Building a backyard obstacle course is a fun and easy way to help your kids stay active during the summer and promote the development of important physical and mental skills. The best part about making a backyard obstacle course is that it doesn't have to be complicated or expensive. For preschoolers and other young children, you can build a perfectly thrilling backyard obstacle course from objects you already own, like hula hoops, jump ropes, lawn chairs, balloons and more.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that children get at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily, preferably "vigorous" activity that raises their heart rate and respiration. A backyard obstacle course is a great way to disguise vigorous exercise as a fun game. Not only will your kids break a sweat, but they will develop some of the following skills [source: Excelligence Learning]:
- Gross motor skills – running, jumping and throwing
- Bilateral coordination – developing and using both sides of the body
- Agility – quick, targeted movements
- Coordination – eye-hand and eye-foot coordination
- Balance – muscle coordination to maintain equilibrium
- Spatial awareness – tracking the relative location of objects
The great thing about a backyard obstacle course is that you can adapt it to meet just about any situation. An obstacle course makes a great addition to a birthday party or a family reunion. You can incorporate objects already on hand, like basketball hoops or climbing gyms. You can make it a competitive team event or just let the kids run through it for fun. As a parent, it's also a great opportunity to be creative and put some of those less-popular toys to good use.
Keep reading for specific obstacle ideas for different age groups starting with toddlers and preschoolers.