If the real estate gods have blessed you with a backyard the size of Central Park, and you're such an experienced do-it-yourselfer that the folks at Home Depot not only call you by your first name, but they think you work there, then you might as well build your kids their very own permanent backyard obstacle course.
The hammer-wielding experts at the DIY Network have posted step-by-step instructions for building a backyard obstacle course with nothing but old tires, a pile of lumber and an incredible amount of confidence. The project difficulty is categorized as "moderate" and will take an estimated two days of construction at a cost of $250 to $500. But that's if you already have the necessary tools on hand like a post hole digger and a reciprocating saw, or at least you know what a reciprocating saw is without having to Google it.
If that kind of construction project is beyond your reach, consider other ways to build or design a series of challenging obstacles into your backyard play. Maybe you have a lot of trees in your backyard, or you know someone who is thinning the trees on their land. Large logs and stumps make for excellent obstacles. You can lay down logs in a zigzag pattern for a longer balance challenge, or increase the difficulty by raising one end of the log by resting it on a large rock or in the crook of another tree. You can place tree stumps of different sizes and heights in a line, or even a cluster, and let the kids leap from landing to landing.
Or maybe, just maybe, it's time to take this obstacle course to the skies. You can build your own backyard zip line for $300. All you need are two large trees and an excellent homeowner's insurance policy.
Author's Note: How to Make a Backyard Obstacle Course for Kids
When you marry someone, you don't spend a lot of time wondering what kind of parent they are going to be. Or at least guys don't worry about that sort of thing. Maybe we assume that all women are born to be great mothers. Or maybe we intuitively know that any woman who can put up with our whining can easily handle the worst toddler tantrum. Either way, as much as I loved and appreciated my wife's many talents before we had children, I was not prepared for how much she would blossom as a mom. An excellent example is the backyard obstacle course. My wife didn't need an article like this one to figure out that all you really need is some chalk, a driveway and two competitive toddlers to turn a lazy summer afternoon into a mini-Olympics. But even supermoms like my wife can use a new idea every now and then, so I hope you feel inspired to make some homemade entertainment for your kids this summer.
- DIY Network. "How to Build an Obstacle Course." (June 14, 2013) http://www.diynetwork.com/how-to/how-to-build-an-obstacle-course/index.html
- Excelligence Learning. "Obstacle Course Activity Guide." (June 14, 2013) http://www.excelligencelearning.com/Obstacle_Course_Guide.pdf?domainredirect=true&
- Mabe, Dave. "Backyard Zip Line." Make Magazine. Volume 5 (June 14, 2013) http://blog.makezine.com/projects/backyard-zip-line/
- Playing With Words 365. "Obstacle Course: Great for Language!" March 27, 2012. (June 14, 2013) http://www.playingwithwords365.com/2012/03/obstacle-course-great-for-language/
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "Strategies to Increase Activity Among Youth." Dec. 31, 2012. (June 14, 2013) http://www.health.gov/paguidelines/midcourse/pag-mid-course-report-final.pdf