summer olympicsThe Summer Olympics, with the athletes' dramatic personal stories, unbelievable athletic prowess and excitement about thousands of people from hundreds of countries unified through sport, inspire children's imaginations like no other global event. But the Olympics aren't just about watching amazing athletes and rooting for your favorites. It's also a great opportunity to turn children onto world culture and geography.


With 204 countries competing in the 2012 Summer Olympics, there are many important and fun things to teach children that go far beyond the speed at which a human can run, the awe of a gymnast performing multiple flips on a four-inch wide beam, and the number of paces a horse needs to take in order to successfully clear a high jump.


Here are 10 ways to spark children's imaginations with the many multicultural aspects of the Olympics.


1. Enjoy some food from the country of your child's favorite Olympic athlete.


2. Have a World Atlas app or book handy while you watch the games and learn one fun fact about each country in the competition.


3. Make flags representing the countries competing in your child's favorite competition.


4. Get out that world map and mark it with medal counts as you watch the Olympics together.


5. Learn how to say "Hello" in the different languages of the countries represented in your child's favorite sport.


6. Read books with your children about the nations and cultures represented in the Olympics.


7. Have your child pick an athlete from any country then research their training conditions. Discuss why the land the athlete comes from helps contribute to their athletic abilities (i.e., marathoners from Africa train in desert heat and higher elevations, making London streets easier for them, etc.)


8. When the medals are handed out and the flags go up, the winner's national anthem is played. Find out what the words of the national anthem mean and sing it with your child.


9. Learn the capital cities of the countries of the athletes participating in your child's favorite Olympic sport.


10. Figure out what time it is in the home country of the winning athlete and in London and encourage your child to calculate the best time for the athlete to call home and share the exciting news with their family.


Are you planning to use the Olympics as a teaching opportunity in your family? Share with us your ideas!


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About Leah Lesser

As the mom of two book-loving daughters and the Communications Director at Barefoot Books, my favorite thing to do is to share stories with my family. One of my earliest memories as a child is snuggling up in bed with my dad reading an hilarious story about a turtle and a duck. Throughout high school I worked as the page in the children's room of my small town library and loved interacting with all of the patrons, from the teeniest ones who could barely yet hold open a book, to the grandparents who would come in and spend literally hours searching for their favorite stories from childhood to share with their grandchildren. In college I was most often found in the library surrounded by books and when I needed a break from text books I would turn to the latest issue of the New York Times, the Styles section and Business sections were, and still are, my favorites. I've spent nearly 20 years helping emerging companies launch their brands through local, national and global media strategies and I'm thrilled to have landed at Barefoot Books (, a children's publisher that has always been near and dear to my heart and those of my own children. My favorite Barefoot book? A close tie between The Prince's Bedtime and I Took the Moon for a Walk. My children's? Magic Hoofbeats (for my 10 year old equestrian) and Lola's Fandango (for my 6 year old dancer.)

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Posted by: Leah Lesser