Obstacle courses are like carnivals of movement, they invite, they challenge and they satisfy while always leaving children begging, “Can we do it again? Can we do it again?” Anything and everything can be a part of an obstacle course—you’re only limited by your own imagination and creativity! The benefits are endless – here are a few:
- Gross motor development. Obstacle courses promote using the large muscles of the arms, legs and trunk.
- Coordination and midline crossing. Obstacle courses promote using both sides of the body at the same time.
- Perceptual development. Obstacle courses promote the ability to receive, interpret, and respond successfully to sensory information.
- Eye-hand coordination. Obstacle courses promote eyes and hands working together smoothly to meet a challenge.
- Eye-foot coordination. Obstacle courses promote eyes and feet working together smoothly to meet a challenge.
- Spatial awareness. Obstacle courses promote coordinated movement in relationship to other objects in the environment.
- Body awareness and spatial orientation. Obstacle courses promote the inner sense and knowledge of where things are in relation to the body.
- Balance. Obstacle courses promote being able to hold the position of the body through the interaction of muscles working together whether the body is stationary or moving.
- Listening skills. Obstacle courses promote the ability to follow verbal directions.
- Self-Esteem. Obstacle courses promote confidence and satisfaction or pride in oneself.
Here are a few age appropriate ideas for you to do with your little one at home.
As soon as your baby can sit by him or herself, you can assist them to do an obstacle course.
- Put some mats/ flat objects with different textures on the ground (examples: welcome mats, anti-slip mats, a towel, bubble wrap, place mats, plastic and wooden trays, baby pillow, baby blanket, fine sanding paper). Take off your baby’s socks and shoes. Pull your baby up by his hands, hold him underneath his armpits and put his feet down on every texture. Let him sit on it and discover it by himself. Talk to him about the different textures he is feeling.
- If your baby is able to crawl, let him crawl over these textures whilst explaining to him what he is feeling.
- If your baby can walk (or walk with assistance) let him walk over all the different textures.
13-21 Months progressing to 22-36 Months
- As soon as your baby can walk well, you can make use of the mats as discussed above with objects that is a little higher from the ground such as wooden planks, bricks, plastic containers (closed side facing up), pillows etc.
In the beginning you can assist your baby by holding her hand and when she feels comfortable she can attempt to do it all by herself. Tell her what she is feeling and when she is stepping up onto or down from something. Although a baby can walk – it is still a very good idea for them to crawl over the textures as well.
- As soon as your baby is comfortable with the above mentioned you can lift up the wooden plank even more by using a brick on the one side. If they can do that, place a brick underneath the other end as well to create a balancing beam.
- You can also introduce small chairs or tables and give instructions to your toddler. Crawl under the table, step onto the chair, jump off of the chair onto the placemat, follow the little brick road and climb onto the chair at the end etc. You can also add a small trampoline (or let them crawl under a bigger one). With obstacles courses – anything goes. Just make sure that your toddler is SAFE and that you are present whilst they are making use of an obstacle course.