Toddlers and preschoolers love backyard obstacle courses, no matter how low-budget the challenges. The key is to engage their imaginations. Instead of instructing them to walk along the curving jump rope and then climb on the picnic table, tell that they're going on a safari through the jungle where they'll have to wade through a river teeming with crocodiles and then climb a rocky mountain peak.
Here are some common household objects and ideas for transforming them into exciting challenges for toddlers and preschoolers:
Jump rope, rope or string
- Lay the ropes in a curving path and tell kids to walk heel to toe over the string, trying to keep their balance.
- Have kids hop over the rope, both forward and backward, five times in a row.
- Set two ropes a small distance apart and have kids "leap the brook."
- Hang rope or string from a tree branch or swingset just above the kids' heads and have them jump to reach it.
- Lay the hoop on the ground and have kids jump in and out of it.
- Lay several hula hoops in a row and have kids jump down the line.
- Have kids roll the hoop from one point to another.
- If kids are big enough, they can try to hula hoop for three or five seconds.
Long Piece of Wood
- Lay it on the ground and use as a balance beam.
- Lay it across two chairs and have kids crawl under it.
- Have kids walk the length of it with one foot on either side.
- Put one end on a chair and have kids roll a toy car down the wood.
- Toss balls or bean bags into it.
- Open up the ends and use it as a tunnel.
- Tell kids to cover themselves with the box and crawl a certain distance like a turtle.
- Have kids step into two shoeboxes and shuffle from one point to another.
Wagon, Tricycle or Bicycle
- Draw a twisty path on the driveway using chalk and have kids pull the wagon along the path or ride their bike.
- Have kids load the wagon with stuffed animals and transport them across a "river."
- Draw a "start" and "finish" line on the driveway and have them race to the finish.
Now let's look at some obstacle course ideas for older kids.