What Kids Will Remember Forever from Watching the Olympics With You

olympics (image)

Great ideas for turning the Games into teachable moments.

Common Sense Media logoSierra Filucci
Common Sense Media
Executive Editor, Parenting Content | Mom of Two


The Olympic Games can be such an inspiring and exciting time to watch TV as a family. But beyond the fantastic feats, breathtaking speed, and colorful outfits, there are plenty of opportunities to engage kids in deeper conversations about everything from character strengths like empathy and perseverance to politics. Seize the moment by asking open-ended questions, and see where the conversation goes.

Try these ideas for turning this family viewing opportunity into powerful life lessons.

Talk about inspiration. If nothing else, the Olympics is a time to be awed by the abilities of the human body. Point out the kind of practice, dedication, and sacrifice that go into becoming an Olympic athlete. If there are certain competitors your kids like, find out more about their life and how they pursued their athletic goals.
Ask: What are you willing to work hard for?

Prep for controversy. Every Olympic Games includes some sort of controversy — whether it’s a disqualified athlete or the politics of the host country. Be ready to hear the same issues discussed over and over again during commentary periods, and have some answers ready for your kids’ inevitable questions.
Ask: If you were in charge, how would you handle the controversy?

Explore backstories. Reporters covering the Olympics dig up inspiring stories about athletes overcoming obstacles to reach their goals. These emotional tales can make watching an event all the more compelling and give you a chance to talk to your kids about perseverance. Of course, some stories can include grim experiences — death, illness, injury — that might be too much for very young or very sensitive viewers. Chime in when reassurance or more explanation is necessary.
Ask: What would your backstory be?

Discuss teamwork. Watching team sports can be a great chance to point out how everyone’s contribution is key to a team’s success. Help kids make the connection between teamwork in sports and other collaborative efforts, like a group school project. Point out how athletes show their support for each other and also how they handle winning and losing.
Ask: What makes a good teammate?

Comment on competition. Winning feels great, and most kids have experienced that thrill themselves, so they can identify with the athletes wearing their medals proudly. But point out the other athletes, too. This can help kids develop empathy and reinforce the idea that winning isn’t everything.
Ask: What’s the difference between good and poor sportsmanship?

Go global. The Olympic Games offer the perfect opportunity to learn more about other countries. From identifying country flags to watching different cultural traditions play out, Olympics coverage can be educational. Use the Olympics as a jumping-off point to learn more about particular countries or cultures. Talk about the origins and goals of the Olympics.
Ask: What did you learn about another country or culture that you didn’t know before?

Point out advertising. The Olympics is a huge advertising opportunity for marketers. Try to DVR events when possible so you can skip through the commercials. With older kids, talk about the relationship between athletes and corporations and why they depend on each other. Point out any ironies — like an ad showing an athlete eating fast food — and you’ll pump up kids’ media literacy skills.
Ask: How many advertisements can you spot during an event, and what are they selling?

SierraFilucciAbout Sierra Filucci

Sierra has been writing and editing professionally for more than a decade, with a special interest in women’s and family subjects. She has a master’s degree in journalism from the University of California at Berkeley,… Read more

View all posts by Sierra Filucci here.

This post was originally posted by Common Sense Media on 6/27/16.

Common Sense MediaAbout Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media is dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in a world of media and technology. We exist because our kids are growing up in a culture that profoundly impacts their physical, social, and emotional well-being. We provide families with the advice and media reviews they need in order to make the best choices for their children. Through our education programs and policy efforts, Common Sense Media empowers parents, educators, and young people to become knowledgeable and responsible digital citizens. For more information, visit us at www.commonsense.org.

9 Comments on “What Kids Will Remember Forever from Watching the Olympics With You”

  1. We so enjoyed watching the Olympics as a family its amazing all the practice, dedication, and sacrifice they make.I am so proud of everyone of them !!

  2. Another great article, I can’t wait to be able to watch the Olympics with my grandson when he is a little older. One of things I love is hearing about the different backgrounds of the athletes. Some of their stories on how they got there is inspiring , how they reached their goals.

    1. Oh my gosh, yes Sherry! Some of their stories bring tears to our eyes! Maybe by the next summer Olympics your grandson will be ready to watch with you! Thanks for the comment.

  3. I think that these Olympic Games will be very different and, without the Russian athletes, it will seem strange. I hope the children will understand more about the drug problems in sport because of this ban. There is also the Zika Virus problem and crowd control in Rio as well as threats from extremists. We have a lot to teach our children in my opinion.

  4. Loved this article! Thanks for sharing. I’m so excited to be watching the Olympics with my 5 year old son for the first time! We both are looking forward to it!

    1. Glad you liked it Corry! Thanks for the comment. Hope you and your son have fun!


  6. As a kid, and even as an adult, I have always watched the Olympics w/ my family and it has been some of the greatest memories in my life. What great lessons we can learn from hearing the stories of people from all over the world and how hard they work for their goals.

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