Active Play: Anytime Obstacle Course

Obstacle courses are a fun way to get kids moving, exploring, and experimenting with the limits of their own bodies. So many skills can be wrapped into one activity and one obstacle course can be adapted for a myriad of ages and abilities.

What is Physical Literacy?

Physical literacy is just as important for childhood development as learning letters, numbers, and sounds. It’s the ability to move the body easily, efficiently, and confidently in many ways throughout life.  It is important for all young bodies and minds! It helps:

  • support the development of efficient and natural movement patterns
  • increase cognitive function in academic settings
  • supports the aging of the body right through adulthood  

Let Your Imagination Run Wild

Think about the environments you have access to, as well as the equipment (or lack thereof), and get creative.  Courses do not have to be complicated or specially designed to get kids moving, learning, and having fun!

Different Ages, Different Skills

Skills that a child will be able to accomplish will depend on their growth and physical development, as well as their eagerness to move.  Children across age groups, and even within the same age group, will accomplish movement milestones at different times. 

Try to challenge your child with new movements, but remember every new movement requires practice, as well as physical and emotional maturity.

Toddlers

For young kids, go for simplicity and safety for your course design.  2-3 year olds are starting to become confident moving independently and are gaining stability and coordination.  Skills to include in a course might include:

  • balancing
  • walking on tiptoes
  • judging the size of spaces (narrow, squishy, low to the ground)
  • pushing and pulling their body weight
  • hopping on two feet
  • marching
  • climbing
  • underhand tosses
  • stepping over
  • running (not for speed)

Preschool and Early Kindergarten

Four and five year olds are starting to become more confident and coordinated.  They are likely becoming  clever when learning new, strange, or creative play type movements!  Add skills like:

  • kicking
  • hopping on one foot
  • generating power (think long jump from your track and field days)
  • spatial awareness (how far is it from here to the cushion on the ground?)
  • judging heights/drops
  • easy catching 
  • galloping forwards and sideways

Kindergarten and Beyond

By five years of age and older, many children are very competent movers and love to experiment with speed and height!  Add:

  • running (for speed)
  • leaping (like a split, reaching one leg first)
  • skipping
  • jumping off of small heights
  • speed  

Try This!

Here is an example of a backyard course for a 5 year old:

  • 10 big bunny hops forward
  • tip toe down a chalk line
  • crawl under a chair
  • leap between hoops, cushions, or circles
  • toss a ball into a big bucket five times, frog jumps to retrieve the ball
  • run on the spot as fast as you can
  • balance on one foot for 10 seconds
  • skip back to the start

How can you combine these skills with equipment in your environment?  Look to furniture, playground equipment, or structures in nature for creative inspiration!  Play safe, have fun, and move those bodies!  Check out the article below for some fun course ideas.

Looking for more ideas?

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