At some point in life, everyone sees how talented their child is and many have the dream of raising a professional athlete or an Olympian. Why not start your toddler early and take him to Olympia, Greece to see where the Olympics truly began?
A bit of history
The first Olympic Games where held in classical times in honor of Zeus just north of Mount Kronos. This land was sacred to the ancients, and there they placed the magnificent and rather large statue of Zeus, which was hailed as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World before it was destroyed in the 5th century AD. What you can see when you visit today are the ruins of the Olympic complex which took many centuries to complete and includes temples, a track, bath houses, a gymnasium and a modern museum full of treasures that have been recovered from the site.
Let them run free
The ruins are expansive and while adults understand the significance of this beautiful place, toddlers can simply enjoy an afternoon of exploration. The fallen pillars from the Temple of Zeus are huge, and all sprawled out on the ground, they make a great spot for the little one to play hide and seek. Allow them to take off at their own speed down the road while you gaze at the pillars that are still standing. Try to guess what a building used to be in its heyday before you consult the map.
Take a break on a fallen piece of stone for a family picnic lunch in the shade. Ask your toddler to tell you the colors they see in the surrounding trees as they snack away. Have him play ‘big, bigger, biggest’ or name the shapes of the stone blocks that litter the ground everywhere you look.
So many ways to tire them out
Once you’ve had a chance to explore the less crowded buildings in the back of the complex including Nero’s Villa and the south baths, head over to the stadium. Snap some photos of your toddler under the arch—the vaulted tunnel that leads into the stadium—which has a stellar view of a mountain peeking through in background of the shot. When you enter, go nuts. Race your toddler to the end and back and bring some toys to let him practice throwing the disc in the place where the ancients tested their speed and strength as far back as 776 BC.
If your toddler is tired out, take him to the Archeological Museum of Olympia in the stroller to end your day. If not, don’t worry—there is plenty for him to see. Your toddler can marvel at large statues and small figurines as well as important battle gear that has stood the test of time. Intricately decorated bronze breast plates are only topped by the helmet of Miltiades, worn by an Athenian general during the battle of marathon and offered to Zeus after a successful campaign against the Persians.
Time for snacks
The beauty, history and overall aura of ancient Olympia makes it a great place for a day trip when you visit Greece with a toddler. If your little one is still in a cooperative mood, be sure to stop for a bit at the Olympia land winery before you move on to your next mainland adventure. Here they can pick wildflowers as you follow the winery tour and learn a bit about Greek gastronomy. At the end of the tour, while you sip on your choice of red or white, your toddler can nibble on a selection of yellow cheese, feta, salami, olives, bread with olive oil, tomatoes and cucumber. There are also cookies with grape syrup (moustokouloura) to delight your taste buds. This trip will tire you both out and have you eager to explore more history rich sites and amazing cuisine on mainland Greece.
Shauna Armitage is a parenting blogger, a freelance travel writer and the co-founder of Pure Wander Magazine. Follow her on Twitter @CarpeCalamus