Building obstacle courses in the yard was a favorite activity of my siblings and me when we were young. We used all kinds of found materials and used our imagination to build the most challenging course we could. We then timed each other to see who could complete it the fastest, or we would just try to beat our own time.
Nowadays it seems that imagination can be in short supply and kids aren’t as inclined to play outdoors as they did in the past, but if that’s an issue in your family, this activity might just help to change that.
Here’s a list of things you might use to create various obstacles:
These can be laid in a honeycomb pattern like you see football players training on, where they step as quickly through the centers as possible. Or set them up vertically so the child has to crawl through them.
Open both ends and lay the box on its side so the child can crawl through. If it collapses, and it probably will, that’s okay; it can just be part of the challenge to open it up, crawl through, and let it collapse again.
Prop one end of the plank on a solid object such as a short log or a cement block and have the child walk up it and jump off the end. Make sure it’s secure and not too high for the sake of safety. You could put a second plank down the other side so the child runs up one plank and down the other.
Trash cans or barrels
Space several of them a few feet apart and the child can weave around them as if they were traffic pylons.
Lengths of plastic pipe
Lay them on the ground, forming a twisting, turning path to run through, staying between the lines.
Push them into the ground and tie a string between them at a low height of just a couple of feet that the child has to crawl under or jump over. It’s best if they are somewhat flimsy and put into the ground at an angle pointing away from the string so they don’t present an impalement hazard.
Lay lengths of rope to mark a take-off point and a landing point for a long jump.
They’re generally a little high to serve as hurdles for younger children, but laid on their side they might work. Or you could use them as ramps with the planks mentioned above.
Laid flat on the ground, kids could step in each empty space, much as they would with the tires, but possibly with both feet at one time rather than right-left-right-left.
If you have trees in your yard, one could mark the halfway point of the course, where the child has to go around the tree before making his way back to the start.
Balls and toys
Various other toys such as Frisbees or basketballs or baseball bats could also be used; kids can come up with lots of different ideas based on the items you might have lying around.
Of course, supervision over the construction of the course is very important because kids don’t usually have the best judgment when it comes to safety.
Lay out your course in a large loop so that the children come back to the starting point, such as a porch or deck. The time starts when they let go of the starting point and stops when they touch it again at the end.
Generally, once you build an obstacle course, it’s not something you’re going to want to move too often. We usually leave it up for a week or two and then put everything away. Obviously, if you’re concerned about brown dead patches in the lawn it would have to be moved sooner than that. But if you have a lawn that has more weeds than grass, like us, it might not be a problem.
If your children are very young or they are forced to stay inside due to weather, try these simple indoor and outdoor obstacle courses.