Even when it’s not an Olympic year, you can use the games to promote physical activity with your child. Setting up a backyard obstacle course is a fun way for children to practice a variety of physical skills. Setting up an obstacle course allows your child to move from one event activity to another just like participating in an Olympic track meet.
An obstacle course is a series of individual activities in a sequence so that your child can move from one activity to the next in a predesigned order. An obstacle course helps children practice skills, learn to follow directions, and learn to travel from one activity to the next performing movements in a specific order. Sequencing of physical activities will help children in school when they begin putting numbers in a sequence to create math problems and letters in a sequence to create words and follow words on a page while reading.
Create the Activities
The first step in creating the obstacle course is to decide on the activities. Select activities your child enjoys and skills that you have previously practiced.
- Start with 3-4 stations and add to the course with new activities over time. Start with activities like running 10 yards from one marker to another, then jumping over three hurdles (make your hurdle something that is only 3-4 inches in height or simply jump over several ropes on the ground in a row each 5 feet apart), then run through a zigzag maze, throw a ball at a target, and run another 10 yards to the finish.
- The course can be laid out in a large grassy space in any pattern. Spray paint an arrow or draw an arrow on a card and lay on the ground to help your child to know which direction to go and which event they should do next.
- Walk your child through the activity first and then ask them to move through the obstacles on their own. As they begin to understand the sequence make a race out of the activity and ask that they see how fast they can complete the course.
- Add activities like walking on a balance beam, kicking a ball between two cones, crawling through a tunnel, or jumping over an obstacle, strike a ball off a tee.
- Use obstacles you may already have in your yard; jump over logs, run up hills, skip around trees.
Select events that will help your child practice basic skills (running, jumping, balance, throw, kick, strike, etc.). Your child will enjoy helping you select the physical activities that go into the obstacle course and assisting you in setting up the course. Invite your child’s friends over and have an Olympic day—get the whole neighborhood involved.