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Indoor Obstacle Course: Value of Big Body Play for Kids

indoor play obstacle course big body play

I’m here finally after a rather long un-intended gap. Some of you (who follow me on Facebook) may have wondered why I haven’t been updating the blog even though I am online and posting regularly on my Facebook page. Friends, the reality is time or rather – the lack of it. Well, not even the lack of it but not having some quiet, focused time – good enough to write an article. Posting on facebook doesn’t really need THAT kind of time.

There are some changes we’re making in our personal lives (more on that later!) and we’re all trying to find a rhythm around it. But then, as you know, rhythm is the easiest thing to be affected but hardest to form. Yet, knowing how important it is to me as a person and for my family, every effort at it is worth it. May be I’ll write about it some day.

Today, I want to write about another issue (besides rhythm) that’s affecting us these days.

Pari’s need for constant physical activity and how not having that enough temporarily triggered irritable and even agitating behaviour! Phew….

Due to the scorching summer, she has to stay indoors till evening (well, even in the evenings the wind that blows is not comforting – it’s hot as if from a kiln). Her friends in the complex where we live, are not available to play until 6 PM – as some have gone out of town due to summer holidays and others, who are here, nap in the afternoons. It’s only in the evenings that she goes out to play. And, once gone, she won’t enter home before 8 PM or sometimes 9 (which is okay with me).

But the afternoons get on her nerves – to the point of she becoming agitated and irritable. We do art activities as always or she reads and plays or watches TV. We play lot of board games, too – like carrom, sort-it-out, un-scramble etc. Or just solve riddles, play mad-libs, pretend play….

Yet, there’s no mistaking her restlessness and the resulting anger and frustration.

It’s the pent-up energy that needs release. When this energy doesn’t find a physical outlet, it pushes the wrong buttons and comes out in the form of irritable behaviour.

But, I did not come to identify the cause immediately. I was baffled for a while and even aghast – looking for possibly wrong reasons. I was constantly tracing it back to myself. That may be MY own behaviour – is setting the wrong example for her.

But, then, I started noticing something else. At meals, even though she sits with us at the table, she can hardly stay put for even a few minutes. She’ll grab a bite – climb onto the sofa from behind, do a little jump, come over to her chair – again by jumping over. Or, she’ll run around the house – the food in her mouth for more than ten minutes without being chewed. We would ask her every now and then to sit still when having food. Doesn’t help much. There was a phase when she would cycle indoors – in our living room. The space is big enough for her to maneuver a cycle.

So, I came to understand that it’s her need for more physical activity – the ‘big body play’ type, the rough-housing type that will release her energy and calm her down.

So, what is ‘big-body play’ ?

As the term suggests – it means activity or play that involves the whole body along with the large muscles – jumping, climbing, chasing, crawling, play-kicking, rolling, tumbling, vigorous dancing, play-wrestling and many more.

These days, I’m always devising ways and games for her to channelize all that energy and make life more exciting for her – HER way. 

Though living in an apartment comes in the way of outdoor play, I’m trying to think out-of-the-box to come up with ways to include more physical activities even when indoors.

This obstacle course is one such idea.

There are a few other fun physical games we play – all set for different times of the day. The mud pie kitchen has been a real hit, too.

There are many ways you can make an outdoor obstacle course. I found that I can make one up quickly and creatively with coloured tape.

Besides creating obstacles with tape, I wanted to use some physical elements to create the sense of obstacle. So, I changed the sofa placement, folded up a carpet to make a balancing beam and went about laying the tape with the sofa as the start point and the end point.

Here are some pics – albeit blurry. Sorry, there was so much action, it was tough capturing a still pose!

The tape obstacle course included many challenges – hopping across really narrow path; skipping on one leg, jumping from one pair of tape-boxes to another by switching legs; crawling, walking on all fours…

Even reaching out for the ice/cheese on a plate by stretch full body!

indoor play ideas for kids children

We even did a one-minute challenge using a sand clock.

playful learning big-body play

So, the idea is to finish as many rounds as possible in a minute. This really set her adrenalin gushing. She was moving like a ninja as if every step and action was programmed into her system! It was a sight to watch.

roughhouse play importance for kids

She went on to do many one-minute challenges. I participated with her, too. Good for my own health and fitness. ;-)

indoor play fun for kids mommy labs

I won’t make generalizations here by saying all kids crave tons of physical activity or big-body play and hence every parent should try to find ways to get them involved. Each child is unique and so are his/her needs and passions – just like we adults have.

Even then, most kids – especially boys – need more physical activity than parents usually estimate.

We tend to think “oh he/she goes to swimming classes twice a week” or that “he digs in the backyard every morning”or that “she goes to dance class every other day”. We assume that one such organized activity is good enough. We couldn’t be far enough from it.

More often than not, these opportunities are not good enough. They probably most likely need much more large-muscle play (and more hours doing that) – the kind that will burn off all that piled-up energy; rejuvenate their minds; boost their confidence.

Physical activity is lesser in schools.

They spend most part of the time sitting in the class-rooms or playing structured activities directed by the adults. Besides, couple of 30-minutes recess in a 6-hour day is just not enough. All the more reason to make sure their need for physical activity is met when they come back home so their pent-up energy is released.

Here’re couple of books that you can read to learn more about big-body play and why it’s so beneficial for growing children – irrespective of gender.

  • Another useful book calledThe Art of Roughhousing‘ that says – how rough-and-tumble play can nurture close connections, solve behavior problems, boost confidence, and more. Drawing inspiration from gymnastics, martial arts, ballet, traditional sports, and even animal behavior, the authors present dozens of illustrated activities for children and parents to enjoy together—everything from the “Sumo Dead Lift” to the “Rogue Dumbo.” These delightful games are fun, free, and contain many surprising health benefits for parents. So put down those electronic games and get ready to rumble! (review from amazon)

These books reinforce my own lesson learned – that – when children don’t find enough channels to release their energy – in a big way, it manifests as behaviour issues – irritability, crankiness, aggression and anger. Even hitting. Gosh!

Thankfully, Pari’s problem has not reached such proportions. I’m glad I’ve identified this early on.

What about you?

How are you as a parent and/or Early Childhood Educator making sure your child is getting enough opportunities for physical activities and big-body play?

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Prabha June 21, 2012, 4:06 pm

    Rashmie, Love this. Wonderful and very creative. We used to play with the floor tiles like this. Lately, I have not been encouraging S to play like that at home. The problem with not encouraging S like that, he does not do anything on his own. The trained mind thinks that it is wrong to hop or run at home. Your way of facilitating structured but REAL FUN activities helps children undo, unlearn and break from rules. I love that

    • Rashmie @ Mommy Labs June 22, 2012, 3:01 pm

      Thank you for the affirmation that it’s okay to break rules, get out of rut, unlearn and do what the heart says… :-)
      I think you could assure your son it’s okay to unlearn by you doing those kind of things- breaking into a song and dance on a whim, chasing him with fun water play and such random, unexpected things that will take him by surprise but reassure at the same time that he can follow his heart….

  • Anju June 21, 2012, 9:39 pm

    I and my almost 2 year daughter play these games with other apartment kids
    1. different kind of racing- kangaroo race, reverse walk etc.
    2. colour hunt
    3. mountain & river(in indoor version we make sofa as mountain..lol)
    4. Hide & seek (all time favorite)

    • Rashmie @ Mommy Labs June 22, 2012, 3:02 pm

      Wonderful, creative ideas for indoor fun. Thank you for being here :-)

  • Ann June 22, 2012, 2:06 am

    You are so right that kids NEED movement! We do this a bit in the winter but the tape really brings is to another level! May try this as we are experiencing a heat wave here too!

    And thanks for the book recommendations and hope all is well : )

    • Rashmie @ Mommy Labs June 22, 2012, 3:05 pm

      Yes, the tape – as you said – gave it a new dimension. We do hopscotch by drawing with temporary markers on floor tiles but I’ve seen that hasn’t been very exciting…
      What is it with the heat wave all over the world! We even saw humungous dust storms this year – a first!
      Things are okay here, Ann. Thank you for your thought my dear… :-)

  • Rebekah @ The Golden Gleam June 22, 2012, 8:48 am

    Thank you, thank you, and thank you again for spreading this message. It is something I feel so passionately about for my daughter. She NEEDS intense physical activity. She doesn’t sleep well if she doesn’t get it and she is more irritable just like you describe your Pari. I often wonder if the increase in diagnosis of ADD/ADHD has anything to do with the fact that kids don’t get the exercise they need. I totally agree that just a couple days a week is not enough. It needs to be every day.

    We have horribly hot summers too. We go outside as soon as we wake up in the morning and garden and play. For exercise we swim, go to fountain parks, and we have indoor bounce houses here that are great for physical activity.

    Love the obstacle course you made. We love making and doing them too.

    • Rashmie @ Mommy Labs June 22, 2012, 3:12 pm

      You said it. Yes, I do think that the increase in ADD/ADHD being diagnosed could all be a farce when the real reason kids might be behaving that way most likely could be lack of enough activity/play.

      And imagine what this diagnosis leads to – kids being given drugs/medicines that he/she should not be taking. Equally worse – the child is made to feel as if there’s something wrong with him/her and a ‘label’ to live with – whole life! Gosh..it’s really scary. Poor kid – when all he actually needed was a good amount of strenuous big body play…

  • Melissa @ The Chocolate Muffin Tree June 22, 2012, 5:28 pm

    I feel your pain. My daughter needs tons of physical activity or she gets so goofy and silly. During the day it is not too bad, but once dinner hits she is like your daughter….barely sitting to eat. Her friends are gone for the summer, so it leaves me playing with her or setting up adventures or play dates. I like the idea of the indoor obstacle course since it has been quite hot here….but I’m sure never as hot as India. I agree that children are being misdiagnosed with ADHD and for being normal kids. Working in an Elementary school, I witnessed this happening way too much and expecting to have kids sit way too long and having less recess time. Students would come to art class and would be exploding with energy because my class was more free….letting them stand and not have to be perfectly still.

  • PlayDrMom June 22, 2012, 6:27 pm

    So true! Great write-up! Kids NEED to move!

    Thanks so much for sharing this post on this week’s Kids Co-Op link up!

  • Anju June 23, 2012, 1:14 pm

    A very inspiring blog on the same topic

    @Rashmie @ Mommy Labs

  • Zahira June 24, 2012, 7:24 am

    Loved this blog! I’m a veteran homeschooler of over 18 years. Never saw it as a ‘big body play’ before. We swim, bicycle, play futsal & walk a lot…does that count :D My daughter is a serial jumper. Your blog has given me plenty of constructive ideas. Thankyou!

  • Mansi June 26, 2012, 6:52 pm

    I too feel the same about daily physical activity. My 3 1/2 ur old need at least 2hrs of play daily at the park. They play at the swing, climb ladders, play with mud, they even have a troupe of cyclist as they go around the park together. I have observed that the kids have there own obstacle course at the park . Or they usually run after each other following the course and make many new ones. My daughter love to lead at times. I really feel lucky to be staying at this colony where there are plenty of kids and safe playground for kids to play. As it’s started to rain, all the kids come out and go crazy jumping at the puddles! Childhood is so much fun. I will never give up her free play time for any hobby classes ever.

  • Sudhaa June 27, 2012, 1:13 am


    You are uber creative. Excellent job with post its and paper bag. Its a beautiful art.
    I want to learn about when I should direct the art and craft work for my 4 yr old and when I should give the supplies and sit back. Should I show my kid how to use the medium or just leave it to her to figure…but she uses up a whole bottle of poster paint if I don’t ration it to her. ..am I limiting her creativity tell her what she can use and how? Also what if the finished art doesnot look appealing to me, should I still say “excellent” to my kid. What do you do with all the finished art…do you store all of them or do you toss it? will it hurt the child’s feelings if you toss it?

    Your thoughts would mean a lot to me.

    -a control freak parent desperately wanting to change for her child’s well being and her own

  • google.com December 11, 2013, 1:24 am

    What a stuff of un-ambiguity and preserveness of precious
    know-how about unpredicted emotions.

  • P.Banzhof December 25, 2014, 4:38 am

    Parents of children with ADHD: please rent the book: “Nature’s Ritalin for the Marathon Mind: nurturing your ADHD child with exercise” by Stephen Putnam; very helpful book.