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Olympics offer chance to teach

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What really inspires you? Or, better yet, the entire family? In my household, nothing does it better in the middle of winter than the Olympic Games. Although we won't be at the opening ceremony when the Olympic torch arrives at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Feb. 8, we can share in the pageantry on our television screens.

The weeks of daily coverage that follow will bring opportunities for your family to get involved, learn and have fun. As you and the kids cheer for your favorite athletes, here are some teachable and inspirational moments the Games promise to provide:

Watch and learn

Devote a family bulletin board to the Olympic Games. Help your children find, cut out and display newspaper articles about athletes they are rooting for and admire. It's especially fun to support one from your hometown or state. To add to the ongoing spirit of the Games, make a simple chart with their favorite athletes' names, countries and events. Note achievements with stickers as the Games progress.

For daily information and interesting background information check the Olympic Games Web site at www.olympics.com.

Never give up

The skills and stories of hard work, courage and persistence of thousands of athletes from all over the world are always inspiring, but what always seems to come through to my kids is that even the best-trained athletes still make mistakes. When they fumble and fall, they get back up and keep on going, teaching those of us at home to always strive to do our best. Ask your children what personal characteristics they think led to the success of the athletes you watch.

Bring home the Olympic Games

Encourage a spirit of cooperation when engaging in your own family projects, sports and games. If you're enjoying board games or tackling a chore like packing the car for a trip, or if you're inspired to try an Olympic sport like ice skating or skiing, aim toward challenging one another in a cooperative spirit.

Share the gold

Make gold medals to use as special family awards. Giving children praise for positive behavior, such as good sportsmanship and kindness, helps kids view themselves in a positive way. To make the medals, cut out circles from yellow poster board. Punch a hole at the top and thread through an 18-inch length of red-white-and-blue-striped ribbon. On the circle, write a special attribute, such as "No. 1 Good Sport," "Helpful Big Sister" or "Super Speller." Present them at a designated family time.

© Donna Erickson