Test Your Luck With a Superstition Obstacle Course
Want a fun way to play with superstitions and get kids active at the same time?
Set up a superstition obstacle course. It’s a fun way to get kids outdoors, keep them moving and play with the myths of good luck and bad luck at the same time.
Why Set Up a Superstition Obstacle Course?
A superstition is a belief that certain things change people’s luck. Are they real, or are they just myths? This obstacle course will put 13 common superstitions to the test and challenge your family’s physical abilities, too.
Whether you’re superstitious or not, you and your family will have a great time as you set up your obstacle course, talk about good luck and bad luck charms and compete for the best time (or personal best) through the games.
Your kids may want to run through the superstition obstacle course again and again until they’re masters of speed and good luck!
Obstacle Course Racing
In the “real world,” obstacle course racing is a popular event. It appeals to people eager to test their fitness, agility and determination. Pre-military and law enforcement recruits are often put through obstacle courses as part of their training.
Obstacle course racing is very popular. Watch Fort Jackson’s training course here.
An obstacle course is great for physical fitness, and it also helps encourage teamwork and develop problem-solving skills. A kid-friendly obstacle course, like this superstition version, is a fun and beneficial family activity.
Before you prepare your obstacle course, do some research about superstitions. Have you heard of the superstitions listed below? (Some of them are kind of obscure!)
Get out a world map or pull one up on a computer and locate the countries where people believe in the following odd omens:
Are you in a superstitious mood? Great.
It’s lots of fun to talk to kids about superstitions as you prepare for and play the superstition obstacle course together.
Ask them what they think about the different beliefs and how they may have come to be. Their answers may not be what you expect.
Set up the obstacle course
Print out the instruction signs for the 13 challenges in the superstition obstacle course
Or create your own signs. Have your kids draw a picture of each superstition and write the instructions for the challenge.
Find a place outdoors to hold your race, either in your own yard or a park or field. There should be plenty of room to run and ideally a tree or structure to hang your horseshoe from (see #12 below.) If you have a swimming pool, you can use it for the Lucky Penny challenge (see #4 below) for an extra element of fun.
Make sure you have something to mark the start and finish lines for your course and the challenges within it. If you’ve got orange cones or pylons from sporting activities, these work great. But you can also use rocks, rope or string, tape, etc.
Set up the course. Arrange the instruction signs and props for the games around your obstacle course site as they fit best. You can change the order of the challenges from what is listed below to fit the location.
Tape the signs at eye level at each challenge point so the players can see them easily as they run through the course.
Try to leave enough space between games for players to run from game to game.
Go on a walkthrough as a family. Explain and demonstrate what needs to happen at each station. Make sure everyone agrees upon rules for the race. (It’s also a good time to test each game to make sure it works and that you have all the supplies needed.)
Ready to play? Here’s a description of the 13 challenges in the superstition obstacle course. (Bonus points if your family plays it on Friday the 13th!):
#1: Cross Your Fingers (Lucky)
Superstition: Cross your fingers for good luck when starting a new challenge or making a wish (like at the beginning of the superstition obstacle course).
Setup: Place a piece of string or cord near a tree or pole. Tape a sign to the pole.
To play: Cross your fingers on both hands and keep them crossed as you tie an overhand knot around a tree or pole with a string or rope.
Modification: For older kids and adults, tie a more difficult knot, like a bow or a square knot, while you keep your fingers crossed.
#2: Wear Clothes Inside Out (Lucky)
Superstition: It’s lucky to wear your clothes inside out.
Setup: Put a variety of shirt sizes in a laundry basket or box located near the sign.
To play: Run to the box, find a shirt that will fit, turn it inside out and put it on.
This is a good activity to do early in the obstacle course because wearing the shirt—especially an oversized or undersized one—may make later activities a bit more challenging.
Modification: For younger kids, have the small shirts already turned inside out in the box. Then all the little ones have to do is put them on.
#3: Don’t Open an Umbrella in the House (Unlucky)
Superstition: It’s unlucky to open an umbrella inside the house. Good thing this obstacle course is outside!
Setup: Place a closed umbrella on a flat surface like a sidewalk or driveway.
To play: Open the umbrella and spin it like a top three times. Then close it and put it away. Increase the complexity of this activity for older racers by requiring that they remove the umbrella from a case.
Variation: For a wet version of this challenge, have players open the umbrella and run a designated path through the water sprinklers. Then close the umbrella and leave it at the finish line.
#4: Find a Penny (Lucky)
Superstition: “Find a penny, pick it up, all day long you’ll have good luck. Find a penny, let it lay, then bad luck you’ll have all day.”
Setup: Bury seven lucky pennies in a pail or tub of sand. Hide a piggybank (or another container) somewhere along the obstacle course route. Move the bank to a new location for each round of the game so players will always have to search for it.
To play: Sift through the sand to find a penny.
Then as you’re completing the rest of the superstition obstacle course, look for the piggybank. When you find it, put the penny in the bank.
Variation: If you have a swimming pool and players can swim, toss a handful of change in the pool and have players dive down to the bottom and find a penny among the other coins. Continue with the hidden piggybank instructions.
#5: Don’t Walk Under a Ladder (Unlucky)
Superstition: It’s bad luck to walk under a ladder.
Setup: Set up a ladder along your obstacle course route. Make sure it’s stable and wide enough for players to crawl under safely.
If you don’t have a ladder, construct a ladder prop for this obstacle. Take two pieces of poster board and draw ladder rungs on either side. Tape them together in an upside-down “V” shape. You now have a ladder that’s safe to crawl under. You could also use pillows or cushions.
To play: Crawl under the ladder.
Modification: If you don’t want to tempt fate by going under the ladder, set your course up in a way that requires players to go around it instead!
#6: Throw Salt Over Your Left Shoulder (Lucky)
Superstition: Throw salt for good luck. Find a plastic salt shaker or use an easy-to-open plastic container and fill it with salt.
Setup: Easy—set the salt shaker on a table with the sign explaining the instructions.
To play: Easy—Hold the shaker in your right hand and shake it over your left shoulder.
Show little ones that the best way to tell left from right is to stretch out your thumb and index fingers.
Your left hand will be in the shape of an “L” for left.
Variation: Place the salt shaker somewhere difficult—somewhere players have to climb or crawl or stretch to get to.
#7: Don’t Let a Black Cat Cross Your Path (Unlucky)
Superstition: It’s bad luck to cross paths with a black cat.
Setup: Place a stuffed animal or picture of a black cat in the most direct pathway of this portion of your obstacle course.
To play: Avoid the black cat. Turn and find another path to the next challenge.
Variation: To make it more challenging, have a person pretend to be the cat and try to tag the player.
Have a spray bottle or a water gun that the player must get to and spray the cat with to make the cat back off so he or she can pass.
Note: In some cultures black cats are lucky.
#8: Carry a Rabbit’s Foot (Lucky)
Superstition: Carrying a rabbit’s foot with you brings good luck.
Setup: Mark a starting line and finish line. Place sign at the starting point.
To play: Racers need some lucky rabbit’s foot magic. Hop from start to finish while you hold your hands on your head like bunny ears. Older kids should hop the course on one foot.
Variation: Make a faux rabbit’s foot and place it somewhere difficult to get to (hanging high in a tree or play structure, hidden in a box of toys, etc.). Instruct players to retrieve the rabbit’s foot and then hop through the course.
#9: Don’t Step on a Crack (Unlucky)
Superstition: Step on a crack and break your mother’s back. That’s not good!
Setup: Set up start and finish lines on a sidewalk or path made of stepping stones, tiles or bricks with lots of cracks between them.
If you don’t have a path like that, you can draw chalk line cracks on a sidewalk or driveway (depends on your course location) or use poster board or a roll of butcher paper.
To Play: Avoid the cracks as you race from start to finish.
Modification: An alternative to drawing cracks: use string to make cracks on the course. This is similar to a laser maze, but the strings are flat on the ground.
#10: Find a Four-Leaf Clover (Lucky)
Superstition: It’s good luck to find a four-leaf clover, since most have only three leaves.
Setup: Cut at least 20 three-leaf clovers out of construction paper. Then cut out one four-leaf clover per player. Download copies of three and four-leaf clovers here [PDF].
Put them in a grassy area of your yard (mark off the boundaries for the clover hunt first) or put them all in a bowl or basket and mix them up.
To play: Search through the grass (or bowl) until you find a four-leaf clover.
Variation: Make 3D clovers for an extra challenge.
#11: Break a Mirror and Have Seven Years of Bad Luck (Unlucky)
Superstition: Don’t break a mirror or you’ll have seven years of bad luck.
Setup: Fold a piece of aluminum foil into a square a little bigger than the player’s hand. Or to get a little fancier, you can make a mirror-shaped cardboard cutout and tape aluminum foil onto it. Place your “mirror” at the starting line with your sign.
Set up a short course that weaves or is bumpy or otherwise difficult.
To play: Balance the “mirror” on the palm of your open hand (no holding it with your fingers!) as you make your way through the course. If you drop it, go back to the starting line and try again.
Variation: Make the mirror bigger and more difficult to balance. Or make the course more difficult to maneuver.
#12: Walk Under a Horseshoe (Lucky)
Superstition: Want good luck? Walk under a horseshoe.
Setup: Cut a horseshoe out of construction paper or poster board or twist one from a long piece of aluminum foil. Color it in, if you want. Put a hole in the top and run a piece of string through it. Hang this from a tree so that it dangles at your kids’ height.
To play: Pass directly under the horseshoe. Reach up and touch it as you pass.
Variation: Create a horseshoe-like wicket out of a pool noodle for players to crawl under.
#13: The Number 13 (Unlucky)
Superstition: The number 13 is unlucky.
Setup: Draw numbers 1 to 20 on the sidewalk. (You can also use a double or triple poster board, taped together.)
Write the numbers big enough to hold a foot, but fairly close together, so bigger jumpers have to work harder to maintain their balance and little ones can cover the space between the numbers easily.
To Play: This is hopscotch with a twist. Hop on each number in order on one foot. Hop over the number 13 so you don’t touch it. If your foot touches the 13, go back and start again. See? It’s bad luck!
Modification: Younger kids can jump on both feet to make it easier.
Ready, Set, Go
Get ready to improve your luck!
A timekeeper should stand at the starting line with a stopwatch and pen/paper and call out “Ready, set, go!” for the players.
Note: Make sure the timer or timer app works beforehand.
Encourage your racers to take turns as the timer, with some assistance (if they need it).
Let everyone go through the obstacle course at least twice. You, too, parents!
Keep track of everyone’s time on the paper. You can have players compete for the overall fastest time or just use the times so racers can aim for a personal best.
Have a different person hide the piggybank each round.
Set up the course in a loop formation and use the same line for start and finish. This way, the timekeeper can record start and end times accurately from the same spot.
You can also do it as a relay race, with racers alternating obstacles—one does odds, the other does evens. Or team younger kids with older ones and have them run through together. The options are endless.
Weather not cooperating? Many of these obstacles can be altered so you can set up a super superstition course inside. Work as a family to come up with the right modifications. Note: You might want to skip the umbrellas.
The most important thing is to have fun!
Some Final Thoughts…
I hope you have lots of fun and good luck on your superstition obstacle course!
This activity provides multiple opportunities: family bonding, creating crafts, designing the course and running it over and over. The physical fitness benefits are incredible. Plus, your kids will discover that by continuing to run the course, their times will continue to improve.
What do you think? Did you set up a superstition obstacle course? What other superstitious obstacles did you create? Please share them along with any pictures in the comments section below.
Ellen Javernick teaches kindergarten in Loveland, Colorado. Her latest books The Birthday Pet and What If Everybody Did That? are published by Two Lions, the children’s imprint of Amazon Publishing. Other posts by Ellen Javernick »