Sometimes kids just need to burn some energy with physical activity. We’ve rounded up 10 creative ways to engage kids of all ages with obstacle courses.
For indoor courses, use painter’s tape to create a hopscotch outline and shape courses on the floor, create a crawling course for babies with stuffed animals and cushions and entice little ones with a balloon penguin waddle. Outdoors, go big by building an American-Ninja-style course, a mud run or a sensory walk.
1. Laser maze
Wannabe spies will love this hallway laser maze from the blog It's Always Autumn. Get out the painter’s tape and crepe paper to create a maze for kids to go over and under. If you don’t have crepe paper on hand, use string or twine instead. Change it up by going through the “lasers” backwards, and have races to see who can beat the maze the fastest.
2. Tape shape fun
Kids love tape, so why not use low-tack tape to make a game on the floor? Create a variety of shapes in tape on the floor and allow kids to jump, walk or run to each target as you call out the shape. You can put a variety of spins on this game. Try “Animal Walk” with commands such as “Bear-crawl to the square” and “Hop like a frog to the triangle.” For older children, try the game with numbers or letters instead of shapes. Find more ideas at What Moms Love.
3. American-Ninja-style obstacle course
This course is perfect for older kids and teens. The best part of this setup from the blog Frugal Fun 4 Boys is that it all breaks down and stores easily. The blog author made PVC pipe hurdles, sloped stepping stones from pallets and tons of other fun features. Check the post for instructions.
4. Indoor obstacle course for toddlers
If you have a high-energy toddler (and what toddler isn’t?), this indoor obstacle course from Little Learning Club, made from objects around the house, might save your sanity. From crawling under a table through dangling streamers to walking a rolled-up rug balance beam, your kids will want to tackle this course over and over.
5. Baby obstacle course
Redirect your crawler with an obstacle course that will keep them occupied and offer practice for gross motor skills. Ashley, author of the blog Life With Moore Babies, has lots of ideas for setting up your own course at home. Crawl over large stuffed animals, mounds of pillows, knock over soft blocks and add in musical instruments for sensory fun!
6. Mud run obstacle course
If you or your kids really enjoy a challenge, check out this mud run obstacle course from the blog Our Little Backyard Farm. This family built an awesome mud run for a birthday party. It took a lot of man-hours, but cost only about $60 to complete. Climb over hay bales, army-crawl through tunnels and, best of all, get muddy!
7. Sidewalk chalk obstacle course
All you need for this one is a piece of chalk! Get out the sidewalk chalk and draw an obstacle course outside for the kids. Use a driveway or sidewalk and draw a line for children to follow. Add obstacles and challenges along the way. Niki, author of the blog Toot's Mom Is Tired, offers suggestions such as circles for jumping on, rectangles as hurdles and more. Check the post for more ideas.
8. Indoor activities galore
This amazing post from the blog What Moms Love features 87 indoor activities to get the wiggles out. Create your own obstacle course by combining a few of these activities. Try making a hopscotch outline on the floor in tape, do the penguin waddle by walking while holding a blown-up balloon between your knees and end with a crib mattress slide. Or change it up and use what you have — there are so many to choose from!
9. Sensory walk
For a quieter — and somewhat cleaner — backyard obstacle course, set up a sensory walk. This gem of an idea comes from the Raising Dragons blog. Let kids feel the world with their feet as they walk through bins of water beads, shaving cream, mud and more. Check the post for instructions on how to set up your own.
10. Buy, not DIY
If you don’t have the supplies or the time to create your own course at home, we found this great set on Amazon. For ages 3+, the set includes hop sacks, jump ropes, bear-crawl posts, agility rings and twine for a course that can be set up in many different ways.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in April 2020, and updated in February 2021.