Are You a Parent?

“Odyssey brought our daughter out of her shell. She was so quiet and shy when she attended the first meeting, and we were so proud to see her perform at the state competition. The program has taught her self-confidence and how to share ideas and advocate for herself. It has been an amazing experience and the skills will help her in school and beyond!”
-CTOM Parent

Parent Responsibilities 

Odyssey of the Mind (OM™) teaches students how to develop and use their natural creativity to become problem-solvers. OM brings the classroom to life as students apply what they learn and combine it with their interests and passions to solve our unique open-ended problems. OM also emphasizes teamwork, budgeting, time management, public speaking, and so much more. This international program is designed to help students at all learning levels grow as individual learners, grow as team members, and to reach their full potential.

Parents support the team by driving the carpools, picking up the pizzas, cleaning up cardboard, scraps of paper and hot glue from their living rooms and basements, delaying dinners because a prop needed one more embellishment… generally watching from the sidelines while the team “was being creative!” On the day of the competition, the parents’ job is simple. Be supportive. Explain to your team parents that they simply need to encourage their child, the team, and the coach. When the team is “working”, parents need to step back and let them work. The kids have been working hard for this all year, and having their families and friends in the audience, applauding and cheering, is important to them. Parents should keep comments positive, and have fun!

No Outside Assistance

No Outside Assistance is the most significant concept that makes Odyssey of the Mind different from all other programs for children. Odyssey requires that, “team members must design and create ALL aspects of their problem solution.”

When the students do all of the work, it levels the playing field, makes the competition fair.  Kids compete against kids. How proud can the team be when they win, if adults did their work? It is often said that judges can tell Outside Assistance because adults aren’t creative as kids can be.  But, whether or not, judges can tell Outside Assistance, it is by the team doing the work themselves, that they grow in confidence and enhance their problem solving skills.

Children learn by doing. They are active learners who manipulate materials and play with them in order to understand. The process of ‘doing’ is often the most important part, not the product. The struggle to figure out a solution is critical to learning in Odyssey. If adults help bypass the struggle by providing the answer, much valuable learning is lost.

Benefits come from failure. Did you know that Thomas Edison developed over 1800 light bulbs before he found his ultimate solution?   He knew where he wanted to go and he struggled to find a way to do it. Every failure adds to the final solution. Think about what the students learn when they persevere and find a way to make that device work. Odyssey is a process.  It can take years for teams to develop the teamwork, the team personality and problem solving skills necessary to make it to the top of the Odyssey pile. The journey is often fun, long, hard, but worth it.

What parents can do:

  1. Transport the team to buy things
  2. Transport the props
  3. Teach the team members a skill if the teams asks, such as:
    • sewing
    • woodworking
    • calligraphy
    • art
    • electronics
    • engineering
    • principals of simple machines
    • welding, and so on
  4. Help provide snacks
  5. Bring spontaneous problem supplies
  6. Help get props into the building for the tournament, even to the staging area
  7. Open attics, closets, basements for “garage sale value” materials
  8. Assist the coach with snacks and supervision tasks
  9. Volunteer to be a judge at the tournament!

What parents cannot do:

  1. Suggest what to buy
  2. Repair props if broken in shipping
  3. Suggest to the team which skills to use to solve a problem
  4. Suggest to the team which skills would result in a better looking or better functioning solution
  5. Give the teams any ideas for their problem solution
  6. Sew anything, paint anything, do anything to contribute to the team’s problem solution
  7. Analyze why something failed
  8. Expect perfection from a solution not done by adults (or from a solution done by adults, for that matter!)
  9. Suggest what materials to get from the attic, closet or basement
  10. Fix anything that breaks
  11. Criticize any part of a team’s solution
  12. Put emphasis on scores instead of fun.

Check with your Town Coordinator or School for details of teams being formed in your area.  If you cannot find a local contact, reach out to our Associated Director at