Are your kids fans of the NBC TV Show called “American Ninja Warrior”? My kids sure are! This fantastic show follows competitors as they attempt to master the world's most challenging obstacle course. The events on the course are designed to test athletes strength, balance, and endurance- and my husband and I love how watching this show has inspired by kids to want to create their own version of an American Ninja Warrior course in our backyard! So when it came time to plan my son's 11th birthday party- there was no doubt what he wanted to do… hold his own backyard American Ninja Warrior Birthday Party competition!
(In case you aren't familiar with the show- this video showing female contestant Kacy Catanzaro is pretty amazing- and gives you an idea of what the competition is all about!)
But of course, constructing a course in your backyard that matches the American Ninja Warrior theme and challenges, but at a level that kids can actually do- well… we really had to put some thought into this!
So here's the course we created:
Backyard American Ninja Warrior Course for Kids!
Element #1: Quintuple Steps
Most of the the quarterfinal rounds on the TV show this season began with the Quintuple Steps. To create our (wooden) version, we began with old leftover pallets that we had, covered them in plywood and then added “legs” to achieve the correct angle. Some of the legs were actually old table legs that we had in our garage! The key is to space them the correct distance apart so that the kids are challenged to reach them.
Element #2: Slack Line
This was the only element on our course that we were able to just purchase and not create! (We purchased our Slack line from Amazon). The slack line tests the kids balance. If you are running the course with older kids, you can eliminate the strap across the top line that my son Jack is using to help keep his balance. But for parties, it is better to give the kids a way to be successful rather than having them “lose” right on the second element!
Element #3: Log Roll / Rail Balance
This was an idea that my son and I pulled together at the last moment. We found a long log that was in our backyard wood pile, and placed it in front of a skateboard rail that was left in our yard when we moved into our home last December. This ended up being the element that took out the largest number of birthday party competitors! It is hard to keep your balance walking across a log that can roll, and harder still to jump from the log onto a skateboard rail and walk to the end of the rail without falling off!
Element #4: Army Crawl
Sadly I have no pictures of this element to show you…. but it was a series of driveway markers (the kind with light reflectors at the top), stuck into the ground and joined with twine to create a “mesh” ceiling that was about 18″ off the ground. The kids had to crawl beneath the twine mesh without touching it to advance past this section of the course.
Element #5: Toad Stools
These were 5 large logs that we had in our wood pile that we arranged far enough apart to make them a challenge to jump from one to the next. Also- since they were not attached to the lawn in any way, they wobbled a bit when the kids landed on them- which made this element even harder.
Element #6: The Cliffhanger
This one was the element that took out almost every remaining competitor at our party! When we bought our house, this large wood half-pipe came with it- and while my kids have had fun sledding down the half-pipe “hill” in the winter, they don't have strong enough skateboarding skills yet to board on it. But then my husband came up with the idea that we can use this half pipe as a base to build a few American Ninja Warrior elements- starting with this cliffhanger wall. Inspired by the cliffhanger wall used on the show, Steve attached pieces of wood railing at different angles and intervals across the face of this plywood board. It take a great deal of upper arm strength to make it from one end to the other!
(Eventually we plan to add a climbing wall section to the other side of the half pipe and perhaps add a devil's tower and salmon ladder too!)
Element #7: Warp Wall
The warp wall on the TV show is gigantic, and the athletes need to run up as high as possible and then grab onto the top with their hands to pull themselves over the top of the wall. But since we had the curved walls of this half-pipe we decided to make this a challenge for the kids by telling them that they could not use their hands at all- they had to use only their leg strength to run up the wall and reach the top.
Backyard American Ninja Warrior Course in Action!
American Ninja Warrior Party Invitation
These are the invites that we sent out to Jack's friends. You can download a blank American Ninja Warrior Party Invitation here, and if you want to personalize it- follow the instructions in this tutorial: How to Create Birthday Party Invites Using PicMonkey.
And here is our thank you note stationery- which you can download here.
If you liked this party idea, you might also enjoy these other at-home birthday parties we've thrown for our kids: