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Depending on their ages, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children get 1 to 3 hours of physical activity each day. This can be tough to navigate with the demands of school and the allure of screens, but if you keep a well-stocked arsenal of age-appropriate outdoor toys, you'll be setting yourselves up for success.
Here are the best outdoor toys to keep your kids happy and entertained until the sun goes down.
Best Budget: Crayola Washable Sidewalk Chalk
Whether your kids are three or ten, if you carry a few pieces of sidewalk chalk in your bag, you'll never be without an on-the-go activity. (Don't forget to add some baby wipes for messy hands afterward!) Even the littlest artists will be able to scribble and color using Crayola's chubby sticks.
Crayola chalk is also washable from skin and clothing, and if your kids decide to cover the neighbors' driveway, it can also be easily spritzed off with the garden hose. Each box comes with 48 pieces.
Best for Toddlers: Pacific Play Tents Find Me Multi Color Tunnel
Even once your child has learned to walk, crawling remains an important activity for their gross motor development, and a colorful tunnel encourages them to get down and do it. (It's true for adults, too—why do you think your HIIT instructor loves those bear hovers so much?)
This tunnel is tough enough to stand up to both indoor and outdoor playtime, and can easily be cleaned with mild soap and a damp cloth. The steel wire frame has reinforced padding to help keep the metal from poking out. It weighs less than one pound and collapses easily into a single circular shape, so you can easily throw it into the bottom of your stroller for a park trip. Just be prepared to draw a crowd of little ones after you pop it open.
"I have yet to come across another toy that makes my son light up as much as this tunnel does. If he’s cranky or if I need him to be occupied while I cook dinner, I can take out the tunnel, and he’s immediately happy and engaged."—Michelle Piccolo, Product Tester
Best for 3-Year-Olds: Little Tikes T-Ball Set with Five Balls
As your preschooler whacks away at this affordable toy, all they know is that they're having a blast—or imitating an older sibling who plays baseball. But you know they're also practicing the all-important skill of hand-eye coordination. If they play with a friend, they can start getting used to sharing and taking turns.
The stand adjusts to your child's height—the maximum is 22 inches—and the base can also be hung on the wall with the bat and two balls stored inside it. (This set comes with a total of five plastic balls, which are designed to look like the real thing, down to the stitching detail.) When your kiddo outgrows the stand, they'll still enjoy playing with the lightweight bat and easy-to-hit balls.
Best for Toddlers: Stomp Rocket The Original Jr. Glow
The concept behind the stomp rocket is simple: Kids take turns jumping on the launcher and sending the lightweight foam rockets into the sky. The rockets can be aimed in different directions, and you can start to introduce kids to concepts like gravity, pressure, and force as they send them flying. The pieces also glow in the dark, which is fun on summer nights, and the set comes with seven rockets total, with additional sets sold separately. This is good because they're a little flimsy, and there can be the risk that one will end up stuck in a tree or on a roof.
This is a great icebreaker for outdoor gatherings, and kids will get plenty of exercise running to retrieve the rockets. They'll also be able to practice important skills like taking turns and helping each other, which is especially important for the pre-K crowd.
"The toy’s STEM claims may be a stretch for younger kids who really only care to launch the rockets high up in the sky, but that’s not to say don’t understand the concept of gravity and air force. We were thrilled to see our older kid teach his younger sister the relationship between their jumping power and the rocket’s height, though they didn’t care much for aiming it in any particular direction."—Danielle Directo-Meston, Product Tester
Best for 5-Year-Olds: Micro Kickboard Micro Maxi Deluxe
This scooter is suitable for kids starting at age 5, which is the perfect time for them to start getting used to zooming around. These scooters last for years (siblings often pass them down) and they're both sturdy and fun to ride. The handlebar is adjustable so it can move up as your child gets bigger.
The experience of shifting their weight to steer using three wheels will help prepare children if they want one of the sleeker, two-wheeled models in a few years, although they can stick with this model, since it's recommended for children up to age 12. It has a 110-pound weight limit and no assembly is required.
Best Trampoline: Skywalker 12-Foot Jump n' Dunk
This popular, high-walled trampoline has safety features like a locking double zipper (sturdier than the velcro tabs that are often used), reinforced T-socket supports (to keep the structure from buckling under pressure), and a design that places the springs outside the jumping area, so toes won't get pinched. For added fun, it comes with a basketball hoop and foam ball. The weight limit is 200 pounds.
Parents should note that the American Academy of Pediatrics warns against the use of home trampolines, but says that if they are used, only one child should jump at a time, parents should always actively supervise, and the equipment should be checked regularly for damage.
Best Sandbox: Gorilla Playsets Square Interlocking Sandbox with Cover and Umbrella
This square-shaped sandbox is made from interlocking pieces of cedar wood that have been stained a lovely shade of amber. It's easy to put together and cedar naturally resists moisture damage and decay. The sandbox also comes with an umbrella that can be set up in any corner and a mesh cover to help protect the sand.
Speaking of sand, you'll need about 10 50-pound bags, which must be purchased separately. The box has broad ledges on its perimeter so kids can sit comfortably while they play. All assembly hardware is included, such as brackets and mounting stakes for added stability.
Best Water Toy: Step2 Summer Showers Splash Tower Water Table
This fun outdoor toy mixes the joy of a sprinkler with the structure of a traditional water table, while also allowing plenty of space for multiple kids to join in. It holds five gallons of H2O and has a mix of different pieces (such as spinners, ramps, and a flipper), so children can design their own waterfalls by scooping up water from the bottom and pouring it through the top. Your kids will also love the adorable squishy toy animals like a duck, fish, and frog. It's ideal for children aged 18 months and older, and it's lightweight enough (12 pounds) that you can drag it to different areas of your yard if needed.
Best Ride-On Toy: Radio Flyer Red Rider Trike
You want your kids' first ride-on toy to be trustworthy and sturdy, and this cheery red one from Radio Flyer fits the bill. It's made for children ages 2 ½ to 5 years old, and has a weight limit of 49 pounds.
Kids will love stashing their treasures in the storage trunk behind the seat, and parents will love the grab bar, which is great for carrying. The seat can be adjusted as your child grows, and its high-quality construction will likely hold up for a sibling, too.
Best Slide: Little Tikes Indoor-Outdoor Wet or Dry Slide
Since kids love to turn any slide into a water slide, why not buy on with built-in jets? This one, which can be connected to a garden hose for fun H20 action, is suitable for children ages 18 months to 5 years, and the weight limit is 60 pounds.
It folds flat for storage and can also be used as a regular slide either indoors or outdoors. The sturdy staircase makes it a great first slide for toddlers before they hit the big-time playgrounds.
Best Swing Set: Gorilla Playsets Playmaker Deluxe Swing Set
If you're hoping to keep your swing set for many years, choose one with cedar at the touchpoints, since it's less likely to rust (like metal) or splinter (like less durable wood). This one is packed with perks such as a rock-climbing wall, a clubhouse with windows and a vinyl roof, a telescope, a chalkboard, flags, and a sandbox area. It's suitable for kids ages 3 to 11, and at 15 feet by 12 feet, it has a fairly compact footprint compared to other playsets.
You'll get two belt swings and a trapeze swing with rings, but you can also order a bucket toddler swing separately if you have a younger kiddo. Another bonus: Having two wavy slides will certainly cut down on waiting time and squabbling.
Best Educational Toy: Go Find It Outdoor Nature Scavenger Hunt
This simple, inexpensive scavenger-hunt card game proves that when they fully engage their senses, kids don't need fancy equipment to enjoy their time outside. The premise: The 33 cards have descriptive adjectives like "rough," "crunchy," or "red."
Each person chooses a card and heads off to find something that fits the description; for a challenge, try pairing words together and searching for something with multiple characteristics. Every game will be different, and it's a fun way to explore a new destination.
What to Look for in an Outdoor Toy for Kids
To keep kids interested, you’ll want to pick a toy that’s right for their stage of development and skills. Remember, though, that the recommended age range is just that — a recommendation. You know these kids best, so don’t limit your choices to the age range too strictly if there’s something a little older or younger that you think they’d enjoy.
If your goal is to get your kids moving and have them burn off some of that oh-so-abundant energy, choose a toy that encourages lots of movement. From sliding to blowing bubbles, there are plenty of options that’ll get their blood pumping while they’re having fun — and leave them all tuckered out come bedtime.
Consider the size of your yard before choosing an outdoor toy. Some need large amounts of space, which can be challenging if you have a small lot, while others may require water or specific accessories. Certain outdoor toys may be used indoors as well, which can be a nice option when the weather doesn’t cooperate with outdoor play.
How do I store outdoor toys?
To prolong the life of any outdoor toy, it's best to store it either indoors or at least protected from the elements, whether it's in the garage or in a storage shed that's kept outside. For toys that might be put away slightly damp, think ventilation, whether it's a bin with slatted sides or open shelving. There are dozens of creative outdoor storage ideas, too, such as a kids' parking garage for ride-on toys (basically a table fitted with a curtain) and benches that also contain built-in toy bins.
How do I clean outdoor toys?
Always follow the manufacturer's recommendation for cleaning toys; most can be simply wiped with a damp cloth dipped in a mild soap-and-water solution. If you're hoping to use a stronger cleaner like disinfectant or bleach solution, spot test it in a small area first.
For sandbox or water toys that are prone to mold and mildew, you can soak them for 10 minutes in your bathtub or a sink. Use one gallon of water with a half-cup of either bleach or vinegar (never mix the two!). When working with bleach, follow safety precautions such as wearing goggles and gloves, opening windows for ventilation, and keeping children out of the room.
You can clean your water table by simply filling it with either the bleach-water or bleach-vinegar solution, or just water and mild dish soap. After letting the mixture sit for several minutes, rinse and dry well.
To keep your sandbox free from debris and bacteria, check the sand by raking it before and after each play session. Use a cover to keep out curious insects and other critters who might want to use it as a restroom. You should change the sand at least every year, or more frequently if it appears soiled or you're not covering the box consistently.
How do I get water out of outdoor toys?
You can prevent water and other gunk from getting into squirting animal toys by filling the holes using a hot glue gun.
For a water table, after cleaning, rinsing, and wiping with a towel, invert it and let it dry fully (ideally in the sun). For a sandbox, rake the area thoroughly, taking care to break up wet clumps, before allowing it to dry uncovered (never cover wet sand, as it encourages mildew).
Why Trust The Spruce?
Lexi Dwyer has written for The Spruce since 2019, covering topics like hot holiday toy gifts and board games. A mom of two, she has included many of her go-to outdoor toys on this list, including the Stomp Rocket Jr., the Micro Kickboard Maxi scooter, the Pacific Tents play tunnel, and Crayola's sidewalk chalk.