Physical Development: Making an Obstacle Course for Home Play

I’ve been inspired by The Curious Academy to create an “obstacle course” for the boys at home. Of course, with our limited space and resources, it will be nothing like the one at The Curious Academy (or Gymboree, for that matter) since foamnasiumclimbing ladders, and gorilla playsets are either too expensive and/or impractical for our setup. A long time ago, I would probably have sacrificed my spare room to make a bouldering cave. While I still think the idea sounds like a good one, I’m sure hubby would disagree.

So we’re looking for simple, easy to install and remove stuff that won’t cost an arm or a leg that the kids could use to help them develop their gross motor skills and these were what I came up with…

Foam floor mats

The ones with alphabets and numbers are great for young children because you can use them to play other games.

Pull up bar

Home Gym - pull up bar

It’s not exactly a brachiation ladder but it’s a start (also much more affordable and space saving). The kids can practice hanging  – which was one of the exercises Hercules had to do in The Curious Academy. Half the time they can’t play on the monkey bars at the playground because they aren’t strong enough to hold their own weight. Once they’re strong enough to hold their own weight for a period of time, you can teach them the art of brachiating (lots of playgrounds have brachiation ladders):

And if you’re wondering – yes, little girls are quite capable of learning how to brachiate, too. I could brachiate across the full length of a brachiation ladder when I was in kindergarten and I didn’t go through Doman’s Physical Excellence program to do it.

Crawling tunnel

You can get the stand-alones or you can get one that comes as part of a larger package, such as the Ultimate Playland Playhut or the Pacific Play Space Station Tent.

Home Gym - tunnel

Home Gym - tent and tunnel

Home Gym - jungle gym

Step stools

A few of those Forsiktig stools from IKEA arranged as “stepping stones” can work pretty well for balance training. Alternatively, if you can find something similar to the Gonge Hilltops (although these are much, much, more expensive for something that works pretty much the same way – additionally, your child can use the Forsiktig stools to help reach sink taps, light switches, etc., so they have added value).

Home Gym - stepping stones

Home Gym - step stools


Balls of all shapes and sizes will never go astray. You can play lots of hand-eye coordination games – throw the ball into the bucket, hoop, basket, etc. Fabric/magnetic dart board sets and ring toss sets are also great for developing hand-eye coordination (although be prepared for the kids to cheat – a lot!).

Home Gym - balls

Climbing Ladder

At the Curious Academy, they had a climbing ladder mounted to a wall which they encouraged the children to climb. The irony is that Hercules wouldn’t climb the ladder structure at the gym even with all our encouragements but he will climb the horizontal grill to our balcony despite all our warnings against it. How ironic that I used to stem door frames and corridors as a child and now I’m telling my child – don’t do it! Well, if you can’t beat them then at least teach them to do it safely! Even if you don’t have a grill with horizontal bars that can double up as a ladder, I’m sure a rope ladder would make a suitable alternative.

Photo 13-11-12 22 13 14

I realise that this is nothing compared to a “real” gym, but it can serve as a means to encourage gross motor development and to inculcate an active lifestyle when you can’t bring your child out to the park or to a jungle gym because the weather is bad, there isn’t time, or you don’t really feel like braving the crowd.

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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