Saturday, November 16, 2013


Thematic Obstacle Courses from Miss Carole at "PreK+K Sharing"

Miss Carole from Macaroni Soup in Chicago, where we’ve already had our first snow!  When nasty weather forces you to stay indoors, here’s an idea for an activity with lots of gross-motor skills, cooperation, following directional words, imagination and FUN!  Create an obstacle course!  It can have as few as 4 tasks, or as many as your space allows.  It may be that you just follow the sequence of activities around the room, or perhaps you add a narrative and some music.  Once you have presented the Obstacle Course that you’ve invented to your children, let them help create the next one.

Preschool Obstacle Courses Developed around a Theme by Miss Carole at PreK+K Sharing
Walk the Troll Bridge (top), roll across the Red River, through the Ring of Spider Webs, and under the Bat Cave!

    A bit of history:  when my children were little, we’d head for the backyard with hula hoops, chairs, blankets, boxes – whatever we had handy.  Sometimes they became forts or houses, but often they turned into an Obstacle Course.  Soon the shouts and giggles would be heard by neighbors and we’d have 4-6 children “running” the course!  As my children got older, the courses no longer required my assistance and became more and more elaborate (up the slide, down the slide, through the wading pool, into the garage, through the snow drift, etc.)  Now I get to create just a few a year for my music and movement classes – but I still enjoy them.

    Here’s a sample of a Slightly Spooky Obstacle Course I did in October with classes of 3’s and 4’s in a preschool setting.  Thanks to St David’s Nursery School in Glenview, IL for sharing their photos!

PROPS USED:                          
Gross Motor Skills Developed during an Obstacle Course in ECE by Miss Carole at "PreK+K Sharing"
Under the Bat Cave!
Small table
Fabric to cover table (bat optional)
4 chairs
Low balance beam
Fun-foam stepping stones
Red bath towel
Hula hoop  (scarves optional)

    First I had all the children sit in the middle of the room, leaving the perimeter open to place the obstacles around them.  As I placed each obstacle, I described it and demonstrated what to do, or in some cases I asked a child to show how to do something, such as crawling through the Bat Cave!  These were my obstacles:

Troll Bridge – the low balance beam
Bat Cave – table with black sheet over it, bat on top
Tall Tree Forest – 4 chairs, placed about 2 feet apart in a line
Stepping Stones – blobular shapes cut from fun foam, tape on back.  This can also be done with brick blocks.
River of Fire – the red towel
Ring of Spider webs – hula hoop with scarves or streamers attached

    My narrative went something like this (be sure to use directional descriptives):

“We’re going on a Slightly Spooky Walk for our Obstacle Course today!  First, you’ll have to crawl UNDER the Bat Cave.  Lucy – can you show us how to crawl through to the other side?  Then, placing one foot in front of the other like this, you must cross OVER the Troll Bridge – don’t fall off:  I hear there’s a nasty Troll waiting below!  Then, you must WEAVE IN AND OUT the Tall Trees in the Dark Forest, in and out, in and out.  Next you’ll come to the Stepping Stones to take you ACROSS the Hot Sand Desert.  Then, you’ll have to STOP, DROP and ROLL across the Red River of Fire – John, can you show everyone how to barrel roll across the River?  Then you have to duck THROUGH the Giant Ring of Spider Webs.  If you are successful, you can go around again.  Remember not to push the person in front of you – wait for them to finish an obstacle before you begin.”

Props for Use in Obstacle Courses in Preschool by Miss Carole at PreK+K Sharing
Through the Spider Webs!
    I placed 2-3 children in front of each obstacle.  I played the “Theme from Ghostbusters”, and off they went!  They went round and round the obstacles for about 3 - 4 minutes.  The whole activity, including setting the scene and putting things away took about 8 minutes.

    I have created Fairy Forest (“Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies”), A Super-Hero Training Room (“Star Wars Theme”) and Jungle themes (“The Lion Sleeps Tonight”). 

    You can add a book related to your theme, sing a song about one of the obstacles (yes, we did my “Black Bat Farm” – always a favorite), or segue into an art project, mapping lesson or dramatic play that use the theme. 
     It’s so much fun.  Have you tried an Obstacle Course with your kids?  Please tell me about it!  I am always looking for new ideas!  Remember – this activity works wonderfully outdoors, too!

     If you’re at the Annual NAEYC Conference in DC next week, please come say hello at Booth #937, and come to my workshop, “Developmentally Appropriate EC Music and Movement: Brain Food, Body Fuel” in ROOM 206, Washington CC.

    If you came to this blog looking for turkey songs/activities, check out my November 2012 blog – gobble gobble them up!

Yours for a Turkey Hop!                                              Gobble Gobble Gobble -->                      

“Miss Carole” Stephens

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