Obstacle Courses are FUNctional!

Obstacle courses can provide great opportunities for your child to gain multiple skills as well as challenge their performance in gross obstacle courseand fine motor activities. You can construct the course inside your home or outside in the playground. Collaborate with your child to create multiple steps that can incorporate household items, balls, pillows, toys, etc.

Below are 5 benefits of constructing obstacle courses at home and examples of steps you can include:

  1. Sequencing and Memory– Obstacle courses can teach your child to sequence a multi-step activity as well as challenge their memory by progressively increasing the demands of the activity. Start with writing down the steps of the obstacle course on a piece of paper or dry erase board and transition into memorizing the steps without writing down the sequence. In addition, you can increase the number of steps as your child’s sequencing and memory skills improve!
  2. Sensory Input– Within the course, you can incorporate various activities to provide multiple sensory inputs! Provide proprioceptive (deep pressure) input by having your child engage in heavy work. For example, make one step of the course to pull a heavy wagon from one location to the next, then have him or her unload the heavy items (rocks, books, toys, etc.) The obstacle course can include activities in all planes of vestibular movements, including linear (up and down), saggital (side to side) and rotary (spinning). To incorporate this input, have your child bounce on a “hippity hop” or an exercise ball while singing his or her favorite song for linear movement. When the song is complete, have them fall sideways onto pillows for saggital movement and/or have your child spin 10 times in a swing for rotary movement. To provide tactile (touch) sensory input, one step of the course could involve locating 10 items in a bucket of beans or sand.
  3. Strengthening and Balance– Multiple activities within the obstacle course can provide opportunities to build your child’s strength. An effective way to incorporate this is to have your child wheelbarrow walk, hop on one foot or perform a two-feet hop across the floor. In addition, your child can swing on a trapeze swing 5 times while holding up their knees to their chest or crawl over couch cushions to retrieve an object.
  4. Motor Planning– Obstacle courses provide a great opportunity for your child to improve motor planning by animal walking (bear, crab, bunny hop, etc.) as a transitional step to get from one location to the next or to deliver a puzzle piece to the puzzle.
  5. Bilateral Coordination– You can incorporate steps that challenge your child’s bilateral coordination by having him or her climb across 10 monkey bars, play catch by catching the ball 5 times or playing tug-a-war.

An obstacle course is a fun activity that doubles as a functional exercise to enhance your child’s motor and sensory skills. For more ideas, ask your occupational therapist!

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