How to Build an Obstacle Course

Three Parts:Planning the Obstacle CourseCreating ObstaclesBuilding The Obstacle Course

Obstacle courses are a lot of fun to participate in and building them can be just as much fun. When building your obstacle course focus on keeping it balanced, including obstacles that present different challenges and that are also age appropriate. Whether creating an obstacle course for adults or children, having a good plan in place and knowing the basics can help you to create the best obstacle course possible.

Part 1
Planning the Obstacle Course

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    Find a good space for the obstacle course. Before you can begin planning the details of your obstacle course you will need to find a good location to build it in. The obstacles you can later include may be dictated by the location you choose, depending largely on the amount of space available and the terrain itself. Look around for the best space available to you for your obstacle course.
    • Hills might be obstacles themselves and can add difficulty to your course.
    • Flat areas are a great location if you plan on building obstacles yourself that need to be level.
    • Bodies of water can be used as a fun swimming obstacle or something to jump over.
    • Make sure your space has enough room for any obstacles you want to include.
    • Check that the area is free from any hazards such as stones, hard surfaces, or anything else that could cause harm.
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    Think about who will be using the obstacle course. Not all obstacle courses are created the same. You will need to build your course while keeping the participants in mind. Think about the age and physical fitness levels of those who will be using the course. Try to build a safe and challenging course based on this information.
    • Children's obstacle courses should be simple and safe, avoiding any hard, large, or dangerous obstacles.
    • Obstacle courses for adults can be more intensive and include more dangerous obstacles like swimming through a deep body of water.
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    Start planning out your obstacle course. Once you know where you are going to build your course and who is going to use it you can begin to plan your course. These details will allow you to think about which obstacles you might want to include, the level of difficulty, and safety issues in mind as you plan your course.
    • Think about which obstacles would fit certain areas of your space better.
    • Consider how the obstacles will work sequentially.
    • Make sure obstacles are far enough apart so that they won't interfere with one another.
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    Consider legal concerns. If your obstacle course is being planned for any kind of fund-raising, public, or other community event you will need to plan and secure certain legal requirements. Building a simple obstacle course for your friends and family on the other hand will not require such steps. Make sure that your obstacle course is legally protected if need be before proceeding.
    • Simple backyard obstacle courses won't need any legal protection.
    • Larger, public, and for profit courses will need legal protection and other legal requirements.
    • Legal requirements will vary greatly depending on location and event. Talk with a lawyer to learn more.

Part 2
Creating Obstacles

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    Think about instructions. Part of an obstacle course is having rules. If participants don't understand how to proceed when tackling an obstacle they may do so in an unfair or unsafe way. Think about some of the basic types of obstacles and how you might instruct participants when they encounter them.[1]
    • Having instructions can help prevent injury and make a fair obstacle course.
    • Include specific instructions on how an obstacle is to be completed.
    • For example, participants must go through a tunnel and not over it.
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    Include obstacles that test agility. A common element of an obstacle course is to feature obstacles that test a persons agility. These obstacles will require a person to move quickly and accurately to successfully move past it. Create a well rounded course by including obstacles that test agility. [2][3]
    • Running around a series of cones, like a skier slaloming, can be a good test of agility.
    • Try tying small threads with bells attached to them just off the ground. Participants have to step around them without ringing the bells.[4]
    • Hanging hula-hoops from a branch can create an obstacle that needs to be hopped or stepped through.
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    Create jumping obstacles. Many obstacle courses contain obstacles that require the participants to leap over or around. Including jumping obstacles can be a great way to make your obstacle course a fun challenge. Review some of the following ideas to get you started when thinking about your jumping obstacles:[5]
    • Try setting some targets, such as a hula hoop, on the ground to have people jump towards.
    • Consider a section of the course that has to be done on a pogo stick or bounce ball.
    • Create a high jump obstacle by placing something soft in the path like a hay bale.
    • Doing a series of frog jumps can be a good test of jumping abilities.
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    Build a balancing obstacle for your course. Balancing obstacles will test the fine movements of participants as they attempt the obstacle. These obstacles are generally slower paced, requiring graceful and thoughtful motions from those undertaking the obstacle course.[6]
    • A simple straight board can make a good balance beam.
    • You can require people to stand on one leg for a certain amount of time.
    • Participants might be required to balance a ball on their head for a few seconds.
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    Include teamwork in your obstacles. Although many obstacle courses are competitions between individuals, you may want to include obstacles that require teamwork. Including teamwork can be a great way to get your participants working together to overcome the obstacle course.
    • Partners might have to throw and catch a ball a certain number of times.
    • The three legged race is a good obstacle that requires team work.
    • Having a “human wheelbarrow” section of the course can be a good way to include teamwork.
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    Create obstacles that test strength. Beyond challenging participants agility, speed, and balance your obstacles should also test strength. Many strength based obstacles will require that some amount of weight be moved or lifted either over a distance or a certain number of times.[7]
    • You might have a section where people have to do a certain amount of push-ups before continuing.
    • Placing a simple pull up bar or arm hang bar can test upper body strength.
    • Running while carrying something heavy can be a test of full body strength.
    • Crawling can engage the entire body.

Part 3
Building The Obstacle Course

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    Consider inflatable obstacles. A safe and easy option for creating an obstacle course is to make use of inflatable obstacles. Since these obstacles are inflatable they pose a low risk of injury and can add an appealing and lighthearted feeling to your obstacle course. Check your local businesses and services to see if any nearby vendors offer inflatable obstacles either for sale or rent.
    • Most inflatable obstacles are designed with children in mind.
    • Inflatable obstacles are easy to place, requiring little to no assembly.
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    Gather materials. After you have your obstacles and their arrangement planned out you will need to acquire the materials that will be used to create the obstacles. The materials you need will vary greatly depending on what you have planned for your course. Look over some of the following ideas to get you started:
    • Hula hoops can make great markers for jumping or agility obstacles.
    • A simple board can make a quick balancing beam.
    • Hay bales or couch cushions can make a fun jumping obstacle.
    • Small sport cones can outline the obstacle course or be obstacles themselves.
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    Place them according to plan. Having assembled your obstacles you can begin to place them according to your obstacle course layout plan. Place the obstacles where you planed them and evaluate their position before opening up our course to others.
    • You might find that a planned location for an obstacle doesn't work well. Don't be afraid to make changes.
    • Try doing the obstacle course yourself once you've built it to evaluate how well it works.
    • Once you've built and tested your course it's time to open it up to others.


  • Having a good plan in mind will help you find the best obstacles for your available space.
  • Try to include obstacles that test many different skills.
  • Keep your participants in mind and build the obstacle course to meet their skill level.
  • If you have sand, use it for a sand pit.


  • Build your obstacle course to an age appropriate level.
  • Make sure your obstacles are as safe as can be.
  • Always check that your obstacle course is as safe as possible.

Things You'll Need

  • A space to build the course.
  • A plan for the course.
  • Things to make the obstacles with.

Article Info

Categories: Backyard Games