Summer is three months of sun-drenched, peach-scented heaven where the rosé flows and frequent grilling keeps your stovetop clean. But if you’re a parent, you have your work cut out for you. Namely, how the heck are you supposed to keep your kids occupied? (And preferably outside, so your body can drink up the vitamin D it so badly needs.) Well, friends, we have a few summer-saving secrets to share. In fact, we have 30 of ‘em. We’ve spilled them all in our roundup of the best outdoor toys for kids.
1. Best Slide: Little Tikes First Slide (Ages 1—4)
The playground is every toddler’s paradise, so it’s no surprise that the best way to please your daughter this summer is by putting a piece of playground equipment in your own backyard. This sturdy slide has a short ladder so even wobbly wee ones can safely learn how to climb, and it can be placed in a toddler pool to keep her cool on the hottest summer day.
2. Best for new walkers: Lydaz Bubble Mower for Toddlers (Ages 1—6)
Got a tiny tot who’s still a little unsure on his feet? This push toy will encourage mobility while making your toddler giggle thanks to the mower’s realistic sounds and bubble making capabilities (bubble solution included). And when he gets tired of cruising around the garden, he can plop down on the grass with bubble sticks to keep the fun going.
3. Best sandbox: Little Tikes Turtle Sandbox (Ages 1—6)
This sandbox is just the right size for a backyard, and the turtle design comes with a shell so you can cover the sand after every sensory exploration to keep it clean and dry. Best of all, your kid won’t have to wait for the weekend (five days is an eternity in toddler time) to build an even bigger sand castle.
4. Best for easy transport: 3 in 1 Pop Up Play Tent (Ages 1+)
Your toddler will love playing with this tent, teepee and tunnel so much that she won’t want to come back inside when the sun goes down. Fortunately, this plaything can easily be folded up and moved indoors to keep the fun going. Bonus? Even four-legged friends can enjoy this toy. Note: Balls not included but highly recommended.
5. Best water table: Step2 Lazy Maze River Run Water Table (Ages 1—10)
Water gets mixed reactions from the preschool crowd—some can’t even handle a gentle hair-washing, while others will run straight for the ocean in the time it takes you to apply a layer of sunscreen. But the one thing that works for every tot is the sensory delight of a water table, and this one has all the bells and whistles (including balls, mazes and spinners). Even the little ones that go to pieces at the splash pad can test the waters—and have fun learning about cause and effect, to boot.
6. Best way to bounce: Fisher Price Bouncetacular Inflatable Bounce House (Ages 2—8)
Let’s be honest, it’s downright terrifying to watch a toddler on a trampoline, which is why you should opt for this inflatable bounce house instead. When it comes to jumping, your tot will be just as clumsy—but you won’t bat an eye, because you invested in a cube made of pillows to cushion every fall.
7. Best Lawn Game: Sports Bullseye Bounce (Ages 2+)
A bean bag toss that appeals to children of all ages, and adults too. (Word on the street is that this game pairs well with an ice-cold beer.) This exercise in hand-eye coordination can occupy a determined kid for a decent length of time, and the bullseye objective can be accomplished solo or with other players for outdoor family fun.
8. Best for Space-Saving Bouncing: Monkey Jump Bouncer (Ages 2+)
Safer than a trampoline and more compact than a bounce house, this ingenious jumping toy will deliver hours of exercise and entertainment to any young child with a spring in her step. Best of all, the fun won’t stop when kindergarten starts, because this bouncer boasts a sturdy steel frame and can support up to 600 pounds—so you can keep it around as your child (or family) grows.
9. Best Surfing Practice: Kinderfeets Wooden Balance Board (Ages 2+)
Your babe can be a surfin’ bird—no sand necessary. This balance board provides plenty of teetering and sliding entertainment, but it’s especially appropriate when situated on a patch of grass where your lush summer lawn can soften an inevitable fall. Also, we heard from a friend that this toy can handle the weight of a grown-up in search of an abdominal workout—so feel free to hop on that board and challenge your child to a balancing contest.
10. Best Beach Activity: Melissa & Doug Seaside Sidekicks Funnel Fun (Ages 2—5)
If your kid doesn’t have the patience for building sandcastles then this funnel is sure to offer plenty of seaside entertainment. Not heading to the beach this year? No problem. This brightly-colored toy works just as well with water, with four different layers ready to tip, spin and sift. It also comes with a convenient carry handle so you can take it with you on all your weekend excursions.
11. Best way to kick off the summer: Little Tikes Easy Score Soccer Set (Ages 2+)
Gooooaaaallll! Scoop up this goal and soccer ball set and your kid will have all the skills required for team sports by the end of summer. (Well, except for the social-emotional ones, but that’s a project for preschool.)
12. Best sprinkler: Jasonwell Sprinkle & Splash Play Mat (Ages 2—5)
A summer day spent in the sprinklers without the extra travel time required for a trip to the splash pad or playground? Sign us up. The height and intensity of the spray can be controlled with a twist of the faucet and the wading pool (which collects only two to three inches of water) is designed for safe puddle-splashing. More good news: This splash mat is almost six feet wide so it provides plenty of space for siblings and friends to get in on the fun, too.
13. Best for budding chefs: Little Tikes Cook 'n Play Outdoor BBQ (Ages 2—10)
Your kid can practice her grilling skills with this BBQ set that includes a sink, fridge and pizza oven, plus play food and grill tools. The knobs on the grill even make clicking sounds, just like dad’s BBQ. One cheeseburger, coming right up.
14. Best for kite-flying fun: GreatLife Huge Rainbow Kite for Kids (Ages 3+)
If you’ve ever spent time with a bored kid (so yeah, every parent), there’s a good chance you’ve wanted to tell ‘em to go fly a kite. Scoop up this boldly-colored rainbow kite and you can say exactly that and not feel bad about it. Once this hawk is in the air, it’s a sight to be seen so you can expect lots of oohs and aahs—and memories in the making, of course.
15. Best Swing: PACEARTH Flying Saucer Tree Swing (Ages 3+)
When the sun is out and the breeze is warm, a good swing is heaven-sent. This flying saucer can accommodate more than one child (it has a 660-pound weight capacity) so younger siblings can pile on. The open circular shape also provides extra comfort and lounging potential—though the pint-sized daredevil in your life will likely just delight in the opportunity to reach great heights.
16. Best Water Slide: Bunch O Balloons Small Water Slide Wipeout (Ages 3+)
The original Slip n’ Slide from your youth has seen some serious upgrades over the years, but none beat this wet and wild sensation: a water slide where kids can wipe out into a pit of super soft water balloons. We’d feel bad for the other versions, but the truth is that no one will miss the grass burns.
17. Best Toy for Beach Days: SUPRBIRD Parachute Toys (Ages 3+)
Sending things up into the sky is a specialty of the preschool crowd. Save your photo frames and take the airborne adventure outside with this parachute toy. Once they take flight, these parachutes will keep your wild child running around and leaping like nobody’s business. Just bear in mind that they need at least a little wind to work well—so on stagnant summer days, head straight to the seashore and bring these puppies in your beach bag.
18. Best Lawn Game: Stellar Hop Sacks for Kids (Ages 3+)
If you’ve got an entire brood at home (or a playdate planned), a sack race is all you need to ensure the summer party is hopping. These star-adorned sacks have securely-fastened handles to ensure fewer face plants than with a garden-variety burlap bag. But most importantly, the ridiculous race will surely provoke uproarious laughter and run your preschool-aged bunny ragged, to boot.
19. Best for Imaginative Play: Taylor Toy Children Gardening Tool Set (Ages 3—6)
A toddler in the garden would make good material for a Godzilla sequel. But not so fast: If your little one has some tools of his own, he might be inclined to do the job right. At this age, little ones learn about the world by imitating the actions of their parents through pretend play. Buy this ridiculously cute play set so you can bring your babe with you next time you tend to the garden. We can’t promise every squash blossom will survive, but your little one will be far more likely to follow in your footsteps (and tread lightly).
20. Best for nature lovers: Gimsan Outdoor Explorer Set (Ages 3+)
Butterflies, bugs, dirt—the backyard boasts so many attractions, and this outdoor explorer set will ensure your preschooler stays captivated by his natural surroundings. This toy contains everything your kid needs to catch (and release) bugs plus binoculars, magnifying glasses and many other tools to encourage hands-on scientific exploration.
21. Best Thrower Plane: BooTaa Large Styrofoam Throwing Planes (Ages 3+)
Aerodynamics is not everyone’s strong suit, so don’t beat yourself up if you try to make a paper airplane and the finished product leaves something to be desired. Cheat a little, instead: These foam airplanes are made by pros so your preschooler can know the pleasure that comes from a miniature aircraft that actually takes flight (and you can spare yourself the effort and not-so-grand finale). After a little launching practice, your kid will be an expert at making these planes glide and soar on the summer breeze.
22. Best Backyard Craft: Creative Kids Rock Painting Outdoor Activity Set (Ages 3+)
This activity set encourages kids to make art from their growing nature collections. After running around and foraging for rocks, your preschooler can plop down in a patch of shade and paint that backyard treasure. Trust us: When it’s time to cool (and calm) down, you’ll be happy to have this creative project handy.
23. Best for Outdoor ArtHearthSong Kids’ Inflatable Easel with Paints (Ages 3+)
This inflatable canvas will provide your budding artist with the opportunity to make a masterpiece, all while benefiting from what the backyard has to offer—fresh air and sunshine. Plus, a painting project is an ideal way to persuade a preschooler to wind-down after an outdoor romp so you can (hopefully) skip the kicking and screaming when it’s time to go inside for a midday snooze. Another bonus: This creative boost comes with easy clean-up—simply turn on the hose and wash the paint away.
24. Best ride-on: Little Tikes DIY Cozy Coupe with Craft Kit (Ages 3—5)
If your tot likes to tool around, this coupe can’t be beat. It’s both durable and safe, with a dressed-down aesthetic that begs to be embellished by a budding artist. Best of all, the paints are included so your kid can start designing without delay—and then vroom the day away.
25. Best Seesaw: Pure Fun Rocker Kids Seesaw (Ages 4—10)
School-aged children can get their rocks off all summer with this seesaw which boasts seating for three. The ride is exhilarating—but safe—and with a few friends on board this summer staple is rife with possibilities for pretend play (i.e., pirate ship adventures or dramatic Titanic reenactments).
26. Best for full-contact fun: Banzai Bump N’ Bounce Body Bumper (Ages 4—12)
This outdoor toy might be the silliest thing we’ve ever seen, but it’s also the smartest. Get the kids in your life to have some whimsical, physical fun by playing bumper cars with their own bodies in a giant bubble suit. If you have only one child you will have to join in the activity but you won’t regret it. (Seriously, just try not to laugh with this thing on you.)
27. Best for Athletes: iPlay, iLearn Remote Control Pitching Machine (Ages 5+)
Bring batting practice to the backyard with this easy-to-use electronic pitching machine so the sports star in your life can stay sharp all summer. This training toy hones hand-eye coordination, of course, but it’s not all work and no play: Your big kid will have a swinging good time and stay occupied for hours outdoors with this bad boy.
28. Best bubbles: Wowmazing Giant Bubble Wands Kit (Ages 6+)
Finally, a bubble solution that doesn’t, well, burst our bubble. This kit allows kiddos to produce bubbles so big, they actually are wow-mazing—and the magic mix and oversized wands are included, so the work is minimal. In fact, all you have to do is mix up the soapy solution and sit back. Just be sure to snap a few shots, because the look on your preschooler’s face when she sees the size of her success will be priceless.
29. Best for sibling rivalry: Stomp Rocket Dueling Rockets (Ages 6+)
If you’re the parent of a multiples, you’ll relish this outdoor activity that lends itself to a little friendly competition. These foam rockets couldn’t hurt a fly, and the dual feature allows two kids to compete to see whose rocket soars the highest. Best of all, the launch pad carves out a place for stomping that won’t drive you crazy.
30. Best Super Soaker: Max Liquidator Water Blaster Set (Ages 6—18)
These water squirters are plenty powerful, but easy enough to use so that your child can do all the filling and spraying himself. But parents, be warned: stay off the path of this blaster, unless you want to get soaked.
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