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Ancient Sports & Games

Match-It Memory Game

Test your memory by printing out and playing this Kelsey-themed matching game.

Kelsey Olympics

The Olympic Games originated in ancient Greece, where they took place every four years from 776 BCE to at least 393 CE. The Olympics served as a religious festival and brought together tens of thousands of people from the various Greek city-states. All free men, regardless of their occupation, could compete in the Olympic events, but the athletes were typically soldiers. The Olympic Games were part of the existing tradition of Panhellenic athletic competitions. The Olympics are called such because they were held at Olympia.

Greece was not the only ancient culture to hold athletic competitions. Men in ancient Mesopotamia played a version of polo, but instead of riding horses, they rode on each others’ backs! In ancient Egypt, a kind of field hockey was played with sticks made from palm branches. Rowing and wrestling were also common competitions.

As part of the Kelsey’s Virtual Family Week, you and your family (or COVID pod!) can participate in the #KelseyOlympics! Every day this week, from March 29 to April 2, we will challenge you to compete in an Olympic activity adapted for all ages from a variety of ancient sports. Events will be posted on our website, Facebook page, Instagram, and Twitter. Share photos from your Olympics using the hashtag #KelseyOlympics for a chance to be featured on our social media platforms!

Olympic Schedule

Day 1: Running

The ancient Greeks enjoyed both short-distance and long-distance foot races. Get your running shoes on—we’re kicking off the Kelsey Olympics with the 100-yard dash! Race against your competitors to see who can sprint the fastest. Be sure to wait until you hear “Go!” Do you really love to run? A marathon is a long-distance race that has roots in ancient Greece. According to legend, a Greek soldier ran from the Battle of Marathon to Athens to deliver news of Greece’s victory. The distance between Marathon and Athens is about 25 miles; the 26.2 miles of the modern marathon was established in the early 1900s. Would you like to run a marathon some day? 

Day 2: Jumping 

Today we won't be jumping on the bed or on a trampoline. Instead, we are going to do a series of long jumps. First, collect a few objects of different weights, such as a water bottle, a hardcover book, and a pillow. The ancient Greeks used stone or lead weights in their competitions, but for us, household objects will do. Use sidewalk chalk to mark your starting line. Hold one of the objects; with a running start, jump as far as you can. Repeat with each of the objects, marking your distance with chalk each time. Did you go farther holding a lighter object or a heavier one?

Day 3: Dramatic Competition

Instead of an athletic event, today we are challenging you to a dramatic competition. Use the Ancient Stories videos on the Kelsey@Home web page to create your own short play or re-enactment. You can choose from stories about the Greek hero Herakles, the sibling rivalry between Hermes and Apollo, or the Egyptian King of the Dead, Osiris, among others. Be creative with your costumes! Can you incorporate any props? Make a mask to enhance your perfomance; a template and instructions can be found here.

Day 4: Discus-style Frisbee Throw

The ancient Greeks judged upper-body strength by the results of a discus throw. The heavy disks could be made of stone, iron, lead, or bronze. We will use a lighter disk—a Frisbee. Hold a competition to see who can throw a Frisbee the farthest. If you do not have a Frisbee, you can make one by wrapping two paper plates with packaging or duct tape. As you throw your Frisbee “discus,” think about what body parts you are using. Do you think you could throw an iron disk as far as the plastic or homemade one?

Day 5: Chariot Racing

Our final event is a modern re-creation of a chariot race. Traditionally, a team of two to six horses pulled a two-wheeled cart holding a driver. Chariot racing was an event in the Olympic Games of ancient Greece; it was also very popular in ancient Rome, where competitions were held in the Circus Maximus. Using bikes, scooters, or sleds as your chariots, challenge your COVID pod members to a race! Decide on the distance of your race, and then speed to victory! Would you like to race in a chariot? How much faster would you go if a horse was pulling your bike or scooter or sled?

Crown Your Victors!

You can crown the victors of your Olympic Games with paper laurel wreaths. Find the instructions to make them here.