No matter what age the child, they all seem to have one thing in common — unending amounts of energy. They have far more than you, so what are you to do when you feel like the house is busting at the seams? Build an obstacle course, of course. There are countless obstacle course ideas that can tire out even the most rambunctious kiddo.
Building obstacle courses is low-cost, easy fun for one child, several kids or the whole family. “You’d be surprised by how much variety and fun can be had by creating courses from objects you have lying around the house,” explains Julie Nixon, an author, mom of two and owner of parenting blog My Mundane and Miraculous Life. Even things found in nature such as sticks or rocks can be turned into challenging obstacles.
An obstacle course can take a quick 15 minutes or can be detailed and consume an entire afternoon in both the construction and running of the course. “There are times you may want to put a lot of effort into the course and let the kids get messy or dirty,” says Jodi Durr, mom of three and creator of the popular blog Meaningful Mama, “and there are times you want to keep it super simple.”
“The key is to think like a kid when coming up with obstacle course ideas and don’t be afraid to join in the fun,” says Durr. “Kids will be more entertained and stay involved with it longer if you’re cheering them on and even running the course with them.”
Here are seven unique obstacle course ideas to try:
1. Don’t ring the bells course
This course from Christie Burnett, an early childhood teacher and the editor of Childhood 101, will challenge the tot’s balance, agility and concentration as they carefully make their way through without making any of the bells dangled throughout ring. Busy toddlers will love this fun course.
2. Backyard obstacle course
It takes a lot of practice for a wobbly toddler to become an agile grade schooler. Give them the opportunity to develop those skills by designing a course that utilizes many gross motor skills such as climbing, balancing and throwing. This DIY course from Katey, mom of three at Playing and Learning Begins at Home, hits on many major skills.
3. Sensory obstacle course
“A sensory obstacle course needs to be both challenging and calming to their sensory systems,” explains Nixon, who is also the mom of a child with sensory processing disorder. Her obstacle course for sensory input can be done indoors on days the weather isn’t ideal.
“The two major things to incorporate are balance activities or anything that will stimulate the inner ear, such as spinning or hanging upside down, and heavy work activities, or movements that put pressure on joints like jumping, dragging and pushing,” she says. All kids have sensory needs, so an obstacle course that incorporates such movements helps all children.
4. Pool noodle course
Pool noodles can be used in many ways on a course. Plus, most homes have at least a couple hanging around in the garage. And if not, they are a cheap investment that pays off in a lot of fun! In fact, Allison, the mom of four boys behind Learn ~ Play ~ Imagine, designed an entire course creatively using pool noodles.
5. Circus-themed course
Kids who love the circus will flip over this circus-themed course! Laura of Laly Mom, also a mom of two, shares how to turn everyday objects into fun tasks and activities to master, so little ones can attend circus training in their own backyard.
6. Backyard “American Ninja Warrior” course
Adult obstacle course races are quite popular, especially on TV, but why can’t kids have that kind of fun? Set up an “American Ninja Warrior” course in your own backyard. Sarah from Frugal Fun for Boys and Girls has ideas to get you started.
7. Water obstacle course
This water obstacle course from Durr is great for kids of all ages and can be modified as needed. “Kids love water and love creative ways to stay cool in the summer, and it keeps them entertained for a long time,” she says. “They will love running it over and over again.” A few hoses, a sprinkler and some creative use of pool noodles, and you are in business.