Most toddlers crave movement. Their growing bodies need it, so games where they can run, jump, crawl and explore delight them. When it’s cold and wet outside this is more of a challenge than on warm summer days. An indoor obstacle course can get little kids moving, laughing and learning too, while they burn off some of that crazy kid energy.
Obstacle courses are a simple, age-adjustable, and endlessly variable. Here are some ideas to get you started:
1. Lay out large books, pillows or cardboard squares as stepping stones. Ask your child to step from one to another without touching the floor. Pretend you are crossing a river and don’t want to get wet.
2. Create a tunnel with blankets and furniture. We find highchairs perfect for this.
3. Lay out a blanket, ask your child to sit on it, and drag them from one end of the obstacle course to the other on a blanket train.
4. Set out some blocks and get your child to build a tower using however many blocks they are currently able to stack, before moving on to the next station.
5. A rocking horse can be a fun station. Count as your child rocks, or sing a nursery rhyme.
6. Create an obstacle to climb over, for example a large pile of cushions.
7. Include an egg and spoon race, using a small ball that has to be carried in a large spoon.
8. Make a circle or square on the floor using tape, then jump in and out a set number of times.
9. Walk along a low beam, or rope laid on the floor.
10. Throw balls or beanbags into a broad basket or box.
11. Tie streamers or tape across the room or across a corridor for your child to crawl under.
12. Put a selection of toy animals in a basket and have your child pick one and pretend to be that animal.
When you set up your obstacle course, your child’s safety should be the priority. Supervise obstacle courses carefully! For younger children, you’ll probably need to show them what to do at each station of the obstacle course. Your participation will also make it more fun. Do be flexible if your child wants to use the obstacle course differently than you’d intended. After all, it’s meant to be fun!
Want to add some extra learning value to your play? Obstacle courses are great for exercising early language skills. Narrate what your child does in simple sentences. This is a very natural way to teach verbs (action words like jump, run, crawl, climb and throw) and prepositions (location words like in, out, under, over and through). With older toddlers, try standing back and telling them what to do at each station, which gives them practice at following verbal directions. Encourage them to transform the obstacle course into imaginative play, by describing the course as a landscape with a mountain, a tunnel, a river, a bridge and so on.
Satisfying movement play with you may leave your toddler happy to settle to a calmer activity, such as reading, or to independent play while you take a well-earned rest!