Obstacle Courses = A"maze"ing Fun!

Versatile and inviting, an obstacle course can be great fun for young children, and a course is easy to set up inside or out. Weather permitting, consider setting up the course outside. Fresh air can help energize brains and bodies!

An obstacle course is an arrangement of physical challenges or tasks, using simple equipment, set in a line or route around an area. For young children, moving around, over, under and through an obstacle course promotes motor planning abilities, physical skills and movement concepts. Colored yarn, chalk, traffic signs or hand and feet prints can be used for the children to follow. Depending on the age of the children, start with 4 to 6 tasks or events that make a simple yet challenging course. Spread out the obstacle course as much as possible. Adapt, add and change the course to fit your location and abilities of the children.

Before children attempt any obstacle course, ask them to watch as you or a child demonstrate the “how-to’s” (verbally describe directions for each task). Next, line up everybody behind each other at the start of the course and tell them to follow the leader through the course while you describe the physical challenges they are attempting. Emphasize that the obstacle course is not a race and they should not speed through the activities. The teacher or adult leader should stress to the children to keep some space between them. If a “traffic jam” does occur, tell the children to please wait patiently while the person in front of them completes the challenge on the equipment before proceeding ahead.

Having a theme or focus for an obstacle course provides structured physical activity for children because it is purposeful play with a clear goal. An all-time favorite is the “The Super Daring Obstacle Course.” It’s adventurous because of the “maze” of obstacles and the “perilous dangers” the children are challenged to avoid by correctly maneuvering through the course. “Dangers” are pretend and explained with great fanfare, such as the “quicksand” area or the “bottomless swap.” The more creative and imaginative the adventure, the more the children will love it!

The Super Daring Obstacle Course:

1. Start–place a pole, rope or piece of clothesline between two cones to make a crossbar for jumping over. Place a hoop on the ground on the other side of the rope or crossbar for children to jump into. Children jump over the “flaming” rope/bar and land with two feet in the hoop.

2. Jumping Pattern–place 4 hoops in a hopscotch pattern. Children jump with two feet into the first large hoop; straddle jump (feet apart) into the medium hoops placed side by side; end with two feet together again in the last large hoop.

3. Bridge Walk–place a rope lengthwise on the ground or set up a balance beam. Children try to walk heel-toe from one end of the beam/rope to the other, balancing above the “bottomless swamp.”

4. Helpful Turtles–place 4 to 6 spot markers, Hop Around Steps or Balance Pods in a row 6- 12” from each other. Encourage children to step or leap from one spot marker (shells of turtles to help them avoid the “quicksand”) to the next as they travel on their adventure.

5. Tunnel of No Return–set up a cloth or nylon tunnel or use a large box. Children creep through quietly on hands and knees to avoid waking the “alligators.”

6. Perilous Path–set up 4 to 6 cones in a row about 2-4’ apart from each other to make a pathway. Children to travel in a zigzag pattern, snaking their way around and through without waking the “snakes.”

7. Stop–place a tumbling mat several feet away from the last cones of the Perilous Path. Children run to the mat and fall down on it or log roll to the end, survivors of The Super Daring Obstacle Course!

8. Direct children to the start of the course as you inevitably hear them ask, “Can we do it again? Can we do it again?”

As I once heard a child say, “The obstacle course is THE BEST thing I like at school!” It’s a wonderful thing for preschool teachers and early childhood caregivers to include as part of physical activity or movement programs.

Beat the HEAT with COOL Games

It’s summer time and in many places it’s hot, hot, hot! Don’t let the heat keep young children inside all day. A fun way to cool off is with some wet and wild water play—whether you’re 3 or 63 years old! Kids of all ages will enjoy these splashy summer games and activities that encourage movement, physical activity and cooperative play.

Drip, Drip… Drop!
Where:
Outdoors
Who:
Every participant in a swimsuit
What You Need:
Water source and a small plastic bucket or cup

How to Play:
1. The teacher, parent or caregiver has all the children sit in a circle
2. One child is chosen to be “IT” and leaves the circle
3. IT holds a bucket of water and stands outside of the circle
4. S(he) walks around the circle saying “drip, drip, drip…” as s(he) drips water
from hands and fingers onto the heads of the children sitting in the circle
5. When IT says “drop,” the entire bucket of remaining water is poured out onto one child
6. IT runs back to their place in the circle with the wet child running behind them.
7. The wet child is now IT and fills up the bucket to resume the game of
“drip, drip…drip…DROP!”

What if …
Children don’t want water on their heads? Designate another body part that IT can only drip or drop the water on (i.e., hands, shoulders, knees, etc.)

The game ends when everyone in the circle is wet.

It’s a cool way to end a hot day through fun and play!

Jump the Stream!
Where:
Outdoors
Who:
Children dressed to get wet, barefoot (or in shoes that can get wet) and a teacher/parent to hold the water hose
What You Need:
Water hose
How to Play:
1. The teacher, parent or caregiver has all the children stand in a circle
2. The adult squats down in the center of the circle holding the water hose
3. When the water is turned on the adult turns around slowly, keeping the steam of water from the hose close to the ground
4. When the stream of water gets close to the kids they are to jump over it to avoid getting wet
5. Each time the adult completes a full revolution, s(he) begins to turn a little bit faster and raises the stream slightly higher off the ground

While the object of the game appears to stay dry, young children often have the most fun getting squirted by the hose and, of course, getting very wet!

Waterlogged!
Where:
Outdoor playing area with designated boundaries
Who:
Children dressed to get wet
What You Need:
Foam ball, Plastic bucket of water, Cones to mark off boundaries
How to Play:
1. The children should be scattered around the playing area
2. One child is selected to be “IT”
3. IT is given a foam ball and soaks the foam ball in water.
4. The game begins with IT chasing the other children, trying to tag/touch them with the wet ball
5. When IT tags someone with the wet ball, that child becomes the new IT and the game starts again

Touched players are “waterlogged” and can be spotted very easily by the water dripping off the spot where they were touched.

Water Brigade!
Where:
Outdoors
Who:
Children dressed to get wet
What You Need:
Foam balls for each player, A water table or tubs filled with water, Buckets (one for each player)
How to Play:
1. Fill water table and/or one or more tubs with water
2. Set up empty buckets 10 (or more) feet from tubs/table
3. Give each child a foam ball
4. Children stand at water table/tubs with their foam ball
5. The game begins with each child thoroughly soaking the foam ball with water
6. Instruct the children to run to the buckets at the other end and squeeze the water out of their balls into the buckets
7. The game continues with the children running back to the water tubs, resoaking their foam balls and running to their bucket to wring it out and fill their bucket entirely.

This can easily turn into a fun summer team sport with partners at either end tossing the balls to each other for soaking and wringing. Being physically active with a purpose makes this game a real winner!