There is a whole range of Olympic- and Paralympic-related opportunities you could explore, depending on the ages and interests of the children with whom you are working. These include:
- developing activities that focus on encouraging children to be active and learn new physical skills
- emphasising the benefits of teamwork and cooperation to achieve a particular goal
- developing an appreciation of the need for practise and persistence to achieve a particular goal
- focusing on the very positive role models provided by the Paralympic athletes
- learning about language by learning how to say simple words of welcome in different languages
- finding out about the different parts of the world from which the competitors come.
Encouraging physical activity
We are all aware of the importance of movement and physical activity as the foundation of young children’s healthy development. In the revised Early Years Foundation Stage Framework, this has been highlighted by defining physical development as one of the prime areas of learning and development, alongside communication and language, and personal, social and emotional development.
Attitudes to physical activity are formed early in life so the more we can help young children to see ‘being active’ as a normal part of daily life, the better. We will be encouraging them to develop the habits that will help them to stay fit and healthy throughout their lives.
Being active, whether indoors and out of doors, not only helps children to develop muscle strength and coordination, it also provides emotional satisfaction by fulfilling a child’s natural desire to move around and experience the world first-hand through the use of all parts of the body.
Try some of these ideas for encouraging physical activity.
- Devise your own Olympic events, which involve moving quickly and slowly, stretching, climbing and balancing.
- Include throwing and catching activities, which involve the coordination of movement of the shoulders, arms, wrists and hands: all essential precursors of effective pencil control.
- As well as individual events, make sure you organise some team activities where small groups of children can play together, taking turns and following simple instructions. These provide ideal opportunities for them to learn from one another as well as to enjoy the satisfaction of mastering a new skill.
- You could plan a whole series of ‘training days’ leading up to your mini Olympic Games. These will help children to see the rewards that can come from putting effort into practising skills until they have been mastered.
- Remember to make the most of all the opportunities these activities provide for counting, number recognition and mark-making.
- If possible, take short video sequences of children in the early stages and at the end of the mini Olympic experience. Spend time looking back over this with the children, talking together about what they have learned to do and how their skills have improved.
Positive role models
Helping young children to develop positive attitudes towards disability can sometimes be challenging, so the coverage in the media of the Paralympics provides an ideal opportunity to capitalise on the role models provided by the athletes competing in the games.
- The skills, speed, strength, stamina and levels of fitness demonstrated by competitors in events such as fencing, basketball, athletics, rugby and tennis are extraordinary and there will be many images in the media that you can share and talk about with young children.
- Organise some activities that involve the children moving around using all their senses, not just their sense of sight.
- After the games are over, you might like to find out if there are any sports events involving people with disabilities that you could visit with the children.
Learning about other countries
This summer the United Kingdom will play host to athletes and visitors from over 200 countries. Each country has its own national identity, flag, anthem, language, culture and mode of dress. This provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to extend young children’s horizons and make them more aware of the very diverse nature of the countries and communities that make up the world.
Try these ideas and develop your own.
- Look at an atlas or globe to find out where different countries are and then find out about the lifestyles of the people who live there using either picture books or the internet.
- Ask the children in your mini Olympics which country they would like to represent and create some coloured flags or badges to wear that relate to the country.
- Learn the words for ‘hello’ in a range of languages, encouraging the children to listen to what these sound like and look at how they are written.
- Prepare simple dishes for the children to sample using recipes from countries around the world.
- Don’t forget to tap in to what could be a very rich source of multicultural information – the parents whose children attend your setting.
Links to the revised EYFS Standards 1.2, 2.3, 4.4, 5.1, 6.3