The FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015TM not only provides a chance to watch with your children the best female players in the world's most popular sport competing on the biggest stage of all, but it is provides a wonderful teaching opportunity as well: to teach children about national pride, sportsmanship, teamwork, and world geography.
My children's books, Shawn Sheep The Soccer Star and Gracie Goat's Big Bike Race, focus on the values and life lessons that can be learned from sports. However, by thinking outside of the box, sports offer the opportunity to teach your child about any number of subjects that she may not be interested in under other circumstances. During this World Cup the United States has competed against Australia and is set to play Sweden and Nigeria in Group D. Here's your chance to turn the FIFA Women's World CupTM into a fun learning experience.
Representing the USA
Let your child experience the feeling of representing her country through sport by setting up your own podium. You can make a podium out of steps in your house, different size chairs, boxes or whatever is handy. Have your child stand on the top step. Place an American flag in front of her, and play or sing the national anthem.
I will never forget walking into the stadium at the Opening Ceremonies for the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney along with the rest of the U.S. delegation. It was a bit of a walk from our "holding area" to the stadium where the ceremonies were being held. We could see the stadium up ahead, and with each step, I got more and more excited. As we approached the stadium, someone started chanting, "U.S.A.!" Soon, everyone was chanting it.
We entered the stadium through a tunnel lit with fluorescent lights. Above the entrance it read "Faster, Higher, Stronger" (in Greek of course). I knew what was on the other end of the tunnel and my whole body trembled with excitement. The chanting got louder and louder. "USA! USA! USA! USA!" The chant echoed off the walls of the tunnel.
Suddenly the tunnel opened up into the stadium and 100,000 flash bulbs started going off. There was so much noise. Up in front, over the mass of heads in front of me, I could see the American flag. The sight of it took my breath away. The flood of emotions in that few seconds was so strong and overwhelming that I don't think words could do them justice. For a fraction of a second there seemed to be silence and I know I wasn't the only one whose eyes welled up with tears. In that moment, we went from being the U.S. Cycling team, U.S. Soccer Team, U.S basketball team, etc.....to being the United States Olympic Team. For the first time, I fully understood what it meant to represent my country and the true spirit of the Olympics. The Olympics may be one of the only place that truly brings the world together and makes the world, even if just for a moment, set everything else aside.
I feel so honored and blessed to have had the opportunity to represent my country at the Olympics. I run that moment at the Opening Ceremonies over and over again in my mind, because I don't ever want to forget it. I know that very few people will have the opportunity to represent their country on the field of play, but you can teach your child to feel great pride for her country every time she watches our athletes and teams compete.
There are teaching moments during every sports event. When our children are still very young, we as parents can start using sporting events to teach them history, geography, our national heritage, the principles our country was founded on, national pride, and the importance of being educated and involved in our political system.
Here are some other fun activities you can do:
- Decorate the house in red, white and blue. Make some red, white and blue cupcakes and paint your faces red, white and blue.
- Teach your child our National Anthem.
- Read, or, if they are old enough, have your child read a story about our national anthem and our flag.
- Look up the players on the United States team. Find three interesting facts about the state that each player comes from and find that state on a map.
Learning about other countries
- Have your child pick one of countries in the World Cup and have her research the country online or at the library and find it on a map. Have her draw the flag on a sheet of paper and on the back write down three things that she found interesting about the country.
- Pick out a current event related to one of the countries the United States is playing in the World Cup and discuss it with your child. This is a great opportunity to show her how interconnected the countries of the world are. You should be able to find an article fairly easily on Google, or Bing if that is your thing. Remember to pick out an article that is age-appropriate and won't scare her.
Sports at any level teach many important life lessons. Use sports to teach your child about her great country, and other countries around the world. Knowing more about the players and countries involved will make the FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015TM much more fun for your child to watch!
Erin Mirabella is a two-time Olympic track cyclist, mother, MomsTeam's track cycling expert, and children's book author. Her books, Shawn Sheep The Soccer Star and Gracie Goat's Big Bike Race are available online at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, borders.com, velogear.com, and at The Olympic Training Centers and select stores. For more information visit Erin's website.