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25 Obstacle Course Ideas to Improve Gross Motor Skills

Apr 20th, 2023 | by Brianna Reynolds

Brianna Reynolds

April 20th, 2023

Creating an obstacle course for kids can be a fun and engaging way to encourage physical activity at home! With a few supplies and some creativity, parents can easily create an obstacle course that will challenge and entertain their children. This post outlines some ideas for setting up outdoor or indoor obstacle courses, as well as some tips for making it enjoyable and safe.

Obstacle Course Ideas to Improve Your Child’s Gross Motor Skills

An obstacle course can be used to practice and improve gross motor skills from crawling to walking, from running to jumping. Obstacle courses can also be used to improve strength, balance, coordination, and motor planning, as well as to increase sensory input, improve visual motor skills, direction following, but most importantly can be simple to put together and tons of fun!

Obstacle courses are a great way to get your kid moving and working without them knowing they are working hard and practicing gross motor play.

How to Create a DIY Indoor Obstacle Course for Kids at Home

  • Step 1: Base your DIY obstacle course on your toddler or child’s current skill level, challenge them and add variety.
  • Step 2: Find any item in your home to make it fun!

 

25 Obstacle Course Ideas by Gross Motor Skill

Below, we share some of our favorite obstacle course ideas for toddlers and children based on gross motor skills – crawling, walking, running, jumping, kicking, throwing, and catching. Let’s dive in!

Crawling:

Crawling is beneficial for all ages as it increases upper and lower body strength, works on coordination and reciprocal movements. Crawling over pillows encourages babies to crawl on their hands and knees too rather than on their bellies. Be sure to add variety to your obstacle course, and allow older kids to get back to crawling as well as running and jumping!

  • Crawl over pillows or couch cushions
  • Crawling up/down a ramp made out of cushions pillows, play couch structures
  • Crawling through a tunnel made out of a box, blankets, or play structures
  • Crawl under a string or tape
In this blog we share DIY indoor obstacle course ideas for toddlers and children of various skill levels.

Walking:

Walking activities can often be turned into running activities, but sometimes slowing down increases the challenge! For instance, balance beams are much harder to cross when we slow down, challenging our balance, strength, and coordination and it also increases our overall body awareness.

  • Walking backwards or side stepping up, over, or around obstacles
  • Weaving through cones, toys, pillows
  • Walking up/down a ramp
  • Stepping over obstacles, short and tall made out of pillows, toys, blocks
  • Walking along a balance beam made out of a pool noodle, couch cushions or pillows, rolled up blankets
  • The floor is lava: Step over the floor onto pillows, blankets, dog beds, cardboard or paper secured to the floor, anything to not touch the floor
  • Follow the lines: Make a path out of string or toys for kids to follow making shapes, patterns, or loop de loops
  • Toe taps on toys or pillows to either side of your child to encourage single limb standing
Obstacle course ideas for kids to encourage gross motor skills

Running:

  • Run to and from an object as fast as they can
  • Run around an object like a cone or bean bag back to the starting line
Kids racing as part of an indoor obstacle course.

Jumping:

Jumping is a skill that typically begins around 18 months with kids attempting to jump with only 1 foot leading. Between 2 and 3 years of age, a toddler will start to jump in place with both feet leaving the floor and landing at the same time.

A child can work on jumping and pre-jumping skills with an obstacle course including squatting and raising up onto their tip toes if they aren’t quite ready to jump. If they are ready to jump, challenge them by jumping in all directions or on and off safe surfaces.

Our favorite ways to incorporate jumping into obstacle courses: 

  • Jumping up/down from a step
  • Jumping over a hurdle, pillow, or blocks
  • Jumping in and out of a box or a shape made from toys, blankets, or string
  • Hopscotch outlined with string, blankets, soft toys or blocks
Create an indoor obstacle course with these ideas by a pediatric therapist!

Kicking, Throwing, and Catching:

  • Start or end each activity with a bean bag toss or kick a ball into the goal
  • Ring toss or bean bag while standing on a pillow
  • High kicks/ toy soldier kicks
  • Ball catch and throw between tasks
Indoor obstacle course ideas for kids

Outdoor Obstacle Course Ideas

Want to take this obstacle course outside? Here are a few additional ideas for backyard obstacle courses for kids:

  • Use chalk! Make shapes, hop scotch, lines to follow or even have your child squat while they draw
  • Climb! Climb the steps, ladders, rocks, etc. on the playground
  • Add water (Check out this post for our favorite water play ideas!)
  • Jumping on a trampoline (recommended for kids age 6 and up)
Create an indoor obstacle course with these ideas by a pediatric therapist!

Home Obstacle Course Safety Tips

Safety is always a #1 priority with anything we do, so here are a couple of tips to keep our kids safe with all this fun.

  • Make sure to set up the obstacle course in a cleared space so kids can play without worrying about other items becoming obstacles or causing an issue such as tables or lamps.
  • If kids are jumping or running onto surfaces, make sure they are secure to the floor so they don’t slip out from under their feet.
  • Use soft or lightweight items that may be overhead, such as visible tape or thick colorful string if kids need to walk or crawl under obstacles.
  • Always supervise kids outdoors and when water is involved.
  • Be sure to practice sun safety by wearing sunscreen and sun-protective clothing, even if it’s cloudy out.

Lastly, while we make the perfect obstacle course to challenge our kids, don’t forget to have fun making it, and let the kids have fun working through it!

Find More Therapist-Approved Activities in the NAPA Blog:

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