Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Obstacle Course

Thankfully this past week has not seen any more attempted wallet thefts by my little girl. She does now possess her own wallet complete with some of her very own cards (all donated by various family members). Unfortunately this doesn't seem to have replaced her desire for my wallet!

With wallet theft out of the way, this week has instead seen her energy focused elsewhere, specifically on learning to throw. With any new skill there comes much practice - throwing toys, throwing remotes, throwing food, throwing drinks. Anything that can be thrown is currently being thrown. Let's hope she learns something new soon, or at least tires of throwing food!

Onto this week's activity though, a great one if you have a little person who is full of energy and just wants to zoom all over the show but not so great if you like a tidy house...

Activity: Obstacle Course

Development: movement
Materials needed: cushions, chairs, blankets, various items from around the house
Age: 6 months + (once a child can crawl. It is easily adapted for more capable movers)
To set up an obstacle course, simply grab some items from around the house and arrange them in a clear pathway which requires your baby to go over, under and around various obstacles. This needs to be done in a way that is developmentally appropriate and safe for your child. As they get better at moving, the course can become more challenging. My obstacle course was fairly easy and contained just a few soft items such as a cushion and blanket for my little girl to climb over and a chair to crawl under. For another example of an obstacle course which contains great ideas for easy tunnels, visit The Physical Challenge: Baby Obstacle Course.

I must admit that I do quite like a tidy house, as much as possible with a baby anyway, and so I have only done one obstacle course so far which I left out for the afternoon. It's great to have it up by sleeve as another option for entertainment though, particularly in winter, and next time I'll definitely be adding in some tunnels. I found the biggest challenge was getting her to actually do the obstacle course but that was soon solved by sitting with one of her favourite toys at the end of the course. Once she had begun she enjoyed it. I think it's important to ensure she does enjoy anything we do rather than trying to push her into anything in an attempt to rush her motor development. 

So how does an obstacle course help my little girl's brain develop? Generally, when I think of brain development, I think about intelligence and knowledge, but as the brain controls every part of the body, there is so much more to it than that. The brain is therefore in control of physical development and in fact, a baby's developing brain is largely, but not completely, responsible for physical milestones as Zero to Three explains:

When infants are born, the areas of the brain that control and coordinate voluntary movements are not yet well developed. These motor areas develop in a head-to-toe sequence, starting with muscles in the head and neck, followed by the arm and trunk, and by 6-12 months, the trunk and leg muscles, which are critical to most of the gross motor milestones of this period.

Just like with anything, the more we practice a new skill, the better we get at it. This is the same with babies. The more they practice their movement skills, the less awkward and more skilled and coordinated they become as the pathways within their brain strengthen. An obstacle course provides a bit more challenge than just crawling along a flat surface which helps develop their body strength, balance and coordination.  As they get older, it also helps develop their problem solving skills as they have to figure out how to get past each obstacle. 

So there we go, obstacle courses are excellent for brain development and I believe would be a great activity for Dad's to get involved with too. 

I'd love to see any photos of obstacle courses you set up as it's always great to get more inspiration so please feel free to share below or on my Facebook page. 

Until next time, 

Thanks to these pages for much of the information in this post

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