Monday, November 16, 2015

Obstacle Course Adventure!

The Rainbow Hoop
Weather getting a little snarky? Need a great gross-motor activity for indoors (or outdoors)?  I’m Miss Carole of MacaroniSoup and I’ve got just the thing:  an OBSTACLE COURSE, of course!  Yes, I’ve written about this before – you can check out my original blog about it here – but it deserves a reminder, and here it is!

I started creating obstacle courses for my own kids (who are now twenty-somethings) to while away cold and snowy winter days here in Chicago.  As they got older, they helped create the obstacles – often creating elaborate chair/blanket contraptions or up-the-stairs-down-the-stairs segments.  In the summertime, the back yard was perfect.  I remember my daughter including the kiddie pool – you had to catch a fish with a string attached to a stick with a paperclip “hook”.  It took her almost an hour to create her course – a great exercise in planning – then she invited neighborhood kids to come run it!  I might add that it often included the sprinkler as an obstacle.  Unfortunately I have no pictures of those courses.  Before digital photography, but I sure remember them in my brain!

Creating your course:
1.  Assess your space.  How many “obstacles” can you safely accommodate?  Be creative – I have 2 doors to my music room and an extra teacher, so I was able to extend the course into the hallway. Thanks, Mrs. Desent at St David's Nursery School!
2.  Create obstacles that extend physical and brain development.  Use chairs, tables, blocks – whatever you have handy.  If going outdoors, incorporate natural or stationary obstacles – trees, climbing equipment, etc.
3.  Find fun, exciting instrumental music to accompany your course – about 4-5 minutes is perfect.

Weave the Trees
Now you’re ready to start.  I ask the kids to sit in the middle of the rug, while I set out the course around them.  As I place each obstacle, I name it (Bat Cave, Balance Beam, etc) and then invite one child to demonstrate how to do that task.

Once the course is set, I assign small groups of children to stand at each station.  This helps avoid a back-up line of children waiting for an obstacle.  
Music on – BEGIN!

My November Obstacle Course included:
Under the Bat Cave
The Rainbow” hoop – some scarves attached to a hula hoop – they duck and go through it.

Weave the Trees” – out to the hallway to go in-and-out the blocks.  This took several attempts for some of my students to successfully navigate the weaving pattern.

The Bat Cave” – I tossed a black blanket over a small table, placed a plastic bat atop it and the children crawled under it. Crawling involves using oppositional movement – great for the brain.

The Red River of Fire
The River of Fire” – a red towel – oooh, scary!  Not!  But barrel-rolling is a great skill for pre-readers.  It involves the complete rotation of the body on the floor.  This takes practice – 4’s and 5’s may still struggle with it. But you can encourage Vestibular Development which is necessary for balance and Gross Motor Development to build strength and coordination.  For a comprehensive list of barrel-rolling benefits try Moving Smart’s article: Smart Steps: Let’Em Roll!

Bridge Over Troubled Waters

Bridge Over Troubled Waters” – (ha ha – a shout-out to my youth!) – I have a homemade balance beam, but you can put a tapeline on the floor, or make funfoam “stepping stones” to tape to the floor.

    Our music was the theme from "Ghostbusters!"

It’s not a race! When we’re ready to start, I don’t say “GO!” 
I say “BEGIN!”  

There are 2 simple rules:
1. One person on an obstacle at a time. (except the weaving)

2. Do not push or pass the person in front of you.

    Now you’re ready!  Tell me what you’ve created for obstacles – I’m always looking for new ones!
    AND – if you are coming to the NAEYC Conference in Orlando. Please come say hello at my Exhibit Booth #244, or at my workshop Friday at 1:00 – “Active Music for Active Learners!” on page 137 of the NAEYC program book.  Let’s get moving together!

Yours for a Song!
“Miss Carole” Stephens

Park Ridge, Illinois

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