DIY Obstacle Course & Backyard Playground ActivitiesOn March 26, 2020 by Calgary's Child
by Trista Arney
Water balloon pinatas – On a warmer day you can fill water balloons and suspend them overhead. Let your child hit them like a pinata using a bat until they burst.
Water fill – Using a cup or scoop transfer water from one source to another. This activity is great because you can use anything that can hold water. To increase or decrease difficulty switch up how large the cup used to transfer water is, for a big challenge use a cup with a small hole, a ladle, or a sponge.
Target practice – Hang coffee filters or paper targets up and have kids aim for them using a water gun / water spray toy. Another fully adaptable activity. You can use a NERF blaster, suction darts, origami ninja stars, or a ball instead of the water gun. Or switch up the targets try stacked cups, empty cans, or even small toys!
Set up a “tire run” – use hoola hoops, diving rings, or draw circles on the ground with sidewalk chalk or paint. Line up your “tires” in a zigzag pattern that the children must navigate, one foot per ring. This activity can be altered to different movements as well, hop or jump from ring to ring. Use buckets or other obstacles to practice weaving and hopping!
Crawling obstacles – Hang balloons that are inflated or filled part way with water suspended under a table, challenge children to army crawl underneath the obstacle. If you have a play tunnel, set it up as part of the course to crawl through. Or set up pool noodles in the grass like croquet wickets to crawl under. You can even use chairs to create a “tunnel” to crawl through. If the kids get bored of the obstacle, repurpose it and have them instead try to kick balls through the tunnels.
Laser maze – This one is easier indoors. Create a laser maze but stringing up yarn or streamers and having children crawl/climb through the path. For an outdoor version use sticks or camping stakes to set the course area and string yarn or streamers around them. Children can army crawl underneath or step over the course.
Create a ladder run – Draw the ladder with sidewalk chalk or create a physical ladder run out of yarn, sticks, pool noodles or other materials. The object is to run through the ladder without tripping/stepping on the lines of the ladder. Here’s an idea from Instructables using paint stir sticks and duct tape.
Homemade tightrope – String 2 lengths of rope between two trees, fence posts, or deck rails.
Bucket and a rope – All you need is a bucket, a rope, and a tree. Tie the rope to the bucket and throw the other end of the rope over a tree and create a simple pulley system for open ended play. Incorporate it into an obstacle course by requiring the child to fill and then raise the bucket before moving to the next obstacle.
Newspaper walk – Kids are handed three sheets of newspaper and must place one beneath every step they take. This is the perfect event to place at a tricky turn in the course. You can use any paper or even small hand towels.
Balance beam – You can make an impromptu balance beam using a pool noodle, or if you have wood available you can build a beam by attaching a 4×4 to smaller pieces using wood screws to ensure the beam is level and not overly wobbly for kids.
Hurdles – If you happen to have PVC piping available to you you can build hurdles in various heights. Another option for make-shift hurdles is to stack boxes and play a broom, pool noodles or mop across the top. You can also use two chairs in place of boxes. If you can’t make your own hurdles you can jump over planters, pool noodles, a jump rope or a chalk line.
Sloped Pallet Stepping Stones – These will take some work and someone handy, but they can make a very cool addition to backyard play and often the supplies are freely available on Kijiji and other sources, just be sure when getting supplies to be mindful of social distancing protocols.
Ring toss – Make a ring toss game using whatever you have on hand; bits of rope, a turned over chair, whatever!
Playground ideas – If you’re feeling ambitious, follow a tutorial and make your own backyard playground. Some of these materials might be hard to get right now!
Skee ball – For an indoor or outdoor game try laundry basket skee ball! All you need are some baskets, cardboard, and any balls you have on hand.
Stepping Stones – Use square pieces of wood, paper plates, towels, circles drawn on the concrete, hula hoops, etc. and make a path where children need to hop or leap from one “platform” to another. When indoors you can use chairs, cushions, or even tape squares onto your flooring using painters tape.
Animal movements – Challenge kids to crab walk, bear walk, etc. for a portion of the course! These silly movements are fun but also great for physical development and literacy. Encourage your kids to come up with new body movements.
Water balloon/Ball toss – put out buckets, laundry baskets, or hula hoop targets and throw the objects from one side to the other. Water balloons are more likely to burst which may be discouraging for younger children. If you’re playing indoors you can also set up two baskets/buckets across the room from each other and throw stuffed toys from one to the other.
Make movement dice/cards – There are tons of fantastic ideas for these online! Have your kids draw a card or roll a dice to select how they need to move to finish the obstacle. Here are some ideas: 1 2 3 4 5 6
Bowling – Set up empty bottles (or ones filled with water) to create a bowling game, use any ball you have on hand to hit the pins.
Sports equipment – Have a section of the obstacle course where you have to sink a basketball, bounce a ball/birdie on a racquet x times, etc.
Sidewalk chalk – Make an entire obstacle course with sidewalk chalk. Mark the path and use different shapes or colors to prompt different body movements like spinning, jumping, hopping, animal movements, hopscotch, etc. As a variation you can place a treasure or reward at the end of the course, or even a stuffed toy that they need to “rescue” and then navigate back to the beginning while holding onto.
Other Backyard Play Ideas
Kids not into obstacle coursing? No problem! Here are some fun imaginative play ideas.
Make a mud kitchen – Give the kids some old kitchen items and let them make a mess with dirt and water. If you don’t want your kids to dig up the lawn, create a mud pit inside an old wheelbarrow or inflatable pool. Create a “roadway” in the backyard for them to race their favourite cars and trucks along.
Backyard campsite – Let your kids build a fort in the backyard or set up your camping gear and have pretending to camp.
Wash-away graffiti – Let the kids paint your fence with water, chalkboard paint, or even mud. Or if you’ve got an old whiteboard handing around the house that is too marked up to be used put it outside and let them create on that.
Water wall – Create a water wall for your children using recyclables.
Music wall – An alternative to the water wall idea is creating a Music wall by hanging various old items to experiment with them as percussive instruments.
Remember that some activities have inherent risks. Be sure to keep your child’s safety in mind and always supervise! It may be possible to source supplies, but please be mindful of social distancing and stay 2m away from those you do not share living quarters with. This may mean arranging a no-contact drop off. Thoroughly clean anything you obtain second-hand. When creating backyard exercise opportunities, remember that playdates are strongly discouraged.
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