We’ve become a sitting society. Drive around the neighborhood the next time there is a snow day or teachers’ conferences and see how few kids are out riding bikes or playing in the yard. Computer games, coupled with parental concerns about safety, keep many kids indoors. But don’t worry! Here are a few solutions for transforming your outdoors space into a playground children and adults alike will want to play in – building an obstacle course!
Whether your backyard is huge or tiny, you can build a fun place to get exercise and have fun in the process. An obstacle course is nothing more than a defined series of motions: running, jumping, climbing, balancing, crawling and swinging. It doesn’t have to qualify for military training. But you might get some ideas from checking out the intense obstacle courses the military uses to get in shape.
Supplies don’t have to be more elaborate than rope, posts, boards and pipe. As for tools, it’s possible to build an obstacle course with nothing more than a post-hole digger, a hand saw, drill, hammer and nails. Incorporate trees if you have the space (plus, then you can put up some hammocks for when you’re done!).
Climbing: This station can be as simple as a sturdy rope hanging from a tree or as fancy as a free-standing structure for participants to climb over. This might be set up with rope on one side and netting down the other. Pre-built ladders can also be easily incorporated.
Running: This component is often neglected in backyard courses, but it shouldn’t be. If space is an issue, short sprints back and forth can be as effective as longer runs. Ideally, there should be running (or crawling) required between each station.
Hanging and swinging: Monkey bar structures are ideal and can be constructed with poles, lumber and metal pipes cut to length. Rope swings are also useful for the course, especially when used as a platform-to-platform swing. If incorporating trees into the course, use caution based on the height of the trees, even if it means renting proper equipment. Inspect branches for strength and cracking.
Balancing: Simple to construct and excellent for physical conditioning, balancing should be another station in your course. Use low posts spaced close enough to hold the weight of the participants. Use simple engineering formulas throughout course construction to be sure the materials you use are adequately spaced and braced. You can either run boards or poles between the uprights or require jumps between each raised post.
Jumping: Whether vertical obstacles (like hurdles) or spaced jumps (maybe over a sand or water trap), jumping is fun to do and great for the body. One station may require jumping back and forth over obstacles to navigate the course. If many people will be coming over the use the obstacle course, some stations may need instructions. One way to do that is by printing directions on weatherproof flags or banners.
Incorporate a maze in your obstacle course, include stations where a certain number of push-ups, sit-ups or other body-weight exercises must be completed, use tires on the ground as step-through obstacles, have belly-crawl areas of low clearance, incorporate throwing obstacles and target obstacles where one must use a ball or other object to complete the station. There are plenty of ways to make your course fun and energetic.
A home obstacle course can get the entire family off their duffs and into action. The neighbors might want to join in as well! You’ll probably end up being the most popular home in the neighborhood 🙂