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5 EASY Ideas for a DIY Backyard Obstacle Course

We know that this has been such a challenging year for many families – LOTS of big kid energy and very few places to get it out! Looking for some fun at-home ideas to get the wiggles out?

How about a backyard obstacle course? In this guide we’ve put together ideas for every age on how you can transform your backyard into an obstacle course adventure. Not super handy? No worries. We have plenty of ideas that are simple and FUN to put together using objects you might already have lying around the house.

Remember – this is just a guide. Let your (and the kiddos) imagination run wild – there are so many things you probably already have around the house that can be used to create an obstacle course.

We’ve divided our ideas into five categories, each designed for a different level of motor skill development. Little ones may still be getting a feel for their body movements, while older kids can tackle harder challenges and even help build the course!

In addition to using existing structures in your backyard (slides, small climbing walls, monkey bars, tire swings, basketball hoops), look around the house. Inspiration comes in ALL forms and ANYTHING can make this obstacle course awesome!

On your mark.

Get set.

GO!

  1. Balance Challenges

Balance beam

Balance beams are a classic obstacle course challenge, and they can be adjusted for varying skill levels simply by adjusting the height and width of the beam itself.

Little ones can stay flush to the ground (to build their confidence) with things like painter’s tape, jump ropes, or any kind of string you can lay on the grass/pavement.

Challenge older kids with things like actual beams, logs, or other similar structures that require real footwork to stay upright. We also love slacklines that can be put in between sturdy trees in your backyard. Easily adjustable, you can change the height to challenge them as they grow – making it a permanent challenge for years of fun.  

Hula-hoop hop through

Lay some hoops (or similar circular items) on the ground in a row or in a pattern and come up with a good balancing challenge. Maybe a single leg hop the whole way through? Or – step up the challenge and make kids balance something (i.e. a cotton ball on a spoon) while jumping through the course. There’s so many variations of this station you can do!

P.S. The hula-hoop in itself is a great balance challenge. After the jumping is done, see how long kids can keep the hula hoop moving around their waist (or arm) before it drops!

2. Coordination Skills

Ball toss

This can be really simple for younger friends (a bucket and some balls) – or you can make this tricky for older kids with hard-to-hit “targets” and timed challenges. If you really want to make this interesting – make kids use their non-dominant hand!

Weaving

A zig zag course is fun for everyone – and you’ll find yourself wanting to take a pass at it! Here are some materials you might already have on hand that you can use to create an awesome course:

  • Painter’s tape
  • Cones
  • Plastic toys
  • Ski poles
  • “Ninja warrior” floating steps (for older kids): If you’re feeling crafty and have some plywood and hardware, there’s a ton of DIY tutorials to make these. Basically it brings weaving challenges to a whole new level – having kids do some skilled side jumping as they fly through the course.

Crawl throughs

Anything can make a tunnel – even those foam pool noodles! We came across this cool way to make them “stick” into the ground, and all you need is two pens. Find two points in the ground (a couple feet apart) and stick the pens into the dirt. Then, simply put the ends of the noodles onto the pens, transforming it into a tunnel curve that’s perfect for an obstacle course.

3. Speed Work

On foot

Timing is everything – especially when you challenge the kids to be fast! There are endless options for speed challenges in your obstacle course, but here’s one idea: Use a broom to get a balloon across the finish line in the fastest time possible.

On wheels

Pull the scooters, bikes, skateboards, and even the wagon out of the garage. Pick the start, pick the finish, and start the timer.   

Even on a trampoline?

This is why creativity is fun. If you have one of these, see who can do 10 stylistically different jumps the fastest. Don’t have a trampoline? See who can do 20 jumping jacks in the least amount of time.

  1. Discovery stations

Mind busters

From puzzles, to trivia, to tongue twisters – give the kiddos a fun brain challenge they’ll need to complete before they get the next “clue” to find out which obstacle course station they go to next!

Math game?!

If you have a standing board with holes – number them – and grab some bean bags (or other small objects) – and make it a game. Shout out very easy math problems and make them toss the object into the right answer before they can move on.

Hidden objects

This is a cool opportunity to hide clues, or even some fun prizes. You can bury things in an existing sandbox or get creative. How about making a bowling alley with some recycled water bottles? They’ll be so surprised to find a hidden treasure when they score a strike!

5. WILD twists!

Your backyard obstacle course can become a real adventure with some of these fun twists:

  • Bring out the water (especially sprinklers in the summer)
  • Make it a mud course (don’t be afraid to get a little messy!)
  • Freeze dance challenges throughout the course
  • Switch up the finish and start line for the next run-through
  • Do the course with a lovie/stuffed animal in tow

And don’t forget safety and sportsmanship!

It’s a good idea to share the course rules with the kids before they get started! Make sure everyone is wearing proper footwear, and make sure the little ones are supervised (where and when they need it). It’s also good to give the kids a heads up that some weather conditions (rain, snow) can make the course too slippery, so it’s best to leave this adventure for safer weather.  

Finally, what a great opportunity to teach your kids about true sportsmanship. The fun of an obstacle course isn’t all about winning – it’s building and playing in it that’s the most entertaining!

Keep it kind, keep it positive, keep it encouraging, and keep it FUN!  

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The MyAlfondGrant website (myalfondgrant.org) is sponsored by the Alfond Scholarship Foundation (ASF), a Maine non-profit organization. This site is intended as a service to families of children who have been awarded the $500 Alfond Grant for college, so that they can access information on college and career planning, and, in connection with the MyAlfondGrant Info from FAME website (www.myalfondgrantinfofromfame.com), sponsored by the Finance Authority of Maine (FAME), they can track the value of their child’s Alfond Grant. The information made available on myalfondgrant.org is not intended to replace a family’s own research or other sources of information on such topics.