Learning with the Olympics

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We’re not a TV-watching family.  In fact, we don’t even have a TV.  We watch shows on our computer.  But for the past few days we have been glued to the Olympics.  With snow piled up on the ground outside, it’s nice to cuddle together under a blanket and watch some TV.  I remember watching when I was little and then practicing figure skating on the linoleum kitchen floor.  Fast forward to Big Sis jumping around the family room showing us her “snowboard moves.”  It makes my heart happy.

And while we are watching, we are learning about..

  • Sports– Being exposed to new sports is a great learning opportunity.  It gives kids background knowledge that will help their reading comprehension.  If they are reading a book where the characters are skiing, but they have no idea how to ski, it will be difficult to understand the book.
  • Sportsmanship–  The athletes reactions to falling down or low scores make good conversation starters about good (or bad) sportsmanship.
  • Geography– Just hearing the names of other countries is increasing kids’ knowledge about the world.  You can take it a step further and look up the countries on a map or globe as you are watching.  Talk about continents.  Compare sizes of countries.  The list goes on and on.
  • Flags– Play a game and point out our country’s flag each time you see it on the screen.  Identify other country’s flags and see if they can remember a few.  Or print out a sheet of flags and play a match game with the ones you see on TV.
  • Math–  There are numbers all over the place!  Younger kids can play “find the numbers” and call out 1-10 when they see it on bibs, scores, etc.  Older kids will be able to understand more about scores and times.  You can talk about place value with tenths of a second.  You can do math problems about how many more points someone needs to be in first.  Or make a table to show the metals from each country and add them up every day.

And then you can extend that learning.  You know, away from the TV.

  • Play a winter sport– Go ice skating.  Try out skiing.
  • Go to the library– Read books about the Olympics, a favorite sport, athlete, or country.
  • Make your own Olympics–  This is a family favorite.  Make up your own events and get the whole family involved.  The events can be board games, video games, obstacle courses, silly tricks, or even chores.
  • Get crafty–  There are lots of Olympics-related crafts on Pinterest. Get out your scissors and glue and get to it!
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Food Smart

I have an embarrassing confession.  I am not a healthy eater and I don’t even know what most vegetables look like.  As a twentysomething I was eating a salad (a big achievement for me!) and someone commented about my spinach.  WHAT?!  I was eating spinach?!  I honestly thought spinach was yucky, slimy, green stuff in a can.  It never occurred to me that it was a leaf.  Ridiculous.

I am determined for my own girls to grow up healthier and smarter.  Okay.  I’m not going to get all crazy and never go to McDonald’s again.  Trust me.  I still want to eat cheeseburgers.  I just want them to know about other foods, too.

Besides being good for your body, trying all kinds of food also gives you general background knowledge that aids in reading comprehension.  You will understand a lot more about a book about pineapples, for example, if you have a background knowledge of what a pineapple looks like, tastes like, and how it grows.

So what can we do as parents?

1.  Let kids see food in their natural form as much as possible.  Yes, you can buy corn in a can.  But show them what an ear of corn looks like in the grocery store.  Or better yet, look at a corn field.  It seems like common sense…but if you don’t show kids, then they don’t know (ie my spinach story).

2.  Try it!  Make trying new foods part of your routine.  We have a “Try One Bite” rule at our house.  After that bite, everyone is free to say “no thank you” and eat other things on his/her plate.

3.  Grow it!  Kids are much more likely to try something if they have invested their time in growing it.  Start small with a just a seed and a pot or do a whole garden in the backyard.  And check out these garden resources from the USDA:  http://teamnutrition.usda.gov/garden.html

4.  Pick it!  Look for farms where you can pick your own strawberries, blackberries, peaches, apples, etc.  This is a great experience to see how food is grown, harvested, and (if you are ambitious) used in cooking.

4.  Make it a fun game.  Slice up a few different fruits and kids close their eyes and guess which fruits they are tasting.  Or try a few foods and put them into categories of fruits/vegetables or yummy/yucky.

5.  Make it a family goal.  Maybe pick out one new fruit or vegetable each time you go to the grocery store?  After reading Eating the Alphabet by Lois Ehlert we set the goal of eating everything in the book.  As you can imagine, I’ve never even seen most of them.