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Code an Obstacle Course [Unplugged Coding Activity]

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Let’s code an obstacle course! Today we are going to learn all about loops and branches with a fun unplugged coding activity. It’s easy to learn the basic concepts of coding without the need for a screen. This activity will get kids moving AND will help them ‘think like a computer’. You’ll just need a few items you might already have lying around the house to design your own obstacle course.

If an obstacle course isn’t for you, we have many more unplugged coding activities here. You can learn to code with a deck of cards, with LEGO, and with Hotwheels cars.

What Coding Skills are Taught?

Algorithms:  An algorithm is a set of instructions given to complete a specific task. In this activity, we will be designing an ‘obstacle course algorithm’. We will be determining what to do at each station, the order of stations, and the start and finish. Any time we create a set of instructions, we are designing an algorithm.

Loops: A loop is a set of instructions that repeats and repeats until a specific condition is met. In this activity we are going to use a dice to determine the number of times to complete our obstacle. Our dice will be programming the loop!

Branching: Branching means determining the next step based on the conditions present. We can learn about branching by making ‘If/Then’ statements. In this activity, we are going to choose challenges based on whether the dice rolls even or odd.

Materials you may need

There are many ways to design your own obstacle course. I encourage you to get creative and use objects you can find around the house to build your obstacle course. Here are some ideas of items to use for your obstacle course:

  • Stopwatch
  • Dice (This GIANT DICE is fun for outside)
  • Pool noodles
  • Hula Hoops
  • Windmills, mini flags, or other stakes
  • A narrow board or balance beam
  • Printable obstacle course signs (optional)
Our coding obstacle course

Obstacle Course Station Ideas

To start, you’ll need to program your own obstacle course by designing the course and picking the activities. Choose between 3-5 of the stations below based on the materials you have at home.

Limbo Station: 

Limbo: Create a limbo by holding up a pool noodle. The goal is to get under the pool noodle by arching backwards. Don’t touch the pool noodle on your way under! 

Hula Hoop Station: 

Hula Hoops: Line up hula hoops side by side for a fastest feet challenge! The goal is to move your feet from one hoop to the next as fast as you can to the finish line. If you don’t have hula hoops you can draw them with chalk. 

Tunnel Station: 

Tunnel: We used pool noodles and staked them to the ground with garden pegs. The goal is to crawl through the tunnel as fast as you can! If you don’t have pool noodles, you can use hula hoops, cushions, or even build a tunnel with sticks!

Zig Zag Station:

Zig Zag: We used little wind mills that I found at the dollar store to create a zig zag pattern. I’ve also seen this done with pool noodles cut in halt, or other sticks or pegs. The goal is to zig zag from one stake to the other in the fastest time.

Balance Beam Station:

Balance Beam: If you don’t have a flat board you can use a curb outside to create a balance beam. The goal is to walk from one side to the other without falling off. 

What age is this coding activity geared towards?

This activity is geared for students as young as 4. 4-8 would be the perfect age for this activity!

Game Set Up:

  • Choose the order of your stations and label each with a number
  • Set up the materials needed for each station
  • Program your loops and branches.
  • Loops: At each station players will roll the dice to determine the number of times they need to repeat their loop. You can use our printable station sign to help your students remember to program their loop at each station.
  • Branches: Determine a branch for each station. Remember that a branch means determining the next step based on what has happened. In this case, you will perform your obstacle course differently based on whether you roll an odd or an even number.
    • For each obstacle brainstorm ideas for how to perform the obstacle depending on whether you roll ‘even’ or ‘odd’
    • Example – if even/odd:
      • Complete the course with your eyes closed
      • Complete the course backwards
      • Hop on one foot
      • Go over/go under
      • Complete while singing the ABCs
    • Get creative! There are lots of different options you can choose for your branch.
    • You can use our printable set to establish the branch for each station in advance.

Obstacle Course Printable Set

Grab our printable station signs to help run your obstacle course activity. Our printable signs make it easy to design your loops and branches for each station. Each station has a page to write out your odd and even branch. There is also a page to record the fastest times so that you can determine the station winner.

How to play ‘Code an Obstacle Course’

  1. Determine who goes first: Each player rolls the dice and the person with the lowest number goes first.
  2. Start at station 1.
  3. Player 1 rolls the dice.
    1. If they roll a ‘3’ they will perform that obstacle 3 times
    2. Since three is an odd number they will do the branch for an ‘odd number’
  4. The goal is to finish the obstacle course in the fastest time. Use a stopwatch to time each player. You can use our printable set to write in who scored what time.
  5. The winner has the fastest time at that station. You can also choose an ‘overall winner’ or ‘grand champion’ for the person who was fastest at the most stations.

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