Junior Ninja Warrior: DIY Backyard Obstacle Course

Junior Ninja Warrior: DIY Backyard Obstacle Course

For the last two months, we’ve all been spending a lot of time at home. Kids particularly are going to reach peak boredom once online school ends, if they haven’t already. As a parent, we sometimes feel like were grasping at straws trying to find new ways to keep our kids occupied.

Here is an opportunity to get creative, physical, and have your kid get in some extra hours outside. 

Working in a pediatric OT clinic, obstacle courses were popular with the kiddos. Not only did it get their bodies moving, but switching up the components of their course promoted praxis (the ability to ideate, motor plan, and execute movements to complete a task).

Architect Simon Nicholson had a theory of “loose parts”. He believed that individual parts or components in activities encouraged inventiveness and creativity in play and early education. They also promote critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity, and risk tolerance.

For this activity, try to incorporate several “parts” to your backyard obstacle course. These elements can be moved, carried, combined, pulled apart and put back together in a variety of ways to make your course fun and challenging.

Suggested Materials

Find items that your child can move on their own (or with some help). Here are some suggestions:

  • Bricks
  • Split fire logs
  • Sticks or tree branches
  • Jump ropes
  • Step stools
  • Plastic Bins
  • Small Wood boards/Giant Jenga Blocks
  • Hula Hoops
  • Sports cones

You can also incorporate different toys/equipment you already have, like:

  • A Wiffleball bat
  • Water balloons
  • Soccer balls or a rubber dodge ball
  • Ping Pong balls
  • A Trampoline
  • Pop-up tunnels/kids ball pit
  • Small kiddie pool
  • Jacks (if you also want to incorporate fine motor skills)

If you have a swing set, basketball hoop, soccer net, corn hole etc., those are also some easy elements to incorporate into your course.

What to do:

  1. Let the creativity begin. With your different materials, you and your child can begin coming up with an obstacle course layout and rules. Ensure materials are safe for them to use as well.
  2. A simple obstacle course can be linear or circular. Have a sequence of actions that are done in order. Assign which activity is first, second, and so on.
    •  Make sure your child has obstacles that challenge their body positions/movements, such as actions that require climbing over, crawling under, going through, jumping in between, etc.
    • Allow for sufficient space between obstacles so your child can readjust their posture. Check the obstacles for stability and always be available to offer help when asked.
  3. Now, let them try out their obstacle course. Don’t tell them how to approach an obstacle. Let them problem-solve and figure it out. If they are struggling, offer suggestions, but don’t tell them how to do it. Once they get the hang of it, time them. Kids love beating their original time or setting their “best all-time record”. Don’t forget to cheer them on and take pictures of your awesome Ninja Warrior!
  4. When they have mastered the course, switch out different activities for new ones. You can also switch up the order of activities or introduce new rules, like do the course backwards, or do 10 Jumping Jacks in between each activity. You can also get friends, siblings, the whole family involved and play in teams.

If you don’t have a backyard or have the opportunity to build an obstacle course, you can always bring items to a playground (once they reopen). For example, find a way to get a tennis ball from one side of the playground to the other without dropping it. Growing up, we’d come up with rules like who could do 10 swings and jump, then race to the monkey bars, then down all three slides the fastest.

Do you have any fun obstacle course activities or pictures you’d like to share?
Leave it in the comments or on social media with hashtag #ChildishAdvice.

For more activities and ideas, visit our Activities Page and Child(ish) Advice Pinterest page.

Junior Ninja Warrior: DIY Backyard Obstacle Course

Loose parts: What does this mean?“. Penn State Extension.
Outdoor play, Mariana Brussoni. Encyclopeid aon Early Childhood Development, Updated May 2019.
Kranowitz, C.S. (2006). The Out-of-Sync Child has Fun: Activities for Kids with Sensory Processing Disorders.

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