One of the biggest benefits of an obstacle course is the ability to provide opportunities for students to get a wide variety of sensory input. This input can help students regulate, which improves participation in the classroom. In my last article, I highlighted some equipment you may want to use when setting up obstacle courses. However, it can be overwhelming to think about exactly how to use that equipment and how exactly to set up the course. Today, I want to highlight a flexible framework to hopefully make this process easier for you. Here are my top 5 types of activities to include in an obstacle course to maximize the sensory benefits for our learners.
Activities that Encourage Crawling
- Crawling activities mainly target the proprioceptive and vestibular systems, but can also include tactile input that the student receives in their hands and knees. It is essential to develop bilateral coordination skills.
- Ways to incorporate crawling include: animal walks, crawling through a tunnel, crawling under chairs, crawling over cushions or beanbags.
Something to Balance On
- Balance activities mainly target the vestibular system. They are also great for improving core strength, promoting sustained attention and working on frustration tolerance.
- Ways to incorporate balance activities include: bosu ball, balance beam, stepping stones, balance board, walking heel-toe across a taped line on the floor.
Activities that Encourage Jumping
- Jumping activities mainly target the proprioceptive and vestibular sensory systems. It is also a great way to work on core strength and motor planning skills.
- Ways to incorporate jumping include: jumping to poly spots, jumping in/out of hula hoops, hopscotch, jumping on the trampoline, jumping over cones, jumping jacks.
Activities that Encourage Pushing or Pulling
- Pushing or pulling activities target the proprioceptive system. This type of activity is called heavy work, which is generally regulating for everyone. Heavy work is always a great choice!
- Ways to incorporate pushing/pulling include: propelling self on scooter board, wall pushups, rolling a ball, pushing a heavy cart or basket.
Activities that Encourage Visual and Tactile Input
- It can be a little easier to think about the gross motor types of activities to include in an obstacle course, but there are so many fun ways to include other activities that target different sensory systems. Activities that incorporate visual/tactile input can be a fun addition to your obstacle course.
- Ways to incorporate visual or tactile input include: tossing a ball into a basket, tossing a ring onto a cone, picking up items throughout the course to complete another activity (picking up puzzle pieces and then putting together the puzzle), incorporating a sensory bin for students to explore at the end of the course.
By incorporating these 5 ideas, you can give your students the opportunity to get sensory input in 4 of the 8 sensory systems within a simple obstacle course. You can include additional sensory opportunities as appropriate. For example, playing music during the activity would target the auditory system. Talking about how your body feels before and after the activities would target the interoceptive sensory system. It can be completely individualized for your students’ needs.