The backyard is a place of adventure, where both brains and bodies come alive after school. Here, the whole family can get some fresh air and exercise without even leaving home.
Realistically, you’ll probably never see your kid run into the backyard and just start doing dead lifts or traditional exercise—that’s because some kids need a challenge. Setting up a quick DIY obstacle course is the perfect way to satisfy that itch. Here are nine ways to construct a custom ninja course just steps from your own backdoor.
1. Raid Your Own Toy Stash for Ideas
First, transform pool noodles into arches or lay them flat for safe balance beams. Then employ toy traffic cones for a weaving dash to run through.
Hang hula-hoops from tree branches for step or jumping challenges. Search again through your own stash of toys for a new lens of possibility. You may find even more obstacles to rig up.
2. Look to Nature for Supplies
Use old tree stumps as stepping-stones and color the tops of each with sidewalk chalk. Smaller children may benefit from shorter tree trunks or simple piles of pulled-up dandelions. Arrange sticks to resemble a rope ladder laid horizontally, perfect for big “monster steps” (one lunge in each square).
3. Scavenge for Upcycled Props
Old tires, unused phone books, and even spent rope can be salvaged from the landfill to stand in as boot camp obstacles.
For military-style sandbag carrying challenges, I’ve used everything from bags of potting soil to kitty litter.
4. Use More Advanced Items, Too
Patio furniture often makes for the perfect obstacle course material. In my family’s backyard obstacle course, I use ottomans from our outdoor furniture to have my kids leapfrog over. Younger ones can simply crawl atop and over the ottomans. Variations include army-style crawling under the furnishings.
When you arrange your patio furniture just so, your own inner competitor will emerge, and you’ll find it’s hard to wait your turn!
5. Between Obstacles, Make Stations
Establish a few challenges that incorporate stationary exercises like jumping jacks and burpees. Every time your child reaches one of these stations, provide moral support by joining in to do the exercises with him so he’s not alone. The reward for your child is, of course, moving on to the next station—and you get a shot at hitting that target heart rate without driving all the way to the gym.
6. Include a Finger Gym
At about the halfway point in the course, include a challenge that forces little limbs to focus on a fine motor task, such as threading beads on pipe cleaners or using tweezers to sort pom-poms. This includes anything else that would give their young hearts a short breather before racing to finish the course. This way, your kids can catch their breath while working their smaller muscles.
7. Make It a Circuit
If you arrange your stations in a wide circle, participants will end up near to where they began, providing the perfect layout to make your race a relay for friends and visitors. Divide your group into two teams and have one contestant from each gang run the course while the others cheer him on. As soon as the first contestant finishes, another may start. For a more fast-paced version, let kids start when their preceding teammate is at the midway point. Set chairs out, arranged to watch, and root for other athletes as they run the warrior course.
8. Tackle Mental Obstacles
For kids who aren’t keen on cardio, disguise your workout terms. Instead of calling them push-ups, consider fun alternative verbiage like “power pumps.” Exercise checkpoints can be called “challenge stations.” Swap crunches with “crushes” to customize your family’s unique adventure course.
9. Include a Cool-Down Station
At the end of your course, have a station for rehydrating, resting, and refueling. Supply your young champions with misting spray bottles, ice water, and fresh fruit slices. Set out an analog watch, and post instructions on how to calculate your heart rate. Include a handheld mirror, hair comb, and some deodorant, too. In keeping with the cute personalized terms, consider swapping the term “cool down station” with “chill out spot.”
Don’t let heat or boredom threaten your family’s active lifestyle. Get creative, and get outside. Make your own DIY obstacle course adventure, and don’t forget to tweet a picture to @TomsofMaine!
Image sources: Bethany Johnson | Flickr
This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.