Ideas for the Party Human

Family Olympics

Posted on: January 15, 2010

THEME:  Olympic-style competition, family unity, teamwork

INVITATIONS:  This event would work best as a church or neighborhood social or a family reunion.  In this case, publicity and preparation must come several weeks in advance.  The upcoming activity is announced and publicized with posters, etc.  Ask families to sign up, and those who do so are given a plain, white piece of material,  and a handout.   The handout should identify the date, location and time of the event; it might also include instructions like this:

             “This week, get your whole family together and sit down to fill out the section below, listing any events you feel members of your team could compete in.  Use your imagination and think of each member’s talents.  Feel free to go outside the “traditional Olympic events.”  Possible events could include:  Baby Crawling Race, Mini-golf, Water Pistol Dueling, Hula Hooping, Relay Races, Frisbee Throwing, Bowling, Baking Contest, Free-Throws, etc.  Be sure to list at least one event for each individual and one team event.

            “Also, when you have your family all together, have fun designing and creating your own Family Flag.  You can use anything to decorate the material–crayons, markers, paint–whatever you want.  You can design your flag any way you wish; it will be yours to keep as a family treasure, and the only requirement is that it have your family name somewhere on it.”

            Ask the families to bring the handout back to you by a specific date, about a week later, so your committee can consider their suggestions for events.  Make it clear that you won’t be able to feature every event suggested, but you will do the best you can.  Also, ask them to bring their Family Flag to you by a certain date, about a week before the event, so you can display it at the Games.  (If that doesn’t work, they can bring it early to the Olympics and hang it up then.)  Lastly, let them know where and when to bring their team on the date of the social, and suggest they all try to wear something of the same color, if possible.  Be upbeat and positive–make sure they know this is an event they won’t want to miss!  At the bottom of the handout, have a place for them to list the members of their team by name, the names of the individual and team events they suggest, and the name of a well-known song they wish to designate as their team song. 

            Decorate this handout with appropriate drawings or clip art.  We also suggest you might use an adaptation of the colorful Olympic symbol of five linked rings by using a logo of five linked hearts, like the sample below*:

 T-shirt logo for a family reunion


After you have collected the completed handouts, you choose the events and send out a flyer to notify them so they can begin “training.”  (If you do not receive enough suggestions, you may need to choose the events yourself.)  The flyer should remind every one of the date and time of the Olympics and then list the events that will be featured.  That list might read something like this: 

 TODDLER EVENTS (three & under)

                        1.         3 yd. Dash                                                                   

                        2.         Rolling Race                                                                


                       1.  Kangaroo Dash                  

                       2.  Tossing Accuracy (Block Toss)


                        1.  Whip Cream Bob                           

                         2.  Obstacle Course                                                     


                        1.  “Underwater Swimming” Race        

                        2.  Free Throw Contest

                        3.  Lemon Golf                        

                        4.  “Discus” Throw

                        5.  “High Dive”                         

                        6.  Water Pistol Accuracy


                        1.  Egg Toss                                        

                        2.  “Domestic” Obstacle Course                                   

                        3.  Nail Pounding Contest                    

                        4.  “Name That Tune”

                        5.  Baking Contest (Cakes or Cookies)   

                        6.  Horseshoes

TEAM EVENTS– (All teams may enter)

                       1.  Barbershop Race (Balloon shaving)   

                        2.  Potato Relay

                        3.  “Hot Air” Balloon Races

Total team scores at the Games will be divided by number of team members to make judging fair for all teams. 

            Be sure to include your phone number on the flyer, should the families have any questions. 

MATERIALS FOR ACTIVITIES:  Microphone, if possible; materials for group game at beginning; event schedules and index cards for each participant; torch (if you cannot use a real torch, try covering a large flashlight with foil, fastening red cellophane at the lighted end, and setting it on a pedestal); pencils for judges; materials for all events; silver, gold and bronze medals (look-alikes to the real things can be ordered at a trophy store); ribbons for all participants (paper ribbons with the logo and the words “Family Olympics Finalist” printed on them); platform; piano, keyboard or guitar to play winning team’s song.

FOOD:  If you do have a baking contest, then the entries will serve for refreshments.  Of course, you do not know how many entries there will be, so it would be best to ask those not entering to each bring one dozen cookies, or something similar.  If you do not have a baking contest, then ask each team to bring two dozen cookies.  Then serve a drink, such as homemade root beer.  Your local dry ice distributor may also sell root beer extract and a recipe.  Use disposable napkins and cups in red, white and blue or primary colors.

DECORATIONS:  Most likely, this will be a combination indoor-outdoor social.  Wherever you have everyone assemble at the beginning and end of the party, you should hang the family flags on display.  Near the microphone should be the stand with the torch, and above that you might hang a giant set of linked hearts, like the logo.  Fashion these from wire and tape.  Then, using colored crepe paper streamers–red, yellow, blue, white–tape the streamers to the wire to give the hearts alternating colors.  Hang the whole thing with fishing line.  You may also want to decorate the winners’ platform and walls with red, white and blue streamers and balloons.  Make sure there are plenty of chairs around the edges of the room, and have several large trash cans on hand for cleanup.  Also, have signs labeling the location of each event.

 BLOW-BY-BLOW:         As the teams arrive, they involve themselves in a group game–such as Cooling the Cotton–to be played until everyone has arrived, but for no more than about ten minutes.  They may also enjoy looking at the other family flags.

            When the Group Game is over, you, the committee chairperson or host, use the microphone to explain procedures to the participants.  Ask everyone to pick up a schedule and index card and to write their names on the cards.  Each time they enter an event, they must have the event judge write their scores on the cards.  At the end of the competition, the family team will take one card, write their names on it and the sum total of their scores, and turn the card into the judges.  The judges will then average the scores according to the number of team members.  Briefly go over the schedule and answer any questions, then an honored guest emcee–like the leader of the organization–lights the torch and proclaims, “Let the Games begin!”  The participants then go on to compete in their events as listed on the schedule.  A sample schedule might look something like this:

                                                        SCHEDULE OF EVENTS

 Time                            Event                                                  Location

(about 20 min.) Toddler Events                         (room or area)

                                    3 Yard Dash                                         ”

                                    Rolling Race                                         ”

                                    Jr. Children’s Events                        

                                    Kangaroo Race                                    ”

                                    Block Tossing Accuracy                  ”

                                    Sr. Children’s Events                         

                                    Whip Cream Bob                                 ”

                                    Obstacle Course                                  ”

(about 25 min.) Youth and Adult Events 

                                    “Underwater Swimming Race”       ”

                                    Free Throw Contest                           ”

                                    Lemon Golf                                            ”

                                    “Discus” Throw                                     ”

                                    “High Dive”                                             ”

                                    Water Pistol Accuracy                      ”

                                    Egg Toss                                                  ”

                                    “Domestic” Obstacle Course            ”

                                    Nail Pounding Contest                       ”

                                    “Name That Tune”                                ”

                                    Horseshoes                                             ”

                        (Baking Contest entries should be brought to kitchen before start of Games.)    

(about 25 min.) Team Events                                         (room or area)

                                    Barbershop Race                                     ”

                                    Potato Relay                                              ”

                                    “Hot Air” Balloon Races                         ”

(remaining time, Refreshments, while judges tally scores about 30 min.) 

                                  Awards Ceremony                                     ”

                                    Clean-up–pitch in!                                                      

                                 THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO PARTICIPATED!!!

            At each event, a helper acts as judge and gives participants scores on a scale of 1-10 for their performances.  These he writes on the participants’ score cards before they go on to another event. 

            The judges are people who want to be a part of the activity but who do not wish to compete in the games, such as the elderly, disabled, etc.  No one should be asked to be a judge unless he or she states that he or she does not want to compete.  It may be necessary to look outside the organization for helpers to be judges.  The children’s events can be done one or two at a time, lessening the number of judges needed.  The older family members can watch and cheer for their younger participants; then, the children can go watch and cheer for the teens and adults. 

            At the appointed time, all the judges close their areas, and the teams return to the main room for the Team Events.  These are done one right after the other, with the judges watching and scoring the teams as a whole. 

            When the Team Events are over, the head of each team adds the allowable scores from each member and writes the total on his card.  He then writes the names of all the team members on the card and turns it in to the judges.  The judges retire to another room to average the scores.  (A calculator would be helpful at this time.)  The winners of the baking contest are announced, and the refreshments are served while the judges tally. 

            When the judges have their results, the emcee gets everyone’s attention.  He asks that, as he reads the winners’ names, the winning teams will bring their flags forward and stand in the proper places–Gold on the platform, Silver to the right, Bronze to the left.  The emcee then reads the winning teams’ names, with great fanfare.  (A drum roll or trumpet fanfare would be nice.)  The teams take their places, with the youngest members holding the flags.  An accomplished pianist or other musician plays the Gold-winning team’s family song while the chosen emcee presents the medals.  The committee members then pass out the participant ribbons to all the members of the other teams.  When everyone has finished eating, the torch is doused and everyone helps clean up.  Each team may take its own flag home to keep.

Variations and Comments:        Some of the events listed in the sample schedule above are self-explanatory, but in case you’re wondering what some of the others are, we’ll explain them for you.

            Rolling Race:  Toddlers lie down and roll from starting line to finish line.

            Kangaroo Race:  Children put strong rubber bands around their ankles and hop from starting line to finish line.

            Block Tossing Accuracy:  Children stand on a line and toss wooden blocks into a muffin tin.

            Whip Cream Bob:  Each child is given a pie plate filled with whipped cream.  At the bottom of the pan is a piece of bubble gum.  The first one to get the piece of gum with his mouth and blow a bubble gets a perfect score of 10!

            “Underwater Swimming Race”:  (See Mid-Winter Beach Party in earlier post.)

            Lemon Golf:  Use a lemon or other fruit for the golf ball and a broom or mop for the club.  Using the stick end of the broom or mop, the contestant hits the lemon like a golf ball across the floor.  Holes can be circles made with tape or string on the floor, or an upside down plate can be used for added challenge.

            “Discus Throw”:  Instead of a discus, the participant uses a paper plate.

            “High Dive”:  (See Mid-Winter Beach Party in earlier post.)

            Water Pistol Accuracy:  This can be done using loaded water pistols shooting at a target, or you can stage duels at ten paces.

            “Domestic” Obstacle Course:  This can be done any number of ways.  If you have stairs in the building, one way to do it is to scatter clothes, sheets or towels all the way up the stairs.  The participant is given a laundry basket and must run up the stairs, gathering all the items into the basket as he goes.  At the top of the stairs, he must fold all the items and bring them back down the stairs.  Use a stop watch to time his efforts.

            Barbershop Race:  Each team is given a balloon to blow up.  A helper then covers each balloon with shaving cream.  At a given signal, the team leader shaves the balloon while the other team members hold it steady.  The first team done without popping their balloon gets the 10.  A plastic drop-cloth should be placed on the floor if this is done indoors.

            Potato Relay:  This is a typical relay, transporting a potato on a spoon.  A set number of runs must be made to make it fair for uneven teams.

            “Hot Air” Balloon Races:  Each team stands in a circle and holds hands.  A helper drops a balloon in their circle, and they must keep it in the air using only their breath.  They may move around, but they must not break the circle.  The last team with their balloon in the air gets the 10.

             Our family used this activity for a small family reunion, and it worked wonderfully.  We divided our family into three teams, one for each surname involved.  One team was responsible for obtaining the necessary facilities, one for organizing and overseeing the food, and one for the activities.  Each family team was responsible for making their own flag and for 1-3 events.  Each family bought, cooked and served meals for one day, and we all went in together on the cost of the lodging and T-shirts. 

            We had an Opening Ceremony, where the youngest child brought in a candle, which was passed to each person, in order of age, until the oldest used it to light a larger candle on a stand.  Our father built a little stand to display all three flags.  We scheduled our events in the morning–two or three per day–and left the afternoons free for recreation.  Each night, the dinner was from a different country, but we kept everything simple.  In the evenings, we had optional activities like a Kid’s Impromptu Talent Show, a family trivia game, a sing-along and a new tradition of honoring the newest member of the family.  Some of the events we had were a Three-Legged Race, ‘Round-the-World Ping Pong, a Hammock Race, a Barbershop Race, and Water Balloon Volleyball.  We videotaped the events and the Opening and Closing Ceremonies.  We all had T-shirts with the “Linking Hearts” logo on them, as above, each team’s shirts in a different primary color.  We even had gold, silver and bronze medals that looked like the real thing!  It was a wonderful and memorable family reunion.

[*]This was the logo for our family’s family reunion, which we had printed on our T-shirts.


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