometry to figure out the length of the third side.
Academic Marathon (inspired by the Modern and Ancient Races): Place numbers around the yard. Give each competitor a series of age-appropriate math questions to which the answers are the numbers posted around the yard. After they solve the problem, they should run to the solution and do the next problem. After finishing all of the questions, the competitor may cross the finish line. This works well with children of different ages and academic readiness because the younger children can answer simple addition or even counting questions while older children can complete more complicated problems.
Obstacle Course (inspired by Modern Show Jumping): Create an obstacle course in your backyard using hula hoops and broomsticks and tunnels (or chairs if you do not have a tunnel). What happens if you go too fast? What happens if you are too cautious?
Cork Boat Races (inspired by Modern Swimming): Help each child to build a simple cork boat and then race the boats across a baby pool. Time the race. Small, hand-held fans help speed up the competition if there is no wind. Which boat and sail design worked the best? Try variations on your design and see if that improves the boat. Adults and teens might enjoy learning more about the physics of sailing.
Of course, at the end, everyone can proudly wear their medals and olive wreathes for their athletic and mental prowess!