From jumping to catching balls to standing on tiptoes, your two-year-old’s gross motor skills are making some dramatic leaps forward—pun intended 😉
Now is a great time to create a basic obstacle course for your child. By 30 months, they may be able to:
- jump in place with both feet, and then at a distance of 8-14 inches.
- jump forwards and backwards (maybe even sideways) with both feet.
- walk on a line.
- walk on tiptoes.
- stand on one foot for a short time.
- run more smoothly; avoid an obstacle while running; come to a more complete stop.
- catch a large ball.
An obstacle course, indoors or out, is a great way for your child to practice these gross motor milestones. Obstacle courses also support motor planning, sequencing, memory, following directions, and self-regulation.
Note: the following activity is designed for two-year-olds, but both younger and older children can happily play along—just make sure the course is clear (and closely monitored) for when the baby comes crawling through 🐥
Here’s how to set up a homebound obstacle course:
If this is your child’s first time, consider starting small—just a few elements from start to finish—so they can feel successful before you add more. A great way to start is to have them walk a simple line on the ground. You can make the line with chalk, tape, the edge of a carpet or floorboard, or a line on the sidewalk. This is a fun way to practice balance before they get to the trickier parts of an obstacle course.
When you’re thinking about designing your own obstacle course, whether it’s indoors or out, consider the various elements that make it both fun and challenging. Try to give your child:
- something to jump to (spots marked on the ground), over (a rope or a line on the ground), and into (some hoops or chalk circles).
- something to crawl through or under (a play tunnel, a table, or a chair).
- something to walk on carefully (a board laid flat on the ground).
- something to climb over (pillows, bean bag chairs, or large stuffed animals).
- something to wind their way around (cones on the ground that they have to weave through).
- something to run to—you can have the obstacle course finish with a short sprint into your arms ❤️
You can extend the course by having them do it backwards, sideways, or even blindfolded.
Here’s how to make a “chalkstacle course” using only a piece of chalk and some open space:
Early Childhood Consultant Gennie Gorback makes obstacle courses for her children, using just a piece of chalk and some open outdoor space. Here are her recommendations for creating a “chalkstacle course” for your two-year-old:
- Before drawing the course, think about physical activities your child can already do. For example, “my two-year old loves to run, hop, and twirl.” Then, plan the chalkstacle course accordingly, adding a few new challenges for them to try.
- Here are some lines and movements to get your two-year-old started:
- A long straight line for running
- A spiral for spinning
- “Lilypads” (or simple circles) for frog jumps
- A circle with bunny ears for bunny hopping
- A zig-zag line for balancing
- Your two-year-old may need to see you do the chalkstacle course first, then try it with you, then move on to doing it on their own with verbal prompts. Your child may not be able to remember the movements associated with each drawing without your help, and that’s okay.
Bonus: this kind of course is also a pre-reading activity 🤓 By drawing a line or design in chalk and assigning it a movement, you are demonstrating to your child that lines and marks have specific meanings. This is part of the “concepts of print,” the mechanics of how reading works: the direction of text (left to right, right to left, top to bottom), how to flip pages, and a wide range of other pre-reading behaviors.
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