Outdoor Obstacle Courses for Schools

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One of the fastest-growing trends in outdoor play is obstacle courses. Parents set up balance beams, pool noodles, and all manner of items found at the local hardware store to create a backyard obstacle course for their kids. 

 

 

Why?

Children love the running, jumping, and climbing involved with an obstacle course. It’s fun and exciting because every time they run the course, it’s a new experience. They also help children develop strength, agility, and problem-solving skills.

Homemade backyard obstacle courses are taking the suburbs by storm!

A typical playground may not offer enough excitement during school recess for a generation of students who grew up as backyard ninja warriors. Read on to learn how schools can create fun, challenging, and age-appropriate obstacle courses on a playground.

What is an Obstacle Course?

An obstacle course can take on many forms. Some of them are very large and elaborate in design. In contrast, others are much smaller and include only a few elements. No matter the style or size, most obstacle courses have some common features.

An obstacle course is a series of challenges or obstacles in sequence. An individual navigates these obstacles by running, climbing, balancing, or crawling in, around, under, or through. The course enhances a participant’s speed, endurance, strength, and agility. 

What are the Benefits of an Obstacle Course?

Dr. Michael Suk, MD, orthopedic surgeon and expert on the benefits of physical activity in children, once said, “Exercise is work and play is fun, but the results are the same.” In other words, if you can make exercise a playful activity, children are more likely to do it. 

Student posing for photo after running GameTime Challenge Course

Obstacle courses like GameTime's Challenge Course enhance strength, agility, and self-confidence! 

Outdoor obstacle courses provide a lot of health and wellness benefits for children. In addition to being a lot of fun, they help children develop strength, balance, and coordination. Obstacle courses are linked to improvements in cognitive function and problem-solving skills. 

And children who participate in physical activities like an obstacle course are more self-confident and able to deal with emotional and physical stress.

Concerns About DIY Courses

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many families began wondering, “how can I build an obstacle course?” They scoured their storage sheds and home improvement warehouses for building materials and other items they could fashion into a makeshift course for the kids. We’ve seen some unbelievable designs on TikTok and YouTube, but they all have a few common problems:

  • The courses are made from parts that weren’t meant for this kind of abuse, so they fall apart after a few uses. 
  • The backyard and DIY courses usually don’t include any safety surfacing, so the likelihood of injury increases.
  • They usually only focus on running or climbing activities instead of a complete range of motions and exercises.

For these reasons, some families are reluctant to create an obstacle course at home. Still, they frequently wonder, “is there an obstacle course near me my kids will enjoy?” That’s where schools come in.

A New Approach to PE Class

Schools are an excellent location for obstacle courses. Students can use them as part of recess or physical education classes. And for communities where school playgrounds do double duty as community playgrounds, those same courses can benefit everyone nearby.

For communities and schools that want to create the obstacle course experience, DIY is not the right approach. Modern safety and accessibility standards for public places require designs that meet specific requirements. This ensures the course is fun for everyone and free of hazards. 

Temporary Course Setups

PE classes have been creating temporary courses for years with hurdles and cones inside a school gymnasium or outdoor space. These agility courses provide many of the same skill development activities as obstacle courses. They are quick and easy to set up when you need them.

Agility course for students

Temporary agility courses can be an effective way to provide some of the benefits of an obstacle course

The only drawback to an ad-hoc agility course is it’s only available for a short time and a select group of people. It’s not practical to leave it set up for a long period of time or without supervision. And the materials are not usually intended for excessive wear and tear in a harsh outdoor environment.

If you want to give students the taste of an obstacle course now and again, a temporary setup can be helpful to develop strength, speed, and agility. 

Permanent Obstacle Courses

A permanent installation at a school is ideal for giving students of all grades and fitness levels a chance to experience an obstacle course. Constructed of weather-resistant and durable materials, it can stand up to hundreds of students racing through it daily. And when it is designed according to safety and accessibility standards, it’s compliant for public use.

Girl navigates a GameTime Challenge Course

Challenge Course by GameTime offers schools a complete obstacle course experience that's compliant with modern standards

Obstacle courses for schools can supplement a traditional playground, provide athletic training for teams and health classes, and offer a unique amenity to the community at large. Here are some of the most common options we see in schools across North America.

Affordable Design

Fitness-inspired play areas keep children moving. Schools often face challenges such as a lack of open space and constrained budgets, so GameTime created a line of obstacle course designs that address both needs.

KidCourse obstacle courses combine ASTM-certified playground equipment with thoughtful design to create a fun, effective and challenging play experience for children ages 5 to 12. It requires the same amount of space as a typical playground, and it’s affordable for schools that need to maximize their budget.

Compact Obstacle Course

The Stadium is a new concept for an obstacle course. It is a compact design that packs ten obstacles into a structure that requires less than 1,200 square feet. There is an optional timing system, multiple routes of travel through the course, and integrated shade structures available. 

gametime stadium compact obstacle course

The Stadium is a compact obstacle course design for schools

For schools that want a unique and challenging play experience for students, without the need for a massive amount of space, the Stadium is ideal. And it's the only obstacle course available with an integrated shade to keep things cooler and more comfortable.

Next-Level Recess

Introduced in 2015, Challenge Course is the original outdoor obstacle course system for parks and schools. It is available in two models (Youth for ages 5 to 12 and Pro for ages 13+), offers more than a dozen obstacles to choose from, and can be configured to fit any space or budget. With precision timing systems, a 40-yard dash option, instructional signage, and more, it’s a complete ninja-warrior experience.

Active Students Learn Better

For nearly a century, GameTime has partnered with leading scholars and researchers to understand the benefits of physical activity in children. Research shows students who are active during recess perform better academically. 

Active students are 20% more likely to earn an A in Math and English. They perform better on standardized test scores, with an improvement of six percent over three years. 

Byers school obstacle course gametime challenge course

Students stay active during the school day with Challenge Course by GameTime

Students who are playful and active also exhibit better behavior in the classroom. One study showed teachers spend 21% less time dealing with poor classroom behavior when students are active during the day. 

Chart Your Course

Outdoor obstacle courses are popular among children because they’re fun, exciting and push kids to challenge themselves mentally and physically. An entire generation of students is growing up with makeshift ninja warrior courses in their backyards and want to have the same experiences on a school playground. DIY and temporary setups may work in some instances, but when it comes to building school play areas, safety standards and durability are essential.

GameTime’s outdoor obstacle course equipment collection is perfect for schools that want to give students more ways to be active during recess. With affordable equipment options and compact designs, there’s something for any space or budget. For schools with their sights set on making a community destination, there are options for large-scale pro-level courses that appeal to students and nearby families alike.

If you’re interested in creating an outdoor obstacle course experience on your school playground, contact the GameTime play expert in your neighborhood today.