Parent Guide

This article was created by Lisa Love of Virginia Odyssey of the Mind and is directed to Odyssey of the Mind parents. A Word document to for easy printing is available here.

PSSST… ODYSSEY OF THE MIND TEAM PARENTS AND GUARDIANS! (Yes, you, the ones who are driving the carpools, forking out money for pizza, opening closets for major scavenging, waiting while the team cleans up after a meeting, postponing dinner because one more prop needs finished, and generally watching from the sidelines while the team “gets creative!”)


  • You are the team's secret weapon for success??

  • You are the “wind beneath the wings” of the team and the coach??

  • You are a vital part of Odyssey of the Mind??


  • That is absolutely wrong!

  • That is absolutely right!

  • (Well…which is it???)

BOTH! You may do many things to help the team, but there are also things you might want to do that would cost the team penalty points. So… how do you know the difference? Here is your own handy, dandy, just-for-parents guidelines!

Parent comparison guidelines

What parents CAN do:

  • Transport the team to buy things

  • Transport the props

  • Teach the team members a skill IF the team asks, such as: sewing, woodworking, calligraphy, art, electronics, engineering, principals of simple machines, welding

  • Help provide snacks

  • Bring spontaneous problem supplies

  • Help get props into the building for the Tournament, even to the staging area

  • Open attics, closets, basements for “garage sale value” materials

  • Provide lots of encouragement

  • Provide a place to meet/store props

  • Get everyone and everything to the Tournament

  • Applaud A LOT and help get props offstage afterwards

What parents CANNOT do:

  • Suggest what to buy

  • Repair props if broken in shipping

  • Suggest to the team which skills to use to solve a problem; Suggest to the team which skills would result in a better-looking or better functioning solution; Give the teams any ideas for their problem solution; Sew anything, paint anything, do anything to contribute to the team's problem solution

  • Analyze why something failed

  • Expect perfection from a solution not done by adults (or from a solution done by adults, for that matter!)

  • Open attics, closets, basements for “garage sale value” materials

  • Fix anything that breaks

  • Criticize any part of a team's solution

  • Put emphasis on scores instead of fun

As you can tell, parents ARE important, as resources for learning skills, helping get materials, providing moral support, supplementing working brains with nourishment, and generally facilitating the logistics of a working team. Without your encouragement, your child will not develop the self confidence that Odyssey of the Mind promotes.

Outside assistance

  • What parents may not do is provide the dreaded “Outside Assistance”, for which the team will receive penalties at the tournament. Just remember that all ideas for the long term problem solution, as well as all of the implementation of those ideas, must come from a team member.

  • However, there is NO “Outside Assistance” in Spontaneous Problem Solving, so feel free to assist the coach, practice at home around the dinner table, and have fun with your family doing spontaneous problems with your child and/or other children. (Everyone loves spontaneous!)

Parent or guardian responsibilities on tournament day

Your Odyssey of the Mind Regional Board also relies on parents and guardians for help. We welcome friends, relative, and office associates, too!

Here are the opportunities for parents, friends, and relatives to help make the regional tournament possible. We feel certain you will enjoy helping, and few volunteer opportunities directly benefit so many children in an educational program!

WE NEED YOUR HELP on Tournament Day to:

  • Be an official (This involves a training in January or February on a Saturday to learn to be a judge.)

  • Be a volunteer (Each team must provide a volunteer to work at registration, concessions or in the spontaneous holding area for approximately two hours on Tournament Day.)

We also ask you to fill out an emergency care form for the coach to have on hand, to help the team get props in and out of the building, to move your car from loading and unloading areas as quickly as possible, and to bring a sense of humor to the tournament (because Murphy's law is an Odyssey of the Mind condition!)

We on the Regional Boards and State Boards all believe that this program offers something unique for your children. We believe that they will learn teamwork, creative problem solving, divergent thinking, persistence, practical skills, and many other abilities through Odyssey of the Mind. Please remember we are all volunteers working together to make this happen. THANK YOU for your support, for your child, for his or her coach, and for the regional and state volunteers!

We wish you creativity in your own life, and fun watching these wonderful problem solvers at work!!