Benefits of an obstacle course and what you can use at home
Obstacle courses made at home are not only fun, exciting and burn some of that pre-schooler energy, they also can develop many skills and have lots of benefits for kids.
- Builds strength and power
Obstacle courses build kids’ body stability and strength. It will enhance their muscular power and capacity. It is also good for increasing endurance and metabolism like other outdoor sports. By climbing over and under obstacles, children build strength in their hands, wrists, shoulders, and core muscles. This helps them to tackle tasks that require precision like writing and cutting more comfortably.
- Increases balance
Kids will be practicing balancing their body weight when doing obstacle courses. This enhances their proprioception (knowing where their limbs are without looking) and challenges the vestibular system; an important sensory system that tells them where their head is in space! Moving through obstacles helps with development of this essential skill.
- Develops memory and problem solving skills
In life and school, kids need to be able to remember lots of information. They also need to learn how to solve problems based on sequencing information and actions. Obstacle courses create chances for kids to reflect and learn based on how their motor plans worked out (or didn’t work out!) This in turn encourages improvement and refinement of motor planning and gives opportunities for problem solving.
- Increases sensory processing
With obstacle course challenges, kids will learn and experience different sensory inputs. As kids will get many different actions and activities, it’s a great opportunity to develop sensory thinking ability and processing skills. For example, kids experience deep pressure sensory input (also known as proprioception) as they climb. They also encounter linear (up and down), sagittal (side to side), and rotary (spinning) inputs as they move through the obstacle course.
- Builds coordination
Getting through an obstacle course requires careful thought and planning. This gives your child the opportunity to grow their bilateral integration, which simply means the ability to use both sides of the body in a controlled and coordinated manner.
Obstacle course ideas
Preparing an obstacle course for kids is easy particularly if you have moveable playground equipment. If not, obstacle courses can also be built in, around and over playground equipment and outdoor fitness equipment. Equipment such as climbing nets, rock walls, ladders, platforms, slides, poles, monkey bars and tunnels all make great ‘obstacles’. Courses can incorporate parts of the park and playground that are available. You can also give extra challenges by asking your child to use different hands and feet, being blindfolded or timing them to complete. Of course, safety is always important and supervision is recommended when setting up obstacle courses and playing on playground equipment.
If the weather isn’t great or you are looking to have a home day, there are so many options for indoor obstacle courses too! There are some of our favourite tips for things you can use around the house to make an obstacle course.
- Use cones to mark the course: You can make cones with empty plastic bottles or leftover containers filled with sand or water.
- Make a tunnel or “waterfall” to crawl through: Line up kitchen/dining chairs and throw a blanket or sheet over the top for a tunnel; attach blue and white crepe paper streamers to chairs for a waterfall effect.
- Create a “tightrope” for walking: Using string or wool on the carpet for a tightrope, your child can practise balance.
- Roll newspaper into “golf clubs” for rolling and hitting: Roll newspapers and tape them tightly to use as golf clubs; hit and roll soft balls into a basket placed on its side or roll between cones.
- Use a laundry basket for throwing: Throw soft balls or beanbags into the basket.
- Make rings for tossing: Cut out the middle of paper plates and toss them over weighted bottles or candlestick holders.
- Play “the floor is lava” for jumping, tumbling, and somersaulting: The floor is lava and your kids must navigate across the room in different ways on cushions and pillows.
- Use a water table or kiddie pool for scooping: Challenge kids to scoop a set number of plastic ducks or other objects from the water as a part of the course.
- Chalk or tape course: On a large, safe cement area, draw the entire course with chalk for children to follow, using numbers, words, shapes, and arrows. For even less mess, use coloured tape on the surface for lines, shapes, and arrows.
- Summer water course: On a warm day, children can navigate through sprinklers, kiddie pools and water balloons.