Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Backyard Obstacle Course

Children's love of moving their bodies, testing their limits and getting physical makes obstacle courses so appealing.
Here are some simple ideas you can use to create your own obstacle courses for your children in your own home.
Suitable ages
2-4yrs but can be modified to suit varying developmental levels.
Learning Opportunities
Physical- Gross Motor skills (crawling, climbing, balancing, jumping, animal walks, throwing, catching etc)
Language- vocabulary (over, under, through, jump, help, stop, go, wait, next etc)
Creative- Helping design and construct their own course. 
Stepping Stones
You could create some stepping stones to challenge your child's skill of balance.
I used some trusty telephone books (what else are you meant to do with them??) covered in contact. I made them so they are varying heights. I also grabbed some of the bathroom steps to make it a challenge. Master two was not yet confident to step up to the tallest step without holding my hand however, once he becomes more familiar I am positive he will give it a go. Try to make it challenging but not too hard that the child can't succeed.
This tunnel was purchased cheaply from Ikea however, if you don't have one like this you can easily make your own tunnel using a large box or an old sheet / blanket draped over some chairs. Correct crawling is one of the essential movement skills for brain development. Read more here.
Rope Balancing
Here I have just used a skipping rope although you could use any type of rope.
You can do a number of things with the rope. Hman was practicing walking along the rope putting one foot directly in front of the other to 'balance' the length of the rope. You could also get children to do two feet jumping from one side to the other side of the rope along the entire length or tippy toes for strengthening those little feet.
Sensory Tub
Using our old baby bath (sob sob) to create a sensory experience to walk through. Hman is a little reluctant to get into water so I just used a little water to cover his feet. The fact that he had to crawl through the small tunnel before doing this sensory experience was helpful as it allowed his brain to calm down ready for the next challenge.
You could provide a number of sensory experiences in your obstacle course such as, shredded paper, wool, cotton wool, pom poms, small balls, materials, sand or flour or if you don't mind getting messy you could try shaving foam, slime, mud etc.
Witches Hats
My husband bought these home from his work (23 of them in fact!!) but the kids love them and they come in handy for lots of play ideas.
Here I created a little weaving run for Hman to run through in a weave. This is great as with his low muscle tone and hyper mobility he has trouble stopping and turning without falling. This was a super fun way to practice getting around those corners without crashing lol! You could use a jumper ball for children to bounce through or you could get them to do bear walks, crab walks, tippy toes, skipping, hopping etc etc. If the zig zaggy pattern is to tricky just make it from one cone to the other. You could have children balance BEANBAGS on their head or use an egg or spoon. The ideas are endless,
Rope Ladder
If you have one of these you could always use it for it's intended purpose of climbing if your child is ready or if not you could use it like we did. I laid it down and got Hman to do two feet jumping (take off with both feet at the same time and land on both feet at the same time) from one side of the rung to the other. Don't have a rope ladder, never fear there are heaps of ways you could create the same task using sticks to jump over, or old placemats to jump along like lilly pads.
Hoop and Tub
Stand in the hoop and throw the ball into the tub. You don't have to have a hoop or tub to incorporate this into your obstacle course however it does help to have a standing point (if you child is like mine they are likely to just walk up to the tub and place the ball in. If you have a basketball hoop you could use that- we do have one however it's still a challenge and I wanted him to have a good chance of getting the balls in- which he did!! You could use beanbags also. See my home made beanbags
I am sure you will be able to use some of these ideas as well as come up with a few of your own to create your own home obstacle course. Your children will love it!!
Other Ideas
*When I was teaching I used to love adding an easel to our obstacle courses where the children would have to draw something like -a circle or -something starting with 's' etc.
*Climbing frames if you have one- we've got rid of ours as it started to crack but we had a little frame where the children would climb up and go down the little slide.
*Slides if you have one and it is developmentally appropriate for your children.
*Leap frog over cushions or little foot stools.
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I would love for you to share any other ideas you come up with for your own children by leaving a comment here. I enjoy reading them all!!
Play and Learn

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