Overcoming Obstacles

A lot of people have seen the obstacle courses that challenge participants with various activities (see example playground above). So keeping this in mind and last years’ attempt at the all American Noodle Warrior course, I surveyed the internet on various course components and realized a course could be built which permitted the gkids to configure the course any way they wanted. And not only that but it could be added to over time to change the course components.

After getting some suggestions from my wife, we came up with the following activities:

  • Tire leaping using three spare bicycle tires laid flat on the ground (cost: none…they were just laying around)
  • A “lava” or “pad” jumping event using several foam rubber mats where the gkids had to jump from pad to another (cost: the interlocking foam rubber pads were purchased several years ago – 8 pieces per set)
  • A pool noodle tunnel (cost: $1/noodle at the local dollar store; 4 noodles used with dowel rod pegs in the ground to hold tunnel shape)
  • A tube tunnel (cost: approx. $12)
  • A sloped board (quad steps) segment consisting of several angled plywood platforms (cost: $35; 3 – 2’x2’x5/8″ plywood pieces, 2 – 2″x4″x8′ boards)
  • A PVC pipe hurdles area (cost: $10; 1/2″ pipe plus T-shape and corner fittings)
  • A crooked balance beam (cost: $7; 2- 2″x4″x8′)
  • A Ninja Warrior training rope kit (purchased: approx. $75 – Liv & Jane Co.)

“Some assembly required” – there was a bit of construction activity but it didn’t take more than a couple of hours of cutting and putting together to get the hurdles, sloped boards, and balance beam ready to go. So how did it work out?

I had sketched the full course on paper and began putting some of the events out. The boys jumped in to help set it up and broke the events down into two challenges: Challenge 1 – PVC hurdles, tire leaping, pad jumping, noodle tunnel, and tube tunnel; and Challenge 2 – sloped boards, balance beam and finishing with the Ninja Warrior rope kit.

The boys found the stopwatch and soon we were on the first trial run! Challenge 1 completed! Challenge 2…almost completed. It turns out that the ninja warrior strap was hung too low so we took it apart and moved it up a 12-16”, which still ended up not being high enough.

The hurdles fell apart when hit but that’s actually good for two reasons: 1) reduces any injuries and 2) allows “us” to configure the height of the hurdles every time we put them together. It makes them similar to Tinker Toys™ (for those who remember that toy).

So how did it go over?

  • The tube tunnel turned out to be also useful for climbing in it and rolling around the yard.
  • The ropes course got mixed reviews just because I still did not get it high enough to allow Isaiah to dangle without his feet touching the ground.
  • The balance beam was too easy…need to raise it up off the ground more.
  • The noodle tunnel popped apart but that was intentional since it was easy to pop back together.

Bottom-line: Both Jeremiah (4-year-old) and Isaiah (7-year-old) enjoyed running and leaping through the course. The whole idea got a 4.5 rating out of 5 only because some parts could not be used (rope course), some were too easy (balance beam) and it was too hot (I had thought of putting together a misting system but ran out of time).

Life Lesson

Jeremiah’s first attempt on the sloped board event ended in frustration and an almost “I give up” attitude. He had tried leaping quickly from one platform to another but ended up falling. I had to show him that it was okay to fall and perhaps jumping on one platform at a time was better than trying to “run” through all of them quickly (he wanted to emulate his older brother). Once he embraced that idea, he overcame both the physical and mental obstacle of “I can’t do this.”

Also, on the ropes course, he needed an assist to go from one hanging bar/loop to another. I let him hang on the last bar but he was afraid to drop. I told him it was no higher off the ground than his jumping off of stairs. He let go, and yes the first time was a bit traumatic but every time afterward he would not only drop but also he would swing from the bar before dropping.

Life hands us all kind of obstacles. Some become so mentally intimidating we dare not to do it. Stepping back for a moment and viewing and attacking those perceived obstacles from a different perspective will help us see it as a challenge and give it a try…and who knows, in hindsight, we might actually let go and enjoy it.

Attraction Notes

  1. Link: browse the Internet for backyard obstacle or ninja warrior courses. There are tons of ideas and pictures out there.
  2. Location: my place
  3. Cost: to be honest, unless you have a lot of leftover building material, there will be a cost to this adventure. It can be anywhere from $50-200+ depending on the complexity and permanence of the course. It’s your choice…see what you have around the house (ie, spare tires, wood, hula hoops, pool play items) and get creative.
  4. What did the kids like/dislike: They liked the whole thing but we know there are places for improvement. The best activity? The sloped boards (also known as quad steps or slopes) were by far the most fun for the boys.
  5. Kids opinion of it: Big Smile Factor! Thumbs up for most of the course. Two thumbs up for the whole idea.
  6. What to do: have fun, get challenged, enjoy the moment.
  7. New places to eat along the way: none.
  8. Discoveries: sometimes the hardest event became the most fun event
  9. Difficulty of getting around: none.
  10. Return/Do Again?: Yessiree! We have the whole summer, and in the south, we actually have all year!
  11. Restrooms: yup
  12. Parking: yup

Final Thoughts

If the cost is a stumbling block, many areas now have Ninja Warrior courses – both for free and for a fee – and it just takes a few moments to find them. In our area, the cheapest course is Jamison Park where several components are already laid out for the gkids to use. So dig a bit and challenge all of the “kids.” As an example, for “Kid Friendly” information about the North Carolina Triad area, check out the articles posted at Kid Friendly Activities in NC’s Triad