Design an Obstacle Course

Obstacle courses are a forever favorite in many homes and can easily add some adventure to kids’ active outdoor play. All you need is space to move and a few objects from nature or around the house. Here’s how:

The Guide

Pick your spot and gather materials: Find a spot with plenty of room to move outside (or inside). Gather a variety of household items (chair, couch cushions, blanket, rope) and/or objects from nature (logs, nature treasures) that your child can use for their course. Pick a starting point and an end point and invite your child to create an obstacle course to get from here to there.

Set up a “course”: Work with your child to place the materials you gathered around your outdoor space to set up a series of physical challenges. For younger kids, you can set up the course for them to “discover.” Older kids will often enjoy the process of designing the course itself. As you set up physical challenges, aim to include one of each of the following:

  • Something to go over (e.g stump or piece of wood, box, couch, mountain of pillows, stack of books, bucket)
  • Something to go under (e.g. table, low tree branch, bush, blanket or sheet draped over two objects, a tunnel made of boxes or sticks)
  • Something to balance on (stack of books, one foot, a log, an uneven rock, two branches in a cross shape, broom handle)
  • Something to walk along (e.g. coil of rope, stretched out ribbon, strip of tape, row of pillows, line of coins, line of rocks)
  • Something they have to get into a container. (e.g. ball into a bowl, acorns into a box, stuffed animal into a basket, a smaller box into a bigger box, a rock inside a circle made of twigs)
  • Some way to move from here to there (maybe they have to: stomp, jump, spin, roll, kick, crawl, hop, tiptoe, “fly,” lunge)

Need inspiration? Watch this video of obstacle courses designed by Tinkergarten kids and their families!

Ready? Get set.. Go! Once the course is set, make a big moment of the launch of the obstacle course play. To add an imaginative twist, invite your child to choose a special nature object or a collection of nature objects in a box and place it at the end of the course so kids can work their way through the obstacles to get to their “treasure box.”

Extend: Kids can challenge themselves to do the course faster each time. Or, kids can attempt to move through the course while moving like their favorite animals. Kids can move the obstacles around or add new materials and challenges to the course. Grown-ups can try out the course, too!

Why is this activity great for kids?

Obstacle courses are a great way to inspire active, imaginative play. Designing the course supports kids’ creativity and problem-solving skills. As kids move their bodies and heads in different ways throughout the course, they activate their vestibular and proprioceptive senses, the senses responsible for balance, coordination and focus.

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