Today I was working in a school that wanted me to do quick outdoor challenges with all its classes as part of its activity week. This gave me an opportunity to try out an idea that many play workers frequently give me on courses: a rope trail. This is not something I would set up for just one class as it does take time. However I felt it would suit all ages and abilities and thus be worth the time and effort.

I’ve blogged about using ropes before. An old climbing rope is a wonderful resource and here it was used to good effect. I put various obstacles up along the way including…

A balloon tied at height

A big floaty piece of material which some children enjoyed wrapping themselves up inside it!

An old Christmas hat – some children just had to try it on!

A hoop to climb through – although some preferred not to give this a go!

This plastic piping is a tube you swing round your head to make a singing noise. But it made an interesting surface to grip

Yes – an animal tube made it into the circuit too. I let this one move about rather than fix it to the rope!

This guttering attachment was also freely attached to make it move too.

I dressed this tree in an old emergency blanket – again for a different sensation

The rubber chicken was a bit of a surprise in that it squeaks when squeezed.

The big cone was a very popular object – you can see how I attached most items with a simple knot

The rope moved from high to low – here the children had to crawl behind the seat and under the blue tarp

This was a highlight of the rope trail for many children!

The nursery children were given a choice as to whether they wanted to wear blindfolds or simply keep their eyes open. Almost all of them chose the latter option which allowed them to look at anything they wanted and stopped them worrying about not being able to see anything.

However, one child kept her fleece scarf on the whole time. She completed all of the course completely without seeing where she was going.

The most moving part of the day was watching one 5-year old child complete the course almost entirely unaided. She wasn’t wearing a blindfold. She didn’t need to. From birth she has been completely blind and lives in a world where she has never known light or colour. Watching her slowly, delicately feel every object with the greatest care was like seeing a classical pianist perform. Her fingers told her every detail that other children in their rush had missed. Her explorations gave everyone who saw her an insight into her life. The blindfolds provided a comparative equality that had been missing.

The adults who work with this girl are building on the experience and are planning to use this as a potential method for the girl moving into primary school as a way of giving her more freedom and independence. Sometimes, it’s the simplest of activities that provide the spark that can help us meet all children’s needs.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

wondersofnature June 15, 2011 at 17:34

What a fantastic way for that young pupils classmates to learn empathy and understanding about their peer…

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rmannell June 15, 2011 at 21:32

I love this idea. Returning to teaching as a casual I may be able to use a rope trail with younger children. Thanks for the post.
Ross Mannell
Australia

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Scott June 16, 2011 at 12:01

What a fun idea! I haven’t seen this before. I can imagine all sorts of variations. Thanks, Juliet.

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tomsensori June 16, 2011 at 14:01

The blind leading the sighted! I imagine there is no end to the obstacles that can be set up on the rope. Thanks for the post.

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Juliet Robertson June 16, 2011 at 20:45

Hello Everyone

Thanks for your comments and I’m sorry it’s taken me a wee while to reply.

1) Yes – empathy and understanding were learned by all the adults as well as the children, arguably more so as we were all moved by what we witnessed.

2) Yes this activity worked fine with the 3 and 4 year olds – choice over blind folds and a few older children to assist made it work fine.

3) Variations is the name of the game – very open ended activity and lots of satisfying fun.

4) “The blind leading the sighted” brilliant quote – Thanks Tom

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LeeanneA / KMullally June 17, 2011 at 00:16

Oh what great fun – a neat way to explore!

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jenwren June 19, 2011 at 14:08

love it and I know my children will too, will give it a whirl soon

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Abbie June 23, 2011 at 03:36

Loved this story. This activity and others like it should be used in every classroom that has sight impaired children and even those that don’t. Great use of other senses to navigate obstacles. I have done a similar challenge with high school students that was more of a speed/team work challenge. We did it in the woods and the rope was twisted and weaved through all kinds of trees. The kids were tied together in pairs, blindfolded and then attached to the rope. They had to work their way through the course without disconnecting from the rope. Very cool to watch them work together and navigate through the obstacles. Have never thought to use it with little kids! Great idea!!

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