Olympics party theme - thumbnail image

I have a huge family – nine brothers and sisters, plus cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, parents, and grandparents - and that doesn't include my in-laws. So every year for Mother's Day, we do the same thing and have a Family Olympics. The venue changes every year, with each family taking turns as hosts. The park is always the setting but the games and activities change year to year. It is a great way to spend the day, and being both a mum and daughter, I really love the family interaction. Last year my family was the host and I'd love to share what we did.

There is a park about a mile from our house so early Sunday morning we headed out to get things ready. The car was full of things like cones, rope, balls, coolers full of water and juice, sponges, buckets, tablecloths, blankets, lawn chairs, and snacks that included chips, fruit, cheese and crackers, peanuts, vegetables and dips and biscuits. Since the family is so large, each one brings their own main dish, like sandwiches, quiches, hot dogs, chicken, roast beef, or a pasta dish. We cordoned off a huge grassy section of the park and set up base. One area was designated for eating, another for watching, and a third for competition.

Once everyone had arrived and got settled, I took out my megaphone and shouted “Let the games begin.” I had phoned all my relatives ahead of time and asked each family to come wearing a specific coloured shirt so that families could be easily identified. Anyone 65 and older served as judges and referees and was asked to wear black and white. (This made it easy on mum and dad so there was no arguing over whose team they would be on). We all assembled on the open field and I handed out an activity schedule to each family. The games would last for two hours and then there would be a closing ceremony with awards handed out. The black and whites (that's what we liked to call the old folks) were given copies of the rules for each game so there would be no conflicts.

Since it was Mother's Day, first up was a mum-calling contest. In this game, all the mums were blindfolded at one end of the playing field and across the way, standing in a row, were their children. The object was to walk across the grass and find your child. Before the start, families huddled to decide which child, if there was more than one, would participate. The kid with the loudest scream was a good bet. A referee blew a whistle and the first event began. Judges stood by the children to watch for parent-child contact and to announce the winners in order (points were given, the most for first, the least for last). It's not easy finding your own child when they are all yelling “Mum, over here! Hey Mum!” Funny is not the word.

The next competition was a tunnel relay. Families lined up along a start line and facing a finish line about 50 metres away. They were told they must tunnel through their team mates legs to the finish. When the whistle blew, the last family member in line would drop to the ground and crawl through the legs of everyone in front of him or her. Once he or she got all the way through and stood in front, the last person does the next drop and tunnel. The first team to the finish line wins. While this is pretty easy for kids, it's more difficult for adults and there was a lot of collapsing and laughter.

The third Olympic game was a shoe-kicking contest. Remember, no one knew what games we would be playing, so some were in tennis shoes, others in sandles and flip flops. Families went one at a time, with each family member participating (it's fun to flip your shoes and I didn't want to leave anyone out). At a start line, each person stood and kicked their leg in the air sending their shoe flying as far as it could go. A judge marked the distance and the one participant's shoe that went the farthest from each family was kept marked. When all families had gone, the order of the winners was announced and points awarded again.

You can't have a competitive day in the park without tug-of-war, so we played that next. Families randomly drew numbers and we went in order competing against each other. My sister, with her three teenage boys had a slight advantage over me and my two young girls, but that's how it goes.

Lastly, we held a cake decorating contest. I brought plain round 9-inch sponge cakes and a tub of white frosting for each family. Everyone sat at picnic tables and I put bowls of decorating items like sprinkles, candies, chocolate chips, smarties, and mini cookies within reach. The whistle blew, and teams had ten minutes to decorate their cake. This time the winner was decided by an open vote - and now every family had something to eat for dessert.

The judges tallied up the points and announced the Gold, Silver, and Bronze place finishers. They received medals I bought at a party shop. Everyone else received ribbons of participation.

We were all famished by this time and so sat around on chairs, blankets and tables to eat lunch and relax. The kids ate and ran around the park and the adults got to visit with each other. On a final note, I awarded each mum with a special ribbon that said 'World's Best Mum'. We stayed until it was almost dark, enjoying family time and joking about our annual family Olympics and the funny things we did. It was a great day.