07/25/2015 10:28 EDT | Updated 07/25/2016 05:59 EDT

Turning the Pan Am Games Into a Learning Opportunity

TORONTO, ON - JULY 10:  Dancers perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games at Rogers Centre on July 10, 2015 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw via Getty Images
TORONTO, ON - JULY 10: Dancers perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games at Rogers Centre on July 10, 2015 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

In the heart of summer, parents are often on the lookout for opportunities to keep their kids engaged and stimulated. While school has become a distant memory, the learning does not need to end.

The Pan Am and Parapan Am Games provide great teaching opportunities this summer. Whether you attend events live or watch from afar, they foster important messages of courage, determination and diversity -- just to name a few.

While not everyone is lucky enough to attend in person, drawing on to the excitement of this theme can make for great teachable moments. Related materials such as books, movies and music can be utilized to make this topic come to life.

Inspired by the excitement and energy of the games, I decided to do a Q&A with someone who embodies their very spirit -- Jessica Tudos. A Canadian Olympic athlete who competed in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, Jessica is also a mom, motivational speaker, educator and author. She wrote a children's book -- Kika the Upside Down Girl -- based on her very own athletic journey to teach kids about staying the course and living life to your fullest potential.

In an interview this summer with Jessica Tudos, here's what she had to say:

What inspired you to write Kika the Upside Down Girl?

As an Olympic gymnast who spent 10,000+ hours upside down, I felt this story could be a platform from which to engage, inspire, and entertain kids as they explore what it means to really love something -- even when it's a bit upside down and hard for others to understand. It's a story about adventure, persistence and courage, and for anyone who has ever jumped on their bed, bounced on a trampoline or swung on some bars, this story will handstanding! I made up a lot of new fliptastic words too!

Who is Kika and what is her special power?

Kika is an adventurous girl who loves to flip, flop and cartwheel her way through all kinds of wacky adventures, ultimately leading her to a fliptastic new home -- the Gymnastics Emporium. Her superpower is cultivating joy through seeing the world in a new upside down way!

What message do you hope to convey to young readers and aspiring athletes?

I would like young readers and their supporters (parents, coaches, teachers, etc.) to see how Kika the Upside Down Girl showed great courage and resilience to stick to what she loves in order to find happiness. It is not always easy to do, and there are many challenges along the way, but it is worth the effort always! No matter what others think, being upside down in a right side up world rocks!

With the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games taking place this summer, how can this translate into a learning opportunity for kids?

It has been amazing to see so many athletes shine in these Games -- Canadian and from all over the Americas. Kids need heroes to look up to and the athletes competing now are showing us great skill, courage, determination and joy through their sports. I remember watching Nadia Comaneci on TV competing at the Montreal Olympics -- she inspired me to stay with gymnastics and so the athletes competing in these Pan Am Games are heroes for the next generation of champions.


Photo galleryKids Who Give The Best Advice See Gallery