How to Play Backyard Obstacle Course


Obstacle courses are a main staple in backyard game events. Not only are they a versatile way to have fun using materials you have laying around the yard, but they be customized for any event, party, or get together.

An obstacle course is basically a set of challenges and/or maneuvers that each participant has to complete to make it to the end of the course. Obstacles can include climbing, crawling, jumping. They can even include random actions such as dancing or singing, depending on the nature of the course.

The great thing about obstacle courses is the creative liberties you can take when designing your very own. There are no official rules or equipment needed, which makes obstacle courses a cheap and very fun pastime for family and friends.

Check out our ultimate list of obstacle course challenge suggestions, and combine different ideas to create your own custom obstacle course.

Woman doing tire obstacle course

Obstacle Course Supplies

First, let’s look at some of the different objects that you can use to make your very own obstacle course:

  • Stop watch
  • Cones
  • Paper plates and cups
  • Sidewalk chalk
  • Chairs and other movable furniture
  • Jump ropes
  • Boxes
  • Hula Hoops
  • Pool Noodles
  • Empty liter soda bottles and other recyclables
  • Balls of various types
  • Bean bags
  • Duct tape
  • Frisbees
  • Sponges
  • Paper bags
  • Toys
  • Trees and other natural objects
  • Water balloons
  • And More

As you can see, you can use almost anything and everything to make your own backyard obstacle course

Grass Lawn Obstacle Course Challenges

If you have a grass lawn, or any other green space with a softer surface to set up various challenges, here are some fun obstacle course ideas:

Funny Walks

For this fun obstacle course, find obstacles such as cones, cups, or plates and place them around the field, with enough room to maneuver around each of them.

Using a stopwatch, have each participant run around the course using one or a combination of the following walking methods:

  • Crab walk
  • Bear walk
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Three legged walk (with partner)
  • One foot hopping
  • Crawling
  • Backwards walking
  • Etcetera

The person or team with the quickest time wins the course.

Crawling

Using obstacles such as chairs, tables, or any other object that is tall enough to be crawled under, place the objects around the lawn and have each participant crawl army style around the course.

The participate with the quickest time wins the course.

Hula Hooping

Here are some fun ways to incorporate hula-hoops into an obstacle course:

Timed Hula Hooping

In a designated spot on the course, require the participant to Hula Hoop for a specific amount of time.

If the hoop drops before the time is reach, they have to reset the timer and try again until they can Hula Hoop the entire designated time.

Hula Hoop Hop

Place Hula Hoops or other rings around the course.

The object will be for the participant to hop from the inside of one hoop to another.

If the participate misses and is unable to reach one of the hoops, they have to start from the beginning.

Two Hoop Hop

The participant will have two Hula Hoops.

While standing in one, they have to place the second hoop in front of them.

The participant then has to jump or step in the second hoop, then retrieve the first hoop to place in front of them so they can continue moving forward.

Exercise Challenge

At a designated spot of the course, require the participant to perform a certain exercise or combination of exercise for a determined amount or time period.

Some exercises that can be done include:

  • Jumping Jacks
  • Burpees
  • Pushups
  • Sit ups
  • Planks
  • Mountain Climbers
  • Running in place

Rolling

Rolling is a great obstacle, especially whey there is soft grass to roll on.

One challenge can be a person rolling on their side to a designated target.

Another challenge can include a person rolling an object around obstacles or to an intended target.

Some examples of this include:

  • Rolling a ball with the person’s nose to a target.
  • Using a stick or other object to guide a ball around obstacles until they reach the finish line.
  • Rolling multiple objects to an intended target or finish line.

Throwing

Throwing objects to a target is another great challenge for an obstacle course.

Some ideas for throwing challenges include:

  • Throwing horseshoes
  • Tossing balls into a basket
  • Tossing beanbags into a form of cornhole game (or holes cut in a paper bag)
  • Throwing an object like a frisbee a designated distance
  • Being blindfolded and throwing an object into a bucket or marked location

Kicking

Kicking is a great skill to use while doing an obstacle course.

Dribbling soccer balls around objects is a great way to practice soccer skills, but requires patience and skills.

Other objects can be kicked around, such as beach balls, cans, liter soda bottles, or anything else lying around in the recycle bin.

The course can even include a challenge where so many objects have to be kicked into a designated area.

Water Obstacle Course Challenges

Water obstacle course challenges are not only fun, but a great way to cool off in the summer months.

Water Balloons

There are are plethora of obstacles that use water balloons.

Here are some of the fun water balloon challenges:

  • Toss the water into a bucket or to another person without it breaking.
  • Carry a water balloon between the knees without breaking it.
  • Roll the water balloon to a target without breaking it.
  • Carry as many water balloons as possible without dropping them.
  • Throw water balloons at a specific target.
  • Using partners, try catching a water balloon with a towel or other cloth. used as a sling without dropping it.
  • Pick up water balloons at different stations and try not dropping any.
  • Dodging water balloons while completing an obstacle.

Playing with Water

There are great obstacles that can be done with water.

There’s a Hole in My Bucket

On either side of the course, place a bucket, one filled with water, and one that is empty.

The participant will then be given a cup with holes.

The object of the obstacle is to fill up the empty bucket with the water using the leaky cup.

Cups

Place a bucket on either end of the course, one full of water and one empty.

Between the two buckets are a series of cups.

The participant must fill up one cup from the bucket of water and take it to the first cup.

They then empty their cup into the first cup, and then take the filled cup to the next cup, empty it into the second, and repeat the process until the last cup which is then emptied into the empty bucket.

Slip ‘n Slide

Using a large piece of vinyl or heavy duty garbage bags, make a large plastic slip ‘n slide.

Using a hose or other water source, drench it with water (continuous water is best), and dish soap.

Have the participant slide on their belly to the other side.

Making Bubbles

At a designated spot of the obstacle course, have the participant blow a certain amount of bubbles.

Or…

If you have a small plastic pool, fill it with water and dish soap..

Using a hula hoop, have the participant make a bubble that reaches above them.

(Make sure that the water/bubble solution is concentrated enough to form large bubbles).

Sponges

Sponges are great when it comes to water play and water based obstacle courses.

Not only are the very absorbent, but their soft and light characteristics make them safe to throw at objects and people.

Here are some fun obstacles using sponges:

  • Soak a sponge in a bucket of water and squeeze it out into an empty bucket.
  • Toss a wet sponge to a sedentary teammate who tosses it to another until a finish line or target is reached.
  • Throw so many wet sponges into a bucket.
  • Avoid getting hit by sponges while running to a finish line.
  • Place a wet sponge on your head and walk to a finish line without it falling off.

Play Pools

Some challenging obstacles involving play pools include:

  • Having the participant blindfolded and required to feel for a specific object in the pool full of water or other filling (the pool should have various toys and items to make it harder to find the specific object).
  • If you don’t mind getting dirty, fill the pool with mud and require the participate to cover themselves in mud before moving to the next obstacle.
  • Try to catch floating toys or objects with a pair of grabbers, ladles, or other retrieval items.
  • Fill the pool with mud and make them construct something.

Hoses and Sprinklers

Kids and adults love playing in the sprinklers on a hot day.

Here are some ways how to incorporate them into your obstacle course:

  • If you have a rotating sprinkler, have the participants try to accomplish a task without getting wet.
  • Try knocking down objects using hose pressure.
  • Do an exercise challenge in the sprinklers.
  • Roll up the hose as part of a challenge.

Sidewalk Obstacle Course Challenges

If you don’t have access to green grass, or prefer to stay dry, try some of these fun obstacles that can be done on cement.

Basketball

The hard surface of cement makes it perfect for playing basket ball.

Develop some awesome b-ball skills by trying some of these obstacles.

Dribbling Challenges

Using sidewalk chalk or duct tape, mark out a path for the participants to use while dribbling.

Make it curvy, zig zag, or spiraled shape and place obstacles in the way, such as chairs, cones or other things for them to avoid while bouncing the ball.

Shooting Challenges

If you are using a basketball court or have something that can serve as a basket, mark out different throw lines and have the participant make a shop from various throw lines.

Once the participant makes a certain number of shots, they can move on to the next challenge.

Hopscotch

Draw out a traditional, or unique version of hopscotch for each participant to play on.

When the participant arrives at the hopscotch, have them toss a rock or other marker to one of the squares.

Have them hope on one foot per square, avoiding the marked square.

Jump Rope

When a participant reaches a certain spot, have a jump rope available for them to use.

You can either have them jump with the rope for a certain amount of time, having them restart if they mess up.

Or you can have them perform a jump rope trick, such as jumping on one foot, or crossing hands.

If you have extra people available, you can have them jump Double Dutch style jump roping, either to a determined count or as the turners of the rope repeat a rhyme.

Jump robes can even be made into snakes, with a jump rope turner moving the rope back and forth flat on the ground, creating the ‘snakes’.

The participant then would be required to jump over without touching them.

Sidewalk Art

Obstacles don’t necessarily have to be physical.

Another fun challenge is to have the participant draw something using sidewalk chalk before they move on to the next obstacle.

Nighttime Obstacle Course Challenges

If you are having a party or event when it gets dark, there are several fun options available to make a fun night time obstacle course.

Glowsticks

Some fun nighttime obstacles using glowsticks include:

  • Collect a number of glowsticks that are found throughout the course.
  • Try to capture a glowstick from a moving target (could be a person designated as a target that has different colored glow sticks each color for a particular participant).
  • Glowstick toss
  • Retrieve glowstick from mud, ball pits, or other substance.
  • Carry a glowstick to the finish line without using hands.

Using the Dark

The great thing about night time obstacles is the inability to see, which make them even more challenging.

However, it is important not to do challenges that can result in injury.

Here are some safe, fun challenges to do while in the dark:

  • Put together a puzzle
  • Find objects in slimy substances
  • Draw or create a building using blocks
  • Eating food
  • Placing on clothing (keep the originals on).
Family of five covered in mud carrying tires

Dirt Yard Obstacle Course Challenges

If you are like me, and don’t have a comfortable green lawn to be crawling or rolling around on, there are still tons of fun dirt yard challenges that you can add to your obstacle course.

Mud Pit

If you aren’t afraid of a little mud, you can designate part of the obstacle course as a mud pit.

Use the mud pit for exercise challenges, or something that will cause the participants to get extra muddy.

Make sure that rocks and other sharp objects are removed from the mud.

Stick Horse Rodeo

Stick horse rodeos are tons of fun for all ages, and unlike their traditional counterpart are safe and fun.

They are usually performed by participants riding their ‘horses’.

These horses can be toy stick horses, brooms, large bouncy balls, or even just a stick.

The goal is for the rider to remain on their faithful steed.

Since stick horse rodeos are often held outside, they are great for those who have dirt yards.

The winner is the person with the quickest time, with scores accounting for penalties for hitting barrels or other obstacles.

Here are some obstacles found at stick horse rodeos:

Barrel Race: Using two or more objects as ‘barrels’, have the participants ride their horses around them in a designated pattern.

Roping: Using a rope or jump rope of some sort, create a lasso and have the participant lasso an object (stuffed animal, chair, lawn ornament are recommended. Due to the strangulation possibility, it is not advised to use a live target).
Goat/Sheep Tie: Tie a piece of yarn, ribbon, or other material that is easily loosened to an object. Then, have the participant try to untie the ties. Another player can serve as a live target with ribbon tied to their waist similar to flag football.

Old Tires

Sometimes when you think about obstacle courses, images of men and women in army clothes carefully running through a pathway of tires come to mind.

Running through tires not only tests a participant’s agility, but also their paience and balance.

If you would like to incorporate this into your own obstacle course, go to a tire dealership and asked for old discard tires that they take off of their customers’ vehicles.

Usually, they will be happy to give them away for free.

Place and anchor (put dirt around) the tires on the course where they won’t move too much if someone trips over them.

Using Wood Boards

If you would like to add a balancing beam to your obstacle, find some old railroad ties or other thick boards of wood, and secure them into the ground by either putting dirt around them or anchoring them with weighted objects.

Bicycle Obstacle Course Challenges

DIY tracks for bicycle courses are a lot of fun, especially if you make sure to practice safety by wearing a helmet.

Using chalk or paint, outline a course that a bicycle is to ride down.

Add cones for swerving and mud, and other environmental challenges that will pose no danger to a rider.

Swimming Pool Obstacle Course Challenges

Swimming pools hold lots of opportunities for obstacle course challenges.

Here are some of our favorites:

  • Dive for things (rings, waterproof toys, etc.)
  • Water Basketball (try throwing a ball into a basket that is floating in a floaty ring, or on the pool deck)
  • Different swim stroke challenge (back stroke, forward crawl, butterfly, butterfly stroke, etc.)
  • Water frisbee catch
  • Floaty targets (throwing rings or frisbees into targets made out of floaties).
  • Floaty push (push a floaty carrying another person to the other end of the pool)
  • Pool noodle collector (have lots of pool noodles in the pool and collect as many as you can).
  • Pool noodle whacker (knock objects off of floaties by using pool noodles).

Make sure that obstacles suit age levels and swimming abilities.

Camping Obstacle Course Challenges

There is lots of fun to be found in the woods.

If you are on a family camp out, or having a nice picnic in the forest, use the natural surroundings to make your very own obstacle course.

Scout around you to see if there are any large rocks, trees, or steep trails that can be used as obstacles.

You can even have obstacles involving streams or rivers.

List challenges for the participates such as finding a certain flower or a number of pine cones and see who can complete the challenges first.

Wall Obstacle Course Challenges

If you have a brick wall or chain linked fence, you can incorporate them into your obstacle course (if your neighbors don’t mind).

If you have access to rope, you can tie knots into it and use it to climb over wallls.

However, make sure that the other end is secured by tying it tightly to a tree or other unmovable object, or have a spotter hold the other end.

With the chain linked fence, it it is strong enough to hold up a person’s weight, have people climb it before going on to their next challenge.

two teams kicking balls around obstacles.

Random Obstacle Course Challenges

There are some challenges that can be played anywhere and on any surface.

Trivia

When a participant reaches a certain point of the course, they are given a question, either on a card or asked in person.

If the participant answers correctly, they get to move on.

If they do not answer correctly, they must perform an action, either an exercise challenge or an impersonation challenge.

Animal Actions

When a participant arrives at a certain location, have them impersonate a person or an animal.

This should include both vocal and physical imitations of an animal.

Carrying Objects

There are lots of fun carrying challenges that you can incorporate into your obstacle course.

Here are just a few:

  • Place an egg in a spoon and make it to an end point.
  • Balloons between knees.
  • Carrying a glass of water from one end of the field to another without spilling.
  • Make bubbles and try to carry them to the finish line without them popping or blowing away.

Moving Objects

For this obstacle, the challenge is to move a pile of objects from one location to another.

Have a large pile of rocks, blocks, boxes, or something else that are difficult to carry in large quantities.

This can be done either individually or as a team.

Whoever moves their objects first, wins.

Building

A fun obstacle for a course is a building challenge.

Have a pile of rocks, blocks, sticks, spare parts and wire, or other material to use for building materials.

Challenge the participates to build an object that has a certain purpose.

It could be a car that actually rolls, a tower that reaches a certain height, or a boat that can float and hold a certain amount of weight.

Getting Dressed

If you have some old spare clothes lying around the house, use them for a fun addition to your obstacle course.

In a pile on one end of the course, instruct the participants to place pants, shirts, ties, coats, or whatever items you have available over their own clothes.

Then, have them race back to the other end of the field and remove the clothing items.

So Many Choices, the Fun Possibilities are Endless

The ideas listed above are just a small sampling of the fun opportunities you have when making your own obstacle course.

If you have a little creativity and a bit of ingenuity, you can make something that will be guaranteed to make memories.

So get out there, see what supplies you have, and have fun challenging yourself and your friends to a great time.

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