Backyard Olympics

By Carol Band

“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win, but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph, but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered, but to have fought well.” – The Olympic motto (1908)


ChasingEven though the 2012 Olympics in London are over a backyard Olympics can be just the ticket to fun on a beautiful day. Plus, you don't have to wait every four years for the backyard Olympics. Make them an annual event in your neighborhood. Call your friends, gather your neighbors and let the games begin!

Preparing for the Games

• Design a poster or mascot. Assemble or create flags from many nations. Have older children research a country that they choose to represent.

• Create scorecards for observers that have arrows. Judges can point them up, down or sideways. Remind judges that they will also be scored during their own performances.

• Carry the torch. No Olympics is complete without an Olympic torch. Open the games with a run around the block. Use a decorated flashlight or substitute streamers on a stick.

Track & Field

• Create an obstacle course in your yard with plenty of things to crawl through, jump over and run around.

• Compete to see who can hop on one foot for the longest.

• Team up for a wheelbarrow race. One child holds the legs of another and teams compete walking on their hands.

• Do the limbo. Use a long pole and see how low you can go.

• Practice the long jump. See if you can beat your own record.

• Toss the Frisbee™. Award points for distance, style and speed.



• If you have a swing set, let kids use it to create freestyle programs. Set a time limit and strict safety rules.

• Bring a foam mat or mattress outside for tumbling routines.

• Set up a balance beam with a thick board set on bricks just a few inches off the ground.


The Dream Team

Tug_o_war• The tug-of-war was discontinued as an Olympic sport in 1920, but you can resurrect it for some backyard fun.

• Shoot baskets or have a dribbling contest.

• Play Whiffle™ ball.

• Organize a backyard soccer game.

• Divide into teams for relay races. Think back to the classics – carry an egg on a spoon, pass an apple from neck to neck, or pass a baton off to the next person on your team.


Water Sports

Try these events for some wet ways to cool fun.

• Water Balloon Toss – Fill balloons with water. Toss with a partner. Gradually move farther apart until the balloon breaks. See which team can go the greatest distance.

• Squirt Gun Target Shoot – Set up various objects to hit: cans, Barbie™ dolls (whoever gets her hair wettest wins!), paper targets.

• Wet Nerf™ Ball Toss – an alternative to the water balloons.

• Create-a-Raft Race – Build miniature rafts from found objects (film canisters, popsicle sticks, toothpicks). Race your tiny rafts in a wading pool.

• Sprinkler Jumping – Turn on the sprinkler and create a water ballet. Judge on creativity and style.


New Games

• With a nod to the Olympics’ mountain biking event, create a bicycle slalom. Set up cones or objects to weave through. Use a stopwatch to mark the best time. An in-line skate course can also be fun.

• Celebrate the inclusion of beach volleyball. Use a short net or piece of ribbon for the net. For younger kids, volley with a balloon or a Nerf™ ball. Babies can celebrate the beach aspect of the sport in the sandbox.

• Think up your own Olympic sports: thumb wrestling, watermelon seed spitting or jump roping.

Competition – with yourself and with others – is an intrinsic part of the Olympics. Children, however, aren’t always gracious in the face of defeat. When organizing teams, try to balance them with both boys and girls, older kids and younger kids. With individual sports, encourage the idea of a personal best and include a wide range of activities so that everyone can have a chance to excel.

Award all participants with popsicles or juice pops and, if you choose, medals or wreaths of leaves. You can buy medals at party supply stores or create your own from paper and foil or candy coins glued to ribbons.

Carol Band is an experienced master of ceremonies for backyard Olympic games.