{Easy} Backyard Obstacle Course

obstacle course feature

I’ve seen a number of very elaborate backyard obstacle courses floating around the interwebs recently. Some involve a boatload of pool noodles, others even required hammers and nails.  I love the idea but have to say, you really don’t need to put in that much effort to entertain or have fun with your kids. Don’t get me wrong, if you WANT to purchase 40 pool noodles and tape them or stake them in the ground then more power to you. That’s just not my cup of tea.

I do, however, love obstacle courses and the idea of setting one up in the backyard. It’s nice to have structured activities at-the-ready, just in case. Otherwise, I’m playing the “bad guy” and running from my 3 year-old wielding a light saber for hours at a time. Buddy has heard of an obstacle course before but never had the opportunity to run one or set one up. At 3.5 years old, it’s high time this kid figures out why his parents like mud runs so much.

I admire people who love spending a lot of time doing crafts and other projects. If that’s something you and your kids love, it’s an amazing way to spend quality time. I do enjoy that sort of thing but my attention span is short. My projects need to be condensed and easy, otherwise they’ll never come to fruition. And I can’t have projects within projects (yes, I count shopping as a project). This means materials for my obstacle course had to be in my house and ready to go with minor adjustments.

I’m gonna take a moment here and justify my laziness. My kids are young. Turtle wasn’t all that interested in the obstacle course and opted to swing. Buddy had absolutely no idea what I was talking about until we set it up. So there’s two reasons against creating an elaborate course:

  1. Buddy may not have enjoyed it. When I introduce something new, I want to be able to easily abort if necessary.
  2. If he enjoyed it, I wanted to show him that an obstacle course is something he could create on his own.

That said, here’s how we did it.

{Easy} Backyard Obstacle Course

Materials we found around the house:

  • Baseball bat (2)
  • Poster tube
  • Patio chairs
  • Flip Flop Faces
  • Cardboard box
  • Jump rope

obstacle course

We set up the course for two people so we could show Buddy how to do it. I made the rules for the first go-around and told him he could change it up after our first race.

obstacle course - round 1

My Rules:

  1. Each person starts at the swing set with a bat.
  2. Place your forehead on the bat and spin around 3 times.
  3. Dizzily grab your 3 Flip Flop Faces bean bags and drop them in the matching bowls as you run by. (You could also use these as cones or add in the actual bean bag toss game to your course but I thought that was too complicated for Buddy.)
  4. Crawl under the poster tube set up in between the patio chairs.
  5. Jump over the cardboard box.
  6. Walk the tightrope (a.k.a. jump rope).
  7. Finally, race back to the swing set. First one back wins.

Buddy got the hang of it really quickly and raced (and beat) Daddy and me a few times.

Buddy’s First Design

After kicking both our butts, he was ready to make his own course. He went straight for the big stuff in the garage.

Buddy’s Materials

  • Scooter
  • Red Rider wagon
  • Dump truck
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Jeep
  • Bikes
  • Baseball mitt

obstacle course

His Rules:

  1. Starting line is the scooter. When Owen says “GO”, knock the scooter over.
  2. Run the wagon. Knock it over.
  3. Circle back to the truck, wheelbarrow and jeep and step over them.
  4. Get on a bike and race it to the end of the driveway and back.
  5. First one to the baseball mitt wins.

obstacle course - Buddy starting line

As you can see, knocking things over is kind of a hobby for Buddy. I’m happy he was able to incorporate his love for destruction into his obstacle course. It was so enticing that Turtle decided to join in the fun! She knocked things over and raced her bike down the driveway with us. But Buddy still beat us every time.

Other Ideas

Since our kids are young and this was a first time deal, we kept things very simple. The main goal was for Buddy to understand what the obstacles were and make it easy enough for him to complete without getting frustrated or stuck. The older your kids are, the more challenging you can make your obstacle course. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to get crazy elaborate with rope ladders or climbing walls. It just means you might have to get a little more creative with the items you have available. Or, better yet, your kids will have to get more creative to make their own challenging course. Here are 10 ideas to get you started!

  • Ping Pong Ball Toss: Set out a bunch of lunch bags and give each person 3 ping pong balls to toss in the bags. To move through the course, they have to get at least two of their ping pong balls into the bag.
  • Suicides: We all know what suicides are, right? Those are always good filler for obstacle courses.
  • Egg Balance: Each person has to run with an egg on a spoon without dropping it. If you used actual eggs, it would make the clean up less than quick. But you could replace the egg with pretty much anything that would be challenging to balance on a spoon.
  • Water Balloon Target: Fill up water balloons and set up a target. Set some sort of goal for the number of balloons that have to hit the target before moving to the next challenge. Again, this one adds extra work to the clean up but on a hot day, it might be worth it.
  • Sprinkler: A sprinkler may not be a “challenge” per say but they’re fun to run through and worth adding to any backyard fun. If you wanted a challenge, you could throw a Hydro Launch into the mix. Make the rocket balance for 5 seconds.
  • Wheelbarrow and Mulch: If you have some landscaping to do, now is the perfect time to get it done. Set up a wheelbarrow and have players fill it with mulch (or other filler), race it the other side of the yard (or wherever it should go) and dump it. Beware though, there may be spillage.
  • Hurdles: Take some boards, pool noodles, towels, or whatever else you have on hand that could be set up horizontally and create hurdles.
  • Crawling: Set up your saw horses with boards across to crawl/duck under.
  • Balance Beam: Replace the jump rope “tightrope” with a board and make it a balance beam. If you have something to prop it on to get it higher off the ground, even better.
  • Teamwork Carries: If you have a lot of kids you’re dealing with, you can add in a few Tough Mudder-type challenges. My least favorite was the log carry where the whole team had to pick up an enormous log and carry it around in a circle. Sound stupid? It was. BUT you could make it more fun for your kids. Just steer clear of the 300 lb logs. A viable option would be to carry each other piggy back through part of the course.

Remember, these are just ideas to get the creative juices flowing. Your kids will gain a lot if they’re given the opportunity to create their own challenges. They will have the opportunity to be creative, think critically when designing the course and practice solving problems when they run into snags. Plus, setting up and running through an obstacle course is great exercise that will tire them out!

Bonus! As long as you don’t have strict “no running in the house rules”, some of these things could be brought inside. Indoor obstacle courses may be smaller and a little more constrained but they’re a good way to get some physical activity in on a rainy day!


Have you ever set up a backyard obstacle course? What challenges did you incorporate in your course?