how-to-keep-the-kids-girlWritten by Carol Pond Illustrations by West Maätita

In the hopes of having a weekend we could look forward to rather than one filled with the usual chores and errands, I decided it might be fun to build an obstacle course in the backyard for the grandgirls to play on.

Turning for ideas to the Internet, I entered “obstacle course for 3-year-olds” into the search engine because (A) 3 is the average age of my three granddaughters and (B) I wanted something for kids and not for Marines.

The Internet, as usual, offered a wealth of ideas—not all of them feasible. The rock climbing wall and zip line were out of the question. But I found enough ideas that I felt would work and set about planning the course.

My hope for the obstacle course was to get the kids outdoors for a while, to keep them active and happy, and to wear them out so they’d go to bed right after dinner without a fuss.

no obstacle copy

By the time the weekend to look forward to arrived I was exhausted from setting up the course, but it was indeed a thing of wonder.

It started on the patio with a slalom course around some old paint buckets. Each of the girls could ride their wheeled toy of choice between the buckets, arriving at the edge of the patio, where a 2-by-4 provided a bridge across the grass to a tunnel made out of a tube tent from our camping supplies. After they crawled through the tunnel they would climb up a step stool to a picnic bench, which they would walk across to where a rope hung from a tree limb. (The rope was securely tied to the girlsbranch by my husband, who has gnarly nautical knotting skills.) They would swing on the rope a la Tarzan and land on a mini trampoline placed just so, where they would happily bounce until the next sister came along, at which point a row of hula hoops was laid out along the ground for the girls to hop from one to the next. At the end was a small tub filled with bubble solution so we could sit and blow bubbles before they were ready to go through the obstacle course again.

That was the plan.

When the girls came outside I was all set to demonstrate the course to them, but before I could the oldest had jumped onto the nearest paint bucket and proceeded to hop from one to the next. The younger girls each climbed up onto a bucket and started dancing and twirling around. By the time they were so dizzy they couldn’t safely stay on their buckets, their older sister was twirling all the hula hoops around her waist. Of course, her sisters wanted a turn, so she let the hoops fall and ran to the trampoline, where she called, “This is great, Grandma!” as she bounced. The little ones were having trouble with the hoops, which were a little too wide for their reach, so they dropped them and headed for the trampoline. The oldest grabbed the rope and climbed like a monkey up into the tree, and her sisters quickly followed.

I looked up at them where they were perched on the branch, and they looked down at me and giggled.

What could I do? I went and got the tub and blew bubbles up at them until it was time to come down for dinner.

It turned out to be a weekend to remember.