Kids have a lot of energy. Albeit a sign of a healthy and active child, it can be tough to keep up with sometimes during the day-to-day busy lifestyle. Especially now-a-days, when play dates and extracurricular activities are fewer and further between. As the interest and excitement around the sport and beloved TV show American Ninja Warrior continue to grow, ninja gyms and ninja courses have become all the buzz, especially within the younger age groups!
As lovers and supporters of indoor AND outdoor active lifestyles and activities, we here at Bolder Play found ourselves heavily immersed in the ninja world and have partnered with American Ninja Warrior themselves to create Ninja obstacles and courses to help your crew unleash their inner ninja warrior skills anywhere, any time! To create these courses, we need to know the best and most beneficial components to include in a course that will keep you active, healthy, and hungry for a bigger challenge!
According to various sources like Soft Play, Game Time and our own experts here at Bolder Play, these are a few of the top areas of child development that are beneficial to consider when building your own at home obstacle course!
The targeted areas of physical development include:
- Fine and gross motor muscle groups
- Bilateral coordination
Wow! That sounds like a lot already! The great thing about obstacle courses is that these types of improvements just happen all together while the kids are having fun and burning energy! Talk about a win-win, now let’s build a course!
In order to build a fully loaded obstacle course that provides a work out that will challenge each of these areas of physical development, you must include a variety of obstacles. Here is a break down of a few of our top American Ninja Warrior items that can be used in your at home obstacle course, or even just as inspiration if you are using household items (which is an awesome idea!).
The hurdles that are included in both the American Ninja Warrior Obstacle Course Set, as well as the Family Agility Set, are both versatile and challenging. The hurdles can be used to leap over off of one foot while in the momentum of running, hopped over on two feet, or even crawled under! Using hurdles in various ways will help challenge different muscle groups to work together in diverse ways in the upper body, lower body, and core.
The agility rings, which are sold separately and as part of the Obstacle Course Race Set and Competition Set, are great for building endurance, and improving foot-eye coordination. This style exercise also improves lateral muscle movements that will help build strong and sturdy knees and legs as the kids grow older and even begin contact sports!
The bear crawl is a great add on to any obstacle course because it can be done without any equipment, but if you wanted to add the challenge of staying low, check out the posts and twine included with the Competition Set. You stake the posts vertically in the ground and wrap the twine throughout them at desired height. The kids must crawl through on their belly’s using unique movements of their arms and legs. The lower the ropes, the tougher the course!
The ANW Bounce Balls are a set that you may not be able to find in a household item but can certainly be added to your course since they are sold as their own item! This set of two is a head-to-head race hopping in the sitting position while using balance and endurance to stay upright on the ball! It is tough and requires a skillful balance between both speed and strength. The Hop Balls are perfect for improving lower extremity muscle mass as well.
Another set of 2 that makes any singular head-to-head competition fun or can be added as just one piece of a larger course are the Hula Hoops! The hoops are a unique exercise that is great for cardio and agility. You can set a timer for how long the kids are able to keep the hoop spinning, or you can challenge them to complete a set number of spins before moving onto the next obstacle!
The old-fashioned hop sack is fun, challenging, and even gives you a good laugh - Bonus points for an ab work out! It can be hard not to feel a little bit silly for this one, but it is yet another fantastic way to improve endurance and lower body strength.
Exercise in general works wonders for our brains. Despite being able to notice the physical benefits a bit more easily, our cognitive development is improving and changing as well. Cognitively, kids will develop skills in areas such as problem solving, following instructions, memory, and motor planning.
Children can certainly learn these things during independent play but being a part of a team has a way of adding a bit of social pressure and increased expectation to help motivate them to master these skills. Any sort of team sport, or a timed or measured challenge can really light a competitive fire in these kids, encouraging them to try over and over until they win! This repetitive behavior of doing any activity over and over until it is perfected helps build connections in our brain that aid in problem solving, memory and following instructions, which will be truly demonstrated by the physical abilities that follow!
The ANW Obstacle Course, Competition Set, or Tug of War all require a competitive team spirit, but truly, any home course or combination of the obstacles listed above will inspire this style of learning and development!
Social skills, Teamwork, Sportsmanship
Last, but not least, the social benefits to participating in obstacle courses are endless. Humans have a natural tendency to build social skills through more time spent with others, overcoming differences or challenges, and sharing in the joy of shared interests together. As a parent or guardian, it is important to stress that although a friendly competition is tons of fun, we must always remember the first word – friendly.
There will inevitably be an unfair call, a tie between teams, or a great loss. Children will learn that with these things comes some undesired feelings of sadness or frustration. These situations come as an opportunity to the children to work through their feelings and learn to direct their energy in a positive manner. They will soon learn to do this by supporting the opposing team, cheering on their teammates, and prioritizing HAVING FUN over winning!
While all of this information is true, important, and necessary to building an obstacle course with intention, it truly can be easy! Everything you need may be disguised as other items around your home, and if you feel stuck building once from scratch, we have everything right here for you as part of the American Ninja Warrior collection!
Start thinking today about what your intentions is for your children. Are they training for a certain sport, overcoming some developmental challenges, or simply just FULL of energy that needs to be used in a fun and exciting way?! The benefits of backyard obstacle courses are ENDLESS!