When looking for the perfect gift, why not look to get the kids outdoors? In an age of smartphones and video games sometimes the best gifts are the ones that come with a healthy dose of fresh air. We found great gift ideas for every age that will keep kids engaged for hours with some backyard fun. From classics like an outdoor play tent to toddler-friendly, water-splashin’ entertainment centers, there is something that’s sure to make your gift a hit with parents and kids alike.
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Best Overall: FoxPrint Princess Castle Play Tent
All kids love playing pretend and what better way than in their very own castle. This pop-up Princess Castle will enchant kids of any age (well, almost any age, but we think even adults would enjoy hiding out in here) and can comfortably accommodate 2-3 children (or one fantasy loving adult). Some of our favorite features that are sure to make you the knight in shining armor are things like the glow-in-the-dark stars, the roll-up door, and the easy fold and store construction. When standing, this tent is 54” high and 41.5” in diameter, but when folded it is a compact 17”. The tent comes with a carrying case so your child can take her kingdom with her. We love that this tent is quick and easy for pop-up play indoors or out.
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Best Budget: Crayola Outdoor Glitter Sidewalk Chalk
If you don't want to spend a ton of money on an outdoor activity for your kids, this outdoor chalk will provide endless fun for kids of all ages. Kiddos can use it to create games of hopscotch and four square or beautiful masterpieces. The bright colors show up well on concrete and the glitter shimmers in the sunlight (you may not see the glitter on cloudy days though). When it’s time to clean up, it washes away easily with water. Five pieces of chalk come in a pack, so there’s enough to share, but it’s also great for creative solo-play when no friends or family members are around.
Customers say kids love the vibrant colors and the glitter adds an extra special touch to regular sidewalk chalk. While some customers wish the formula had more glitter, most say this is a great purchase for the price, and the results are pretty.
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Best Slide: Little Tikes First Slide
This three-foot long beginner's slide will be a hit for years of slip-sliding-good times. Designed for children between 18 months and six years old, constructed of durable, easy-to-clean plastic, and ideal for outdoor or indoor play. Not too high for little ones unsteady on their feet, and just the right height to safely slide into their favorite stuffed animal pile, ball pit or any other soft landing of choice. The Little Tikes First Slide can be easily and conveniently stored when not in use by folding and securely latching the steps.
04 of 11
Best Swing Set: Backyard Discovery Skyfort II All Cedar Wood Swing Set
When it comes to outdoor fun, there’s nothing like having a playground in your own backyard. This set from Backyard Discovery is sure to be hit with kids for years to come. Recommended for ages 3-10, it features options aplenty for exercise and fun. There’s a clubhouse up top and a play deck down below, as well as two belt swings, a glider swing, slide, rock wall, monkey bars, and a sandbox. It’s made of 100 percent cedar, so it’s strong and durable and big enough for a crew of kids to play at once.
Customers say it’s well-made and impressive, though some note the directions can be a bit tricky to follow. Overall, most say kids love it and that it’s an investment that pays off in hours of outdoor fun.
Interested in reading more reviews? Take a look at our selection of the best swing sets available for purchase.Continue to 5 of 11 below.
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Best Portable: Spikeball Game Set
Have Spikeball, will travel. This game set comes with everything you need to play this fun and active game, including a drawstring bag so you can take it on the road no matter where you're headed. There’s even an app you can download to find players in your area who want to in on the action!
To get started you'll need four players (two players per team) and room to play. Teams take turns serving by hitting the ball into the net, then it plays out much like volleyball, except the goal is to hit the ball into, not over the net. A team wins points when the opposing team hits the ball into the rim or onto the ground or if it bounces more than once on the net. This game has a cult-like following of players who say that it’s well-made, fun, and addictive.
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Best for Baby: SwimSchool Baby Splash Mat with Backrest
Your littlest one may not be ready to dive into the pool, but this splash mat is a great way to keep them cool and let them have some fun in the water. It comes with a built-in backrest and three stacking rings and it’s printed with brightly colored fish and other ocean creatures. You can fill it with as much or as little water as you like. It’s easy to inflate and fold up, which makes it great to take along to the pool, park, or anywhere else. When it’s inflated, it measures 28 inches in circumference and is recommended for babies ages 6-18 months.
Parents say it’s a great first pool and that babies love it. They say it’s easy to take on the go and simple to clean and store. Some note that the back isn’t strong enough to support babies who can’t sit unassisted, but most say it’s a well-made and a great way to entertain babies in warm weather.
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Best for Toddlers: Little Tikes Spiralin’ Seas Waterpark Play Table
For the toddlers on your list, the Spiralin’ Seas Play Table will keep little hands busy and engaged for hours. This fun water table stands at the perfect height (31.5-inches) for tots and it's light enough for adults to move from one location to another. It includes one water cup and five character balls that can squirt water, ride the lazy river, spiral down the funnel, or take the plunge on the Ferris wheel. Customers say that this is also a great learning toy, as it promotes hand-eye coordination and the development of motor skills and imaginative play.
Want to take a look at some other options? See our guide to the best water tables.
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Runner-Up, Best for Toddlers: Stomp Rocket The Original Jr. Glow
Fun soars to new heights with Stomp Rocket Jr. Glow Rocket. Kids can run, jump, and stomp on the launch pad to send rockets blasting off into the air. With enough force, these rockets can soar up to 100 feet! Little ones can take turns seeing who can get their rocket to go the highest. Even better, the rockets glow in the dark for nighttime fun as well.
Designed for kids ages 3 and up, there are no batteries required—these rockets are solely powered by kid energy. The set comes with a launch pad and four rockets, and it’s quick and simple to set up. Thousands of customers rave about this award-winning toy, saying it provides hours of fun for kids of all ages. Parents love that it’s an activity that kids can do by themselves and say it’s great for taking to the park or beach.Continue to 9 of 11 below.
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Best for Teens: POOF Outdoor Games Jarts Lawn Darts
Like the classic game of lawn darts but with an aerodynamic twist, Jarts is a great game for your backyard, the beach, park, and beyond. It includes four Jarts, which are soft-grip darts with rounded rubber tips for safety. Players take turns sending them soaring toward one of two rings. The first player to land 21 inside a ring wins. You can play with two players or with teams, and you can crank up the level of difficulty based on how far apart you place the rings from each other.
Recommended for ages 8 and up, it’s a fun and safe game that the whole family can enjoy during outdoor gatherings or anytime that there’s a crowd. Most customers say the set is durable, although several customers said that this set isn't as well-made as the original.
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Best for High-Energy Kids: Geospace The Original Deluxe Bungee Boing!
Kids with loads of energy can bounce it all out on this Deluxe Bungee Boing! Dubbed the “squeakiest, easiest pogo ever,” it’s a hopping good time. The foam base is soft yet sturdy, and it’s attached to a soft foam handle via a bungee. For extra fun, it squeaks each time they bounce, though some parents choose to remove the squeakers for obvious reasons.
Designed for kids ages 3 and up, it can hold up to 250 pounds, so it’s great for kids of all ages, and mom and dad may even want to take a turn. It helps build strength and balance skills and it’s great exercise. If the weather isn’t cooperating outdoors, it can also be used on most indoor surfaces.
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Best Water Toy: Step2 874600 Rain Showers Splash Pond Water Table Playset
When the weather is warm, there’s nothing like some splishin’, splashin’ action. This water table from Step2 is full of wet fun, as kids are able to scoop and pour water and send toys sailing about on water-themed adventures. It comes with 12 fun accessories, including three cute squirting figures and three buckets for scooping and pouring. The maze pieces are moveable so they can create various courses for new and fun effects, and the top tray produces a rain shower when they pour in water. When playtime is done, there’s a plug on the bottom of the table that makes for easy drainage.
Parents say this table is well-made and a hit with kids. They say there’s enough room for several kids to play at the same time and that it’s sturdy. Some note that it can be a bit challenging to assemble, but overall it's an entertaining and safe water toy that will keep kids occupied.
For more water toys that kids will love, check out our selection of the best pool toys.
Products Tested by The Spruce
How We Tested
We bought a top-rated backyard toy and our reviewers (and their families) tested it for five hours. We asked our testers to consider the most important features when using this toy, from its age range to its activity level. We’ve outlined the key takeaways here so that you, too, know what to look for when shopping.
What to Look for in a Backyard Toy
Age range 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.
Activity level 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.
Adaptability 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.
Test Results: FoxPrint Princess Castle Play Tent (Best Tent)
What We Like
Door allows for quiet time
What We Don't Like
Glow in the dark stars aren’t bright
Vague cleanup instructions
One of our testers liked this tent’s “roomy” size: “At least two children can comfortably play in it with plenty of space for stuffed animals and dolls,” she noted. Its sparkly exterior was also a hit with our reviewers, and one tester liked that it had a door, “allowing for easy access or privacy when a child wants to have some quiet time.” The negatives? Its construction was “flimsy,” according to one of our reviewers, who also thought that its glow-in-the-dark stars weren’t bright enough. Lastly, one tester noted that its cleanup process was challenging: “The tent came with vague instructions for how to fold it up and put it back into the bag,” she said, “but they're hard to follow — I was unable to fold it down successfully and put it away!”