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Designing Obstacle Courses for All Ages

The interest in non-traditional sports and activities is on the rise. Influenced by popular TV programs (i.e. American Ninja Warrior), obstacle courses are becoming a common sight in public parks and schools nationwide. This course will cover the physical, emotional, social, and sensory advantages of obstacle course designs. It will also cover various methods for designing obstacle courses that cater to a diverse range of ages, abilities, and skill levels.

By the end of this course, you’ll be able to:

Understand the value of obstacle courses for multiple age groups.
Choose a mix of equipment to develop a multi-generational obstacle course.
Plan an obstacle course that accommodates those who use mobility devices.

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About this course

What will I learn?

Playgrounds are a great way to promote outdoor activity among children. However, it can be challenging to fit the variety of activities you want in a limited space. Obstacle courses solve this problem by providing a low footprint method to include a little bit of everything. Overall, this leads to a more satisfying playground experience, as well as healthier and happier kids.

In this course, Mara Kaplan of Let Kids Play will teach you how to design an obstacle course that accommodates all ages and abilities. In addition, she’ll highlight the most important equipment to include from each activity category.

  • Crawling: Crawling promotes four-way coordination across the arms and legs, and includes activities like tunnels, rope climbers, and bridges.
  • Balancing: There are two types of balancing you can use on an obstacle course, static activities (i.e. balance beams) or dynamic activities (i.e. swaying bridges).
  • Running: Running can exist on an obstacle course in many different ways, such as running up a flight of stairs, across a bridge, or through a tunnel.
  • Jumping: Jumping activities, like rocks and stepping stones, can be placed in an obstacle course to encourage muscle coordination and safe risk-taking.
  • Climbing: Obstacle courses will benefit from climbers that have multiple challenge levels and paths, encouraging kids of all abilities to play together.
  • Hanging: Hanging activities, such as monkey bars and ring ladders, encourage both sides of the body to work together and increases proprioceptive input.

Who is my instructor?

Mara Kaplan is the Founder of Let Kids Play, a consulting firm that partners with manufacturers, communities, and parents to develop projects and strategies that provide optimal play opportunities for children.

Recognized nationally as an expert in designing play spaces, Mara is a committed advocate for inclusive play. As an educator and parent to a child with a disability, she holds a 25-year track record in designing, building, and managing both indoor and outdoor play environments. Her expertise also extends to play spaces and toys for children with and without disabilities.

In 1995, Mara, and five other parents raising children with disabilities, identified the significance of play in their children’s learning. They were determined to build a space where children of varying abilities could play together, leading to the founding of the Center for Creative Play. Mara served as its Executive Director for seven years before embarking on her journey with Let Kids Play.

Mara’s educational background includes a degree in elementary education and a minor in gifted education from Indiana University (Bloomington, IN). She later acquired her MBA, specializing in non-profit management, from Boston University.

Mara’s endeavors have earned her the Shore-Whitehill award for her efforts in enhancing the lives of people with special needs. Her work has been showcased in publications such as, the Wall Street Journal, Be the Change, and the Social Enterprise Reporter.

Who is this course for?

The great thing about our courses is that they’re designed for all levels of experience. Whether you’re a parent on a PAC planning your first playground, or a landscape architect with decades of experience, there’s always something new to learn. Plus, our courses offer a quick way to stay up to date with the most recent trends in playground design.

Our courses take into account multiple groups and audiences, all of whom have different needs for their playground. A few groups that will benefit from taking our courses include:

  • Parents: Parent volunteers will learn the most important aspects to consider when planning their playground project.
  • Teachers: Teachers will learn about the educational benefits of play and how to incorporate them on the playground.
  • Landscape Architects: Architects will learn innovative design ideas that they may use in their upcoming projects.
  • Parks & Recreation: Parks professionals will learn about recent advances in safety, inclusion, and sustainability.
  • Property Managers: Property managers will learn how playgrounds can attract families to live in their neighbourhood.
Mara Kaplan, course instructor for "Designing Obstacle Courses for All Ages."

Mara Kaplan

Founder, Let Kids Play

Mara Kaplan is a nationally recognized expert in inclusive play, with 25 years of experience designing outdoor environments. She is the driving force behind Let Kids Play, a consulting firm that works with parents and communities to create accessible play spaces.

More Courses?

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