Yes, we admit it. No adult can match the zeal and enthusiasm of a toddler brimming with energy. They are forever ready to go into hyper mode and hop, skip, jump, and run their way across the house with little care about getting hurt. However, it is important to channel this energy in the right direction and theres no better way to do this then setting up your own home made obstacle course.
Not only will it keep them occupied for hours but also help them develop essential skills. Maybe even help carve out a future Australian Ninja Warrior?
Before delving into these obstacle course ideas, let’s understand their benefits.
What are the benefits of obstacle courses for kids?
Apart from being an excellent outlet for your bub’s pent-up energy, obstacle courses benefit their development in many ways –
- It helps develop their gross motor skills by including jumping, crawling, running, pushing, etc.
- It increases endurance and strength by involving them in movements like pushing, pulling, and throwing.
- An obstacle course that includes activities like walking across a tight rope and climbing a ladder help improve their coordination skills.
- When played as a team, it also helps improve their teamwork and decision-making prowess.
- Above all, it helps boost their creativity and problem-solving acumen as they try to work around a challenging obstacle.
Indoor Obstacle Course Ideas for Preschoolers
This is the kiddie version of a laser maze. Hang crepe paper across the room in a crisscross manner which the kids have to navigate through without touching or undoing the paper. You can also substitute crepe paper with toilet paper or regular ribbons and build Matrix level indoor obstacle course for preschoolers.
Our first thought on imagining a ball pit as obstacle course ideas for preschoolers was Sheldon popping out at different spots in a ball pit shouting “Bazinga!” while Leonard tries to catch him (cue The Big Bang Theory). You can also assign Sheldon as one kid and make the others catch him through the ball pit. However, we suggest something they would find more fun and beneficial. Fill a crate or pit with colored balls and keep a couple of laundry baskets a short distance away. Your cherubs need to toss the balls into the respective color-coded baskets to move to the next course.
“The floor is lava!”
A game that the little tykes play even without being prompted would be an excellent obstacle course idea for preschoolers. Arrange cushions, pillows, and mats on the floor and give them multiple pathways to cross the room. The kids need to choose a path and cross the room without touching the floor because “the floor is lava!”
Yarn Obstacle Course
Yarn is extremely versatile as a plaything across many games and activities. It can be another kiddie laser obstacle course wherein you tie yarn crisscrossing across the room that your kids have to navigate through.
Alternatively, you can slightly tangle a few yarn threads together and ask your kid to separate them in order to progress further.
The third idea would be to give them an empty toilet paper roll and a length of yarn which they have to wrap around the roll without overlapping. So be creative and have you tot learn some sensory and motor skills!
Whenever we saw our tiny tots play this, as parents, we also got eager to build a book maze on our own and assess our coordination skills. Sounds fun, doesn’t it? To create this obstacle course, all you have to do is stack the books as walls as close as possible (leaving just enough gap for the kids to walk through) and create a curved path. They need to cross the maze without knocking off any of the books. For an additional challenge, you can give your kid a ball to be held between the knees or a book to balance on the head as they cross the path. Have fun seeing their coordination skills come to life or them trying not to topple and drop the books!
We are forever enthralled by gymnasts and artists who can elegantly balance on such narrow beams. Similarly, it is a different kind of excitement to see our little bambino try to walk across a balance beam in playgrounds. Replicate the fun by adding paths for balance as obstacle course ideas for preschoolers. Arrange rolled-up rugs, carpets, blankets, towels across the floor that your munchkin has to walk across without touching the floor.
Painter’s tape or washy tape can come in extremely handy as an indoor obstacle course idea, especially to show the trail the kids need to take. Alternatively, you can also use different colored washy tapes to set multiple paths, and kids need to choose which one to reach the other side. It will be like a tiny-human-sized puzzle that the toddlers need to wade through, and even if they “get lost”, they will be encouraged to follow the tape trail back to the last point of choice.
Gross Motor Balance
Obstacle courses themselves aim at improving preschoolers’ gross motor skills. It is twice as fun and beneficial when you include a standalone gross motor balance as part of a larger obstacle course. Create a hurdle by drawing instructions on the floor that will prompt your kid to move while balancing themselves – like hopscotch, heel-toe, tightrope on floor walking, even simple yoga poses like tree pose, mountain pose, forward bend, etc.
Scavenger hunts are a hit with all age groups. Including an educational scavenger hunt as obstacle course ideas for preschoolers will bring forth the excitement and the adrenaline rush while adding the element of hands-on learning. Hide plastic letters and numbers throughout the house and send your tiny hunter to scavenge them in the correct order. You can also hide multi-colored ping pong balls and send them to retrieve these balls by color.
Alphabet & numbers obstacle course
Here is a way to include the previously mentioned painter’s tape and plastic alphabet & numbers together. Spell easy words and numbers on the floor using tape and stick squares below them. Throw a bunch of letters and numbers into a box for your preschooler to dig out and ask them to arrange these in the boxes corresponding to the ones spelled out with tape. See your kids enhance their alphanumeric knowledge while wading through the hurdles!
Outdoor obstacle course ideas for preschoolers
Kids love tunnels; and any opportunity to get on all fours as it “helps to get messy faster” (as proclaimed by the 3-year-old kid of our colleague). Combine both and set forth an outdoor obstacle course for preschoolers in your yard. You can use the readymade tunnels for kids or build a DIY one lining up chairs and tables for the kids to crawl under. You can also roll up old or outdoor playmats into tubes and place them in the path.
Boot camp style activities are the best obstacle course ideas for preschoolers as they involve almost all fun things to do with minimal effort from the parents. Add hula-hoops, ladders, strings, boards, wide pipes, tires, etc., for your tots to crawl, hop, jump and balance across to reach the end of the yard. Our kids were thoroughly exhausted and spent the next couple of hours napping away after completing this “boot camp.”
Looking at the palpable glee in the air as our tykes splashed around playing this, we were supremely tempted to join them too! Summer is a great time to combine two of your hyper kids’ favorite playthings – water and obstacle course. You can include some of these outdoor water activities for toddlers as part of your obstacle course and send your aquaphilic tot into frenzied happiness – water balloon pinata, DIY slides, water gun target activity, etc.
Remember how kids would army-crawl across the floor before they start crawling? So, bring back memories by building a DIY army crawl as an obstacle course idea for preschoolers. Tie streamers, ropes, ribbons across the yard for the toddlers to crawl under and reach the other side. You can even add a tunnel as an additional challenge.
If you have a fort-building kit or two, it can be utilized as an excellent obstacle course as well. Build arches, hurdles, belly crawler arches, slaloms, tie ribbons, add flags, attach paper directions and what not! You can build your own pipe obstacle course in your yard. If you have a climbing net or a dome climber, you can add that to the course as well.
As kids, most of us always pestered our moms to lend us some sacks or pillowcases to “practice” jumping. Some of us would have even pretended to be mermaids wearing those sacks. If your toddlers did the same, put those sacks to good use now to organize sack race, since the toddlers are preschoolers. It is a good aerobic activity and improves hand-eye coordination. Have fun seeing them hop and scotch to reach the finish line!
Pool Noodle Trouble
Like yarn, pool noodles are versatile as an obstacle course idea for preschoolers. We have already covered a couple of them. Here are a few more ideas -
- Swap out pipes with pool noodles for hurdles in the obstacle race
- Engage kiddie hockey/golf with a pool noodle cut in half and a beach ball
- Tightrope on the floor with pool noodles
- Kiddie javelin throw or high jumps. It would be fun to watch the kids throw pool noodles like a javelin. You can place the pool noodle at a height and ask kids to “high jump” over it without the fear of hurting themselves.
We are yet to find a toddler who dislikes noise. Add conundrum to your obstacle course ideas for preschoolers with different activities involving popping balloons. Tie balloons on a string and just above the reach of your kids, give them a kitchen skewer or a toothpick so they can pop the balloons in a row before progressing.
Let’s make this more challenging and fun! Add a bunch of balloons to a large box and keep it in the way of your obstacle course, your kids need to pop 3 balloons with their bare hands before progressing. Throw in a balloon or two inside a tunnel which your kid needs to push out of the tunnel and pop before moving on to the next obstacle. Enjoy the popping noise while seeing your kids passing through with glee and screams!
No backyard? Include the sidewalk as the obstacle course ideas for preschoolers. All you need is colored chalks. Draw trails, paths, and instructions on the sidewalk for your kids to follow through. You can take the help of this printable sidewalk obstacle course for a handy guide on drawing one for your toddler.
Buy, don’t build
If you don’t have the time or supplies to create your own, you can buy a readymade obstacle course set for preschoolers. This set includes 1 x Monkey Line and 1 x Ratchet Line-13 x Square Buckle sets with 13 x locking delta clips - 2 x Wooden Bars - 3 x Knots - 2 x Rings - 1 x Climbing rope - 2 x Tree protectors- 1 x Storage bag. It’s an all-in-one kit saving you from brainstorming and building an obstacle course yourself.
Obstacle course ideas for preschoolers are galore. Anything from around the house can be used to build your own obstacle course – inside or outside. Use string and tape for them to bypass, cushions and pillows if they have to jump, rolled up rugs or towels to balance walk, water for target activities, and so on.
Make sure you use simple things from around your house to build your obstacles. Also, ensure that these props are safe for kids' use and there are no sharp or potentially dangerous items involved.