Get your family and friends in the Olympic spirit with these simple but oh-so-fun Olympic backyard games. Let the games begin!
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It’s summer Olympics time! Are you excited? While I’m no die-hard athlete, I love admiring the insane level of skill and dedication that Olympic athletes demonstrate.
This year, I wanted to do something a little special to get my kids excited about the games. And once I get an idea…well, there’s no stopping me.
To get everyone in the Olympic spirit I thought it would be fun to host our very own Olympic backyard games, complete with torch relay and opening ceremonies! We decided to invite some of our neighborhood friends (we’re lucky to live in a neighborhood that is bursting with kids), but you could also make this a fun family activity!
Two things I focused on in planning our Olympic backyard games:
- Keep it SIMPLE! It’s easy to get carried away with fun party ideas (Pinterest rabbit-hole, anyone?), but I really wanted to keep our Olympic backyard games low-prep and inexpensive. Because the truth is you really don’t have to spend a lot of time or money to make awesome memories with your kids!
- Keep the competition FUN & FRIENDLY! Competition is key to the Olympics, but I wanted to make sure that everybody could go home feeling like a winner. I knew I would have kids of various ages and athletic abilities at our Olympics, so I intentionally chose to structure things in a way that would allow younger kids and kids who aren’t particularly “sporty” to still have fun and succeed. To do this, I planned a variety of athletic and non-athletic games as well as some individual and some team events.
Here’s everything you need to know to host your own Olympic backyard games…
Olympic Torch Relay
Make a simple Olympic torch using a flashlight, aluminum foil, and tissue paper. Super simple! (Note: if you turn the flashlight ON, your torch will “glow”!) Or, just wrap some cardstock paper into a cone shape and tape the tissue paper inside (that’s what I ended up doing).
Have participants spread out in a big circle, and invite them to pass the torch from person to person while you play the Olympic fanfare and theme. Once the torch gets to the last person, have that athlete place the torch in a prominent place of honor where it can stay through the games.
Alternatively, you could make this into a “hot potato” style game where participants pass the torch and the person holding the torch when the music pauses gets eliminated. Keep playing until you have your first gold medal winner!
Parade of Nations
Invite all the kids to participate in a quick parade around the backyard where they can show off their best moves: cartwheels, karate, dance, jumping high, etc. Anything goes…as long as they don’t touch any other athletes (safety first, and all that…).
Consider dividing all your participants into teams. Even though some of your events may be individual competitions, having a team to cheer for can make for a more fun and supportive Olympic environment. That way, even if an individual chooses not to participate in an event, he or she can cheer on other teammates who are competing.
Teams can be assigned randomly, but you may want to sneakily stack the deck a little to make sure that the teams are well-balanced with kids of varying ages and abilities. One way to do this is to have kids line up from tallest to shortest and then count off to make the teams. Although athletic ability doesn’t necessarily correspond to size, it should help make the teams more balanced.
To make it easy to identify each team, you can buy inexpensive bandanas in various colors at Walmart. Alternatively, you can make armbands/bracelets out of scrap fabric or ribbon in various colors.
Included in the printable pack at the bottom of this post is a master event schedule and score sheet that you can use to keep track of who wins gold, silver, and bronze in each event.
But, really, you don’t have to keep score. If you have a group with LOTS of different ages, or kids who might get more anxiety than fun out of a competitive environment, feel free to skip the scoring all together and just make it fun! You can market it as an “Olympic training camp” rather than a competition.
Medals & Awards
I wanted every child to receive a medal and a certificate of participation (you can download the certificate I designed at the bottom of the post). There are a lot of situations where I think it’s good for kids to learn that NOT everyone wins every time, but these Olympic backyard games were not the time for that life lesson. I wanted everyone to go home a winner.
There are several options you can use for creating kid-friendly medals:
- Buy these really simple medals from Amazon (sometimes they have them at the dollar store, too).
- Make edible medals using golden Oreos and Fruit by the Foot.
HUGE List of Olympic Backyard Games
There is NO way that you will play every game on this list, but I’m sharing LOTS of ideas so you can choose your favorites. Build your own event schedule with whichever games will work best for your group and can be played with supplies that you already have on hand. Remember, keep it SIMPLE!
Jell-o eating contest: Measure out equal servings of Jell-o and have participants race to see who can finish first! Keep hands behind your backs to make it extra challenging (and entertaining!)
Bean bag toss: Make targets using buckets, a cornhole game, or just good ol’ sidewalk chalk. Participants compete to see who can get the most points for getting bean bags (or water balloons!) into the targets.
Pool noodle javelin: Participants throw pool noodles–cut in half to be shorter–as their “javelins”. You can score based on distance thrown, or make target hoops (hula hoops or pool noodles taped in a circle) to try to throw the javelin through. (You can also do a mini javelin using toothpicks (aim at a small bowl).
Long jump: Participants start at a marked spot on the ground and see who can jump the farthest!
Basketball tournament: Participants compete to see who can make the most baskets (of any kind) in 30 seconds. If you don’t have a basketball hoop, use a smaller ball and a garbage can, and require participants to stand a certain distance from the garbage can.
Ping pong downhill “ski ball”: Tape disposable cups to the end of a table. Prop the opposite end of the table up on boards or books to make it slanted. Participants stand on the higher side and roll ping pong balls toward the lower side, trying to get the balls into the cups (labeled with various point values). When all balls have been rolled, add up that player’s points. Highest point value after everyone has a turn wins!
Pantyhose bowling: Set up 5-6 small soda or water bottles in a line. Put a baseball or tennis ball in the bottom (foot) of a pair of pantyhose. Participants take turns putting the pantyhose over their head (not face) and swinging the ball to try to knock over the “bowling pin” bottles. Winner is the person to knock over the most pins in one minute!
Frisbee golf Set out a large bucket (or draw a circle on the ground with sidewalk chalk). Participants start from a marked spot and see how many throws it takes them to get the frisbee into the “goal.” Lowest score wins!
Triathlon: Combine any three tasks of your choice into a simple triathlon event. For ours, we did football (toss a small football through a hula hoop), basketball (toss a ball into a laundry basket), and soccer (kick a ball through a goal). Time participants, and fastest time wins! Note: For participants of varying ages, we adjusted the difficulty/distance accordingly.
Cookie Face Race: Give each participant a small (Oreo or similar) cookie to place on his/her forehead. When you say go, all participants try to wiggle the cookie down into their mouths (no hands allowed). If the cookie falls off, the participant has to put it back on their forehead and start over. The first person to eat the cookie wins!
Penny Drop: For this game you need 5 pennies and an egg carton. Write various point values in the bottom of each egg cup (1, 5, and 10 or whatever points you want to use). Place egg carton on the ground. Participants take turns holding a penny above their heads and dropping them into the egg carton. Each participant drops a total of 5 pennies. Add up the points from all drops to get the participants total score. Variation: Drop clothes pins into a jug instead. It’s harder than you might think!
Hula Hoop contest: Hand each player a hula hoop and see who can keep it going round and round the longest! If you have a large group, consider having kids compete in heats and then have a “final” where the winners of the previous heats face off. Or, if you only have one hula hoop, just time each participant individually and the winner is whoever gets the longest time.
Relay Races: There are SO many different relay races you can do with teams. Here are a few options…
- Tunnel relay: All members in the team stand single file with their feet spread wide. The first runner starts at the back, crawls under the legs of all players in the team, runs forward to a designated turn-around point, and then returns to tag the next person of the team who does the same thing as the first player (the finished runner gets at the end of the line). Play continues until all team members have completed the task.
- Egg and spoon race: Each team member in turn must walk or run through a designated course while balancing a egg on a spoon with one hand. You can decide on the rules for what happens if the egg drops: either the runner must return to the beginning, or he/she can just stop and place it back on the spoon before continuing from the same spot. Play continues until all team members have completed the task. Note: If you use real eggs, I highly recommend that you hard boil them. Alternatively, you could use plastic eggs, bean bags, ping pong balls, or any other smallish toys.
- Pool noodle croquet: Each team member in turn uses a pool noodle to move a ball through a series of croquet wickets (or you can make your own arches using pool noodles placed over plastic knives sticking out of the ground). Once the runner has successfully gotten the ball through all the wickets in order, he/she can pick up the ball and run back to hand off the ball and pool noodle to the next player. Play continues until all team members have completed the task.
- Water cup relay: Place two buckets (one filled with water and one empty) for each team 15-20 feet apart (or more if you have older kids). The first player must use a cup to scoop up water from the first bucket, place it on his/her head (they can still hold it with their hands), and run to dump it in the second (empty) bucket. Then, the runner returns to the team and hands off the cup to the next person. Play continues until one team fills their second bucket ALL the way to the top.
- Balloon relay: Each team member places a balloon between his/her legs and must “waddle” a specified distance, turn around, and waddle back. Play continues until all team members have completed the task.
- Dress up relay: Have a silly outfit for teammates to put on, run a specified distance, and then take off to give to the next runner. Ideas might include a hat or helmet, sunglasses, sweatshirt (or jersey), basketball shorts, big shoes (or flippers), etc. Play continues until all team members have completed the task.
- Hula hoop relay: All members of each team hold hands and make a line. Loop a hula hoop over the first person’s arm. Without letting go of the other players’ hands, each teammate must move through the hula hoop and pass it on to the next person. The first team to get their hula hoop to the end of the line without dropping hands wins!
Games for two: Pair up participants and play any of the following games are all perfect for teams of two! Tip: To keep from one team dominating, consider having kids rotate partners between each race. Just have one teammate from each team move to the right (the farthest right person who ends up alone runs around to the other end).
- Leap frog race: Person A crouches down on the ground. Person B runs up, places his/her hands on Person A’s back and “leaps” over like a frog hopping. Then, person B crouches down and person A leaps over. The teammates continue leap-frogging each other until they reach the end of the specified race course. First team to the end wins!
- Three-legged race: Have teammates stand close together, side-by-side. Use a bandana or other piece of fabric to tie the inside legs of the teammates together, so between them they have three legs (kind of). Teammates must work together to walk or run until they reach the end of the specified race course. First team to the end wins!
- Wheelbarrow race: In this race, teams race along a course with one person as the driver and one as the “wheelbarrow.” Person A (the driver) holds on to person B’s ankles, while person B (the wheelbarrow) walks on his/her hands. First team to the end wins!
- Human ring toss: Make a large ring for each team by duct taping the ends of a pool noodle together. Have partners stand across from each other (about 6-10 feet apart). Teammates toss the ring back and forth, trying to get it over their teammate’s head. Person A attempts, then person B tosses it back, trying to “ring” person A. The winner is the team with the most points (one point per successful throw) after one minute.
Fun lawn games you can buy:
There are also some awesome lawn games that would make awesome backyard Olympic events. If you have one of these, use it! If you don’t, this is a good excuse to invest in one. (Disclaimer: I don’t actually own any of these, but they’re on my wish list! I’ve played all of them with friends and they’re so fun.)
Whew! That should keep you and the kids busy for awhile.
Our Olympic Schedule
Here’s how I planned the logistics of our party. How you organize your event will depend on your own personal circumstances, but hopefully hearing what I did will give you a starting point.
- Kids arrive and participate in warm ups: Have music playing and practice tricks, stretching, dance, etc. IT might also be a good time to remind kids what it means to be a good sport and encourage them all to remember that everyone who has FUN is a winner today.
- Olympic torch relay and parade of “nations”: See descriptions of these activities above.
- Individual events: We had a pretty large group of neighborhood kids over for our party, so I decided to set up carnival style booths for several of the individual events. I had one adult in charge of running each of the five games (one for each Olympic ring color), and the kids were free to do these events in any order they wanted. I gave each athlete an official Olympic Backyard Games punch card, and once they had completed each of the games, they were able to exchange their card for a medal and a snack. (You can download the printable cards below.
- Group relay races: Divide into teams for relay races and other group games.
- Free play and snack rewards: Let kids revisit any favorite events, eat yummy food, and play until the end of the party time. If you need a good way to wrap things up and signal the end of the party, you could have a “closing ceremony” of some kind. For example, have all the kids line up, take a bow, and do a cheer (Try an echo cheer of affirmations: “I am strong. I am smart. I can do hard things!”) This would also be a good time to hand out the certificates of participation.
Olympic Backyard Games Printables
Now, one last thing before you head off to bring your awesome Olympic backyard games to life. I’ve made some printables for you that will really take your party up a notch! They’re completely print-and-go, so it’s SUPER simple for you.
Here’s what’s included:
- Schedule of events & score sheet: Use this if you decide to keep score.
- Olympic events punch card: Use this if you have a large group and want kids to be able to do individual events carnival style.
- Certificate of participation: Every young athlete who competes receives a certificate along with a medal at the end of the games!
Want more summer fun? Try these activities: