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Benefits of setting up an obstacle course and how to do it

Remember back when you had a newborn, and you thought you'd never be able to rest again? Well, here you are at month ten, and the outlook for making up lost sleep is looking pretty bleak right now. Your ten-month-old seems to be on the move all the time. If he's not crawling all over the house, he is perhaps pulling himself up to stand. 

No matter where your baby is developmentally, you can be sure it includes movement. But why wouldn't it? Your baby only recently discovered he could explore where he wants to and that the world is much bigger than his little play area.

Encouraging your baby to move and explore is precisely what he craves right now, and finding creative (and safe) ways for him to do it can be a challenge. And speaking of challenges, why not give your baby one? 

A baby-safe obstacle course will satisfy your baby's need for physical activity and will ensure he gets a good nap, too. We love setting up obstacle courses for babies, and here's why:

  • They are easy to set up with household items. Grab some pillows, pool noodles, softballs and a large sheet, and you can put together an exciting course for your baby in less than 5 minutes.
  • They can be as small or as big as your space allows. Place three pillows in a row and encourage your baby to crawl over them or dedicate your entire living room floor to a course that will put any Ninja Warrior course to shame.
  • Obstacle courses develop gross motor skills and planning. Don't underestimate your baby's ability to plan. Observe as he cautiously moves over and through the obstacle course. You can bet that the next time he tries, he will tackle each obstacle with confidence.
  • It teaches babies how to follow directions. Giving your baby simple and clear two-step directions is the beginning of following longer and more complex instructions. 
  • Playing with your baby on an obstacle course helps develop his language skills. Using words like up, down, throw the ball, turn, left and right while engaging in the action exposes your baby to various new words in the correct context.

Here are some simple ideas of obstacle courses you can set up right now:

  • Do you have a hallway? Create a web of string between the two walls and add some toys on the floor. Invite your spy-in-training to move through the web (or laser beams) to reach the other side.
  • Fill a pillowcase with ball pit balls and place it on the floor under a large sheet or table cloth. Add small cushions, rolled-up towels, stuffed animals and even an upside-down plastic toy box under the sheet for your baby to crawl over or around.
  • Remove the cushions from your couch if you can and place them in a straight line on the floor, so they overlap just a little. Your baby will enjoy going uphill and down again. This also works his spatial reasoning skills as he figures out how high each cushion is from one underneath.
  • Place your couch cushions upright against each other to make a tunnel (unless you have a tunnel). Stack some cups on the other end or hang a play silk over the opening for your baby to crawl through and knock over.

Crawling over, under and through any obstacle is sure to bring joy to your little one; make sure you cover the floor with some foam tiles or a carpet and stay close in case they take a tumble.

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