Step Ahead Teacher with children

How obstacle courses help children leap, skip and jump ahead

Children have the most fantastic imaginations. Watch as they walk down the road - a curb becomes a balance beam, a crack is a giant canyon to leap over, puddles are deep pools to jump in.

When we play on obstacles with our children at Step Ahead, whether on a set course or even just in our natural environment, it helps to develop their coordination and gross motor skills. Motor skills are learned movements of the body, classed as gross and fine skills. Gross motor skills involve large muscles, for walking, jumping and skipping, whereas fine motor skills are more precise movements – think drawing, stacking blocks, moving beads on an abacus.

Creating an obstacle course from balance beams, tunnels, stepping stones or blocks and ladders (really, anything goes!) gives our tamariki a chance to explore, to push their limits and boundaries, and work on strength and fitness. There are no rules here – if it can be stood on, climbed up or over, jumped over or crawled through, then it can be included in the course. While the course will be a challenge for younger children, older children enjoy role modelling and showing them how to do it.

If our children have become obstacle experts, creating a maze is a fun way to test both gross and fine motor skills. With a little imagination, some downpipes/planks/building materials and marbles, children put their problem-solving skills to the test.

Making a maze is also an opportunity for children to come up against unpredictable outcomes and work on their emotional reactions. What do I do when something doesn’t work? How do I express my frustration? At Step Ahead, our teachers are always there for support and cuddles, but we also love supporting our children to work through problems and create solutions all by themselves.