Pre-school activities: Jumping over obstacles

From the age of about 3 years, typically developing young children learn to jump over an obstacle. This action requires more planning and coordination than a simple forward jump: the child needs to start the jump by standing fairly close to the obstacle, and to jump high and far forward enough to clear it. 

Jumping over a series of obstacles adds another level of difficulty, as balance on landing from the first jump needs to be controlled to allow the initiation of the next jump. 

jump over a low obstacle_1.jpg

Between the ages of 3 and 4 years  children learn to: 
Jump over a single low obstacle (such as a broomstick or cardboard tube) and maintain balance on landing. 
Jump over 3-4 low obstacles positioned in a line with a with a gap between them, landing with good control after each jump.
Jump over 10-20 cm high obstacle, landing with good control and staying upright. 
Jump over 3-4  10-20 cm high obstacles placed with a gap between landing and taking off with good control.
Jump over a pillow or cushion, landing with good control. 

Equipment you will need

An open space about 2-3 meters long. A yoga mat makes for a softer landing, stop the child slipping when taking off and landing. 

Objects for jumping over. Start with narrow, low objects, such as a broom stick,  rolled up newspaper or pool noodles.

Progress to larger objects: 2 liter plastic bottles placed end-to-end,  cereal boxes placed end-to-end,  2 or more soft toys place in a now.


Several cushions or pillows.  By 4 years children can jump over a pillow or cushion. 

Jumping over a single low obstacle

Start by placing just one low obstacle on the floor. Let the child stand facing the obstacle and encourage them to jump over it.  
Practice jumping over different low obstacles until your child can clear the obstacles easily and land on two feet without falling over. 

Stand facing single low obstacle.jpg

If your child is able to jump over a single low obstacle,  make the activity more difficult by positioning two obstacles in a line, with a gap between the them. The gap should be about twice the length of the child's foot. 

stand facing 3 low obstaacles_1.jpg

As the child's abilities improve, use higher and wider obstacles, and increasing the number of obstacles. 

    jump over  pillows.jpg

Tips for training 
Young children are not always willing to cooperate, will follow your instructions for a few repetitions and then insist on changing the game.  That's fine - let them be and follow there their lead and you will surprised at what they come up with. 

Young children will often repeat an activity as long as they know how many times they are expected to repeat it.  It also helps to give the child a choice as to how many repetitions you want them to complete. So give them a choice between two numbers, say between 4 and 6 times. 

If the child is enjoying the challenge they will often want to add more obstacles or use different obstacles as they explore their ability to jump over taller and wider things. 

If the child refuses to play the game, it is best to change to playing a different one and return to jumping games at another time. 

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