Whether a seasoned veteran, or brand new to Odyssey of the Mind, parents play a vital role in the team’s creative problem solving experience. Parents can help in many ways, but the two most important things a parent can do are

  1. Committing to getting their child to all team meetings and the tournament, on time; and
  2. Fully understanding the rules for Outside Assistance [link to OA page here]. If ever in doubt about Outside Assistance, please ASK for clarification before doing or saying anything. No well meaning parent will want to rob his/her child’s team of the joy of solving the long-term problem 100% on their own, or incur an Outside Assistance penalty at competition. Besides, many parents soon find that the creativity of the ideas the kids come up with on their own is far superior and exciting than what they themselves had in mind!

So, parents, please sit back on the sidelines when it comes to the team’s problem solving. From there, experience for yourselves the excitement of watching and listening to it all go down. Most parents find the role of observer thrilling, discovering sometimes something in their child they had not seen before. Growing a child’s creativity, confidence and collaborative problem solving skills are what make up the very essence of Odyssey of the Mind. As one OotMer put it, after competing his first year, “There is no problem too tough for me and my team to tackle.”


  • Make a steadfast commitment to get your team member to meetings and tournaments on time.
  • Have a complete understanding of the rules for Outside Assistance
  • Coach or co-coach a team
  • Judge or be a tournament volunteer
  • Prepare Spontaneous practice problems (bring a few to the tournament for the team to practice during down time)
  • Practice verbal Spontaneous problems informally and often (in waiting rooms or on a road trip with the whole family is always fun! See list of Spont problems here [link to list of verbal problems])
  • Help the team transport and/or provide a place to store props
  • Provide snacks
  • Open garages, basements and closets for scavenging
  • Take team members on fields trips to purchase materials or learn a skill from a professional (as requested by the team)
  • Teach a skill or concept (be an “expert”), e.g., sewing, dancing, acting techniques, woodworking, welding, engineering principles (as requested by the team)
  • Answer a question with a question
  • Provide a place for the team to meet for extra meetings/work sessions
  • Practice proper tournament etiquette (see Tournament Day Primer for Parents [link here])
  • Purchase tournament pins and t-shirts
  • Applaud enthusiastically after the performance; wait off stage for the judges to finish talking with the team; and help get props offstage
  • Plan the after-Tournament team party
  • Support the program by making a donation to LA Odyssey of the Mind [link to Donate page/donate button here]


  • Criticize, or make any kind of suggestion about, the team’s solution
  • Suggest what to buy or what scavenged materials to use
  • Ask “loaded questions” that hint at a solution
  • Assist in making or repairing props before or at the tournament
  • Analyze why something failed and share this with the team
  • Apply make-up or style hair
  • Place greater emphasis on tournament scores than the overall Odyssey of the Mind experience
  • Display poor sportsmanship at the tournament (the team could receive an Unsportsmanlike Conduct penalty!)