My 3 year old is really interested in the circus lately. It started with an Olivia book but I've been trying to find other ways to engage her with the circus theme. She still really likes obstacle courses and it has become one of our favorite things to do when we have time alone when baby brother is sleeping.
This backyard circus obstacle course came about when I saw her walking on the garden hose like a balance beam, which made me think of a tightrope. It ended up being a cooperative process- she came up with as many of the obstacle ideas as I did! This was a fun creative exercise for us because we did use some toys but we also used things already in our back yard.
My daughter seems to be a visual learner so I demonstrated our obstacle course first, over exaggerating for fun. I held my arms out to my side on the tightrope walk and wobbled and acted like I might fall. If your child is not visual, you could simply tell them or for older children you could write it out.
One of my favorite things about this activity is the ringmaster. While one person runs the obstacle course the other person is the ringmaster introducing the acts. “Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the circus! For our first act, the Amazing…(name here)!” “There goes the parachute and she is down the slide!” “Next is our juggler!” etc… and at the last station you finish with a ta-daaa! And the runner takes her bow!
Here are some obstacle ideas for a circus obstacle course:
1. Drop a parachute and slide down the slide
2. Juggle (ie. thow the ball up a determined number of times)
3. Walk the tightrope (could be the line of a sidewalk, some stepping stones, a hose, etc)
4. Lion Tamer (toy lion through pipe cleaner hoop)
5. Baton toss (We used the one from the Juggling Sticks Set that we made)
Not Pictured (My daughter thought of some of these and I didn't have my camera handy!):
-Balance a ball on your nose like a seal
-Lion through the Hoop (child jumps through a hula hoop)
-Walk like a circus animal (elephant, etc)
-Swing on a swing like the flying trapeze (pick a number of back-and-forths as one set)
-Motorcycle Riders (ride bike in a set path or circle)
Notice the different outfits…we have now done this several days in a row. This is also why additional obstacles added that were not pictured. This has been such a fun way to engage my 3 year old's imagination but also to get some gross motor skills practice.