Build a Backyard Obstacle Course

Active kids with energy to spare love the twists, turns, and quick thinking of an old-fashioned obstacle course—and you've probably already got everything you need to build one! Here's how to create a fun backyard obstacle course with things you'll find around the house.

What You'll Need

Scavenge around your house and garage for items you can use to create obstacles. Start with these ideas:

  • Large cardboard boxes or hula hoops for crawling through
  • Tarps, blankets, or pool noodles for crawling under (drape or balance them on other objects or anchor them into arches)
  • Plastic wading pools, garden hoses, or sprinklers for splashing through
  • Safety cones, tires, or overturned flower pots for weaving and running
  • Chairs, stools, wooden crates, or scrap lumber for balancing, jumping, and climbing
  • Sports equipment for kicking, rolling, and throwing
  • Clothesline, rope, or bungee cords for jumping over, ducking under, running around, and fancy footwork (use them to hang objects to dodge or create loopy designs on the ground for hopping)
  • Empty buckets, large planters, or bins for catching thrown objects
  • Sidewalk chalk for marking start and finish lines, drawing hopscotch, or adding artistic flair to paved surfaces
  • Large plastic cups for balancing, building, or knocking over

Get Ready… Get Set…

1. Consider how much play space you have available and how many obstacles you want. A good rule of thumb is to create one obstacle per year of age for the children who'll be playing. For example, a course of 6 to 8 obstacles is manageable for kids 6 to 8 years old.

2. Check your play space for built-in obstacles. Is there a stump, tree, fence, or play structure that can serve as an obstacle? Use it to your advantage! At the same time, scan for and remove any potentially dangerous objects.

Get Set…

1. Think about how you'll use your items to create obstacles that require kids to move, move, move! Keep these words in mind: Over. Under. Through. Around. Swing. Leap. Throw. Kick. Balance.

2. Plan your course on paper before setting it up outside. Kids will have the most fun on a course that varies their movements. For example, if you start with crawling, make the next movement standing or jumping, and the next throwing or kicking.

3. Determine the start and finish lines, as well as the path kids will take through the obstacles. Leave as much space as possible between each one.

4. Decide whether you'll time players from start to finish, or if you'll give each one a time limit. Motivating them to move as quickly as possible adds to the fun!


1. Gather the players and walk them through the course. Demonstrate how to complete each obstacle and point out anywhere you'd like them to be extra careful.

2. Line the players up behind the starting line, from youngest to oldest. The youngest player goes first.

3. Yell "Go!" and start the timer for each player. While the player scrambles through the course, spectators can cheer, give tips, and yell time updates. (Reset any obstacles after each player.)

4. Encourage kids to beat their best time—or to beat the timer if they've run out of time—on repeated turns through the course.

Once you've got your obstacle course in place, there's no need to dismantle it when playtime is over. Keep things fresh and fun by inventing new obstacles and swapping them in and out each time you play. Or create a whole new course simply by switching your start and finish lines!