Activity Course with Balloons

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I recently took apart the alphabet mat that’s been in the kids’ playroom, but before stowing it away, I realized it made for a great indoor obstacle course. Leftover balloons from a birthday party only added to the fun!

I set up sections of the alphabet mat in lines, so they were close but not touching. I then added a few other items good for gross motor skills like a play tunnel and hula hoops.

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Veronika immediately wanted to walk along the mat…

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…but now I added to the challenge. The kids had to make it from start to finish while holding a balloon the whole time!

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At various intervals I had them stop to do an action, like jumping in place 3 times, spinning 3 times, or chasing a balloon through the play tunnel.

 

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There was even a section to transport the balloon across a longer gap in the mat via dolly carriage.

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It turned out that big brother Travis enjoyed the physical challenges more than my toddler, and in retrospect the direction-taking involved was more suited to older kids. But Veronika still had fun!

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Garage Raid Obstacle Course

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If your kids need to get out some quick energy, look no further than your garage for inspiration. Old sports equipment, old toys, or anything else that will promote gross motor skills is perfect for this activity.

To wit, we pulled out Travis’s old scooter, an old play tunnel, leftover pool noodles, bouncy balls, a cornhole backboard, and a Frisbee. I arranged them in such a way that the items could be moved through as an obstacle course, then challenged Travis to the following:

Ride the scooter up to the tunnel.

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Whack the ball through the tunnel with the pool noodle, then follow it to the other side.

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Once through, toss the Frisbee at the cornhole backboard.

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The reward was bubbles! Travis loved popping them with the pool noodles.

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Little sister wanted to work her way through the course, too!

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We were glad we got out in the morning sunshine for this one.

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Follow Me

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Today I focused on gross motor skills during Veronika’s play. The title of this post refers both to literally having your little one follow you (up, down, and all around an obstacle course), as well as the idea of following directions. Both are great skills for your little toddler!

I set up a few couch cushions for a standard obstacle course, but added a few new twists today, namely a laundry basket and balls. She trotted over immediately to see what was up!

First, I showed her how to roll balls down one of the cushions. She loved doing so, with a big push.

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Next it was time to follow me, modeling how to crawl down the ramp. Crawling down can be tricky for little ones, so supervise closely.

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We headed back in the other direction where she followed my lead to toss balls into the basket.

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Next we upended the basket and I turned it into a choo-choo train. I went first (“Follow me!”) but soon she was the thrilled conductor.

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She played games with the balls on the cushions even after I stopped being the leader.

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You can add so many more elements to an obstacle course like this, whether a jump rope (to walk a straight line), a box (to scoot around the room), or just about anything else that can work your toddler’s gross motor skills.

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3 Baby Obstacle Courses

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Veronika can’t wait to break free from “pillowville” (the name I have for the way I currently block her in the playroom with pillows; it’s time to buy baby gates!), and she’s trying to scale the pillows constantly. Today I set up a few obstacle courses to develop her gross motor skills, and boy did she have a blast.

First, I placed a very low obstacle in the center of the playroom with a few toys on top.

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This is lower than couch cushions, so it was great practice for getting her knees up and onto the top, the last piece of the puzzle for her to work out.

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She was so proud when she reached the toys!

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You can make a similar “obstacle course” for any early crawler with low pillows or bean bags to crawl across. Toys at the end as incentive always help!

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Next up was more of a cerebral obstacle course. I had her practice zigging and zagging across the room by placing a series of enticing toys.

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First she crawled to bean bags hidden under cups.

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Then she had to zig to a tower of blocks.

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A current favorite music box toy was up next. She made a beeline for it.

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She probably would happily have stopped there…

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…so I moved it to the final point of her “maze” too. As she moved towards each group of objects, we also worked on language development. “Come get the blue bean bag!” “Can you get the square block?” The activity also builds math skills, believe it or not (the geometry of zigging and zagging) and fine motor skills as baby plays with each toy along the way.

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Finally, it was time for the big girl obstacle course! For this one, I set up the couch cushions so they formed “steps” and “ramps.” I did all of this over a soft floor mat, and added blankets along the sides as added protection against any rolls.

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She needed no encouragement at all; she wanted up! She headed for the toys at the top of the first ramp, still needing a bit of a boost on her bottom.

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About half way to the toys, she got tired. This is hard work mommy!

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I encouraged her with another boost, and she made it!

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Heading down was interesting, and I spotted her along the side in case of a fall. She decided to take a side route instead.

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Once again with a little boost she reached the top.

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What great exercise!

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Early Explorers Sports

 

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This month’s offering from Early Explorers, all about sports, was a fantastic one for getting active and introducing new games that even mom and dad didn’t know about! The booklet not only had us doing normal preschool activities – mazes, matching, patterns – but also brushing up on yoga poses and learning about neat new sports.

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And of course putting stickers on our map.

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Sports Craft: 

First up was making a game of tabletop soccer. First, glue green construction paper down into the bottom of a shoebox. We actually found that the shoebox lid worked better, since the sides weren’t as high.

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Use white paint to mimic the lines of a soccer field. Travis liked watching and naming the shapes I painted (which bigger kids can do themselves). 

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Fold pipe cleaners into the shape of goals and tape down. Now all you need is a pom pom and two straws to play. Players take turns blowing toward the opponent’s goal, while the person on defense tries to blow the pom pom away.

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Great fun!

Sports Science:

Ok, perhaps the following activity isn’t science, but since the booklet didn’t have anything that properly fit into this category, this will do: learning new games from around the world. The first, Semut, Orang, Gajah sounded like the Sumatran equivalent of Rock, Scissors, Paper but we got to learn cool new words and hand gestures. Here’s Travis with his semut (ant!) ready to defeat my gajah (elephant).

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The next game was a bit of a pickle: an Armenian form of egg jousting (!) played around Easter, where children crack hard-boiled eggs together until the loser’s egg cracks. How to veganize such neat sounding fun? I needed a food that would crack easily… So here we are chip jousting!

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It might not have been authentic, but it was certainly a delight.

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Sports Keepsake:

Travis loved the paddle ball from “Max and Mia” that came in this kit. He was determined to master the game, and I liked that it introduced him to a new activity.

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Sports Field Trip:

We had to go see a sport being played, naturally! Looking for cheap family fun? Check out minor league teams in your area. You’ll get great seats right up close to the action but minus the crowds, prices, and noise of major league parks. If you can’t make it to a local sporting event, tune into something on TV as a family and discuss the new game.

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Sports Further Activities:

We wanted to take the booklet’s suggestion and try a game we’d never played before. Little Passport’s blog post on games from around the world was the perfect resource. Okay, so we didn’t have enough players for a true game of Egyptian Drop the Handkerchief, but Travis loved diving in to catch it before the count of 5.

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We also got a great dose of physical activity with a family obstacle course. Stops along the course included: navigating a crepe paper spider web;

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and paper cup golf.

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As always, we hit up the library to further our exploration, opting for books on sports not featured in our packet.

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We talked about our favorite and Travis said his was baseball.

Finally, hit up the park and just play! Toss a football, kick a soccer ball, play a game of croquet, or whatever else suits your family’s fancy. Many thanks to this kit for getting us moving.

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Indoor Obstacle Course

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Stuck inside on a rainy day? Look no further than an obstacle course for almost endless variations of fun.

Today I set up a course that combined gross and fine motor skills, making various “stations” at which Travis could stop.

Gross motor challenges included walking across construction cones, a masking tape “balance beam”, stepping on pillows, climbing a pillow ramp, crawling through a blanket tunnel, and jumping into a hula hoop.

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Fine motor activities were his favorite part of the course! We used a piece of rolled up newspaper as a “golf club” to hit golf balls into a tunnel.

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Then I set a straw upright in a blob of playdough for Travis to slide rings over.

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Arguably his favorite part of the whole event was when I pulled out the timer to make the course more of a race. He loved pressing the buttons and learning how the timer works!

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All in all, a nice way to make a dreary morning a little less so.