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The Best Outdoor Toys: Get Your Kids to Play Outside
While considering gift ideas for children, keep in mind that the current generation of kids spends less time outdoors than any other generation in history. While a computer game or screen may be on your favorite child's list, why not introduce them to the pure, low-tech world of outdoor toys and activities?
NWF: Swap Screen Time for Green TimeThe National Wildlife Federation's (NWF) Be Out There! campaign recommends that adults lead by example. How so? Spending less time... "relaxing" on the couch watching TV, browsing on the internet or talking on your cell phone. Give the child you're with your attention and engage them in an outdoor activity, like gardening, hiking, swimming, practicing a sport or playing with pets. It's during an outdoor activity that a child is more likely to open up and discuss things, rather than being questioned in the "hot seat" indoors.
Award-Winning Outdoor Toys
Whether you have a large backyard or visit a nearby park, spend time outside with your children simply having fun. We've tracked down outdoor toys, games, activities and play structures that are truly worth tossing aside that coveted video game. Some of our outdoor toy picks are toy-award winners; others are just winners in our eyes.
Toys are presented in alphabetical order. First up: A flying clown fish and shark...Continue to 2 of 11 below.
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Air Swimmers Clown Fish and Shark
These are among the hottest toys of the season, and it's easy to figure out why: they are a flying fish and shark. The air -- or your yard -- is their ocean in which they swim above it all, with the guidance of your remote control.
Because it's such an unusual sight and experience to witness, the Air Swimmers appeal to both children and adults. Imagine a backyard party with five or six of these big fish floating above the yard. Mesmerizing.
Considering the history of desirable toys each... Christmas and their scarcity, it's a smart idea to buy early, before you're squabbling with other procrastinating parents for the last one, like Arnold Schwarzenegger in . Take note: Both the clown fish and shark require helium, which is not included. Don't wait until the last minute to buy helium.
Award: Best Overall Toy - Toy of the Year Awards
Age: School age to adult
What's Next? A flying turtle, of course...Continue to 3 of 11 below.
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Discovery Flying Turtle
Unlike the clown fish or shark, Discovery Kid's award-winning Flying Turtle never becomes airborne. A sit-skate ride-on toy, the Turtle can glide and zip on a hard, smooth outdoor surface by swinging the handlebars from side to side. Flying Turtle is has a polyethylene seat and powder-coated steel handlebars and super-fast wheels.
- Awards: Top 10 Toy by Parents Magazine
- Parent's Choice award winner
- Oppenheim Toy Portfolio gave the Flying turtle the Gold Award -- its highest award
- National... Parenting Publications: Gold winner
- Dallas/Fort Worth Child magazine: Publisher's Choice Award
Weight limit: 150 pounds
What it is: Self-propelled ride-on toy
Next up: The coolest pogo stick...Continue to 4 of 11 below.
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Fisher Price Grow-to-Pro Pogo Stick
When I was a kid, I always wanted a pogo stick. I thought it would be an amazing skill that would impress my family and the other kids in the cul-de-sac. And what a fantastic mode of transportation! Sadly, I grew up and the pogo was never in the cards for me.
Both my son and daughter inherited that pogo-lovin' gene. We bought one at a school rummage sale, but there was obviously a reason it had been donated -- its spring had sprung. Fisher Price's Grow-to-Pro is a smart outdoor activity... toy, allowing its users to use it at their own pace. Fear or lack of self confidence often occurs when a child attempts a skill for which they aren't ready. Grow-to-Pro does what it says, guiding your child like a gentle and wise pogo instructor. And that makes for a more satisfying experience.
Age: School age
Compare pricesNext up: It's a tent. It's a fort...Continue to 5 of 11 below.
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With the addition of a Fortamajig in your yard, all of those sheets and blankets will stay put in your linen closet. What is a Fortamajig? A fort, a tent and a thingamajig.
The Fortamajig Fun Fort
The original Fortamajig is a tent-like fort that's made of sturdy, washable nylon and comes in brightly colored 8-foot-square sheets. It includes a door, window, and pockets, and has six stretchy extension loops to attach to tree branches, deck railings, fences, doors, chairs, etc., to create forts,... tents and whatever your child wants it to be. When your child is done playing, the Fortamajig neatly rolls up to be easily transported and stored.
Fortamajig Connectables Play Tent
To expand your child's imagination and outdoor play space, Fortamajig's Connectables can be used with the Fortamajig Fun Fort or alone. What it is:
- Six multi-colored 22-inch durable squares
- Two 58-inch rectangles with extra loops
- Assembles quickly via a system of 20 exterior and nine interior loops
The rest is left to your child's creativity. Depending on the configuration, it would be perfect for backyard campouts or staycations. Fortamajig uses VELCRO® fastener tabs to help it stay in place. It's also made of a durable 100% polyester and is machine washable -- just in case the kids drop it in mud or spill grape juice on it.
Manufacturer: The Happy Kid Company LLC
What it is: Fort and connectible play tent
Awards: Parents' Choice Silver Honor 2011; Dr. Toy Award: Best Product, Beset Active Product; Creative Child Magazine: Seal of Excellence
Next up: It glows and it's addictive...Continue to 6 of 11 below.
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Warning: it's rumored that the FyrFlyz are addictive -- once you get the hang of it. Perfect for a warm night on the patio, this spinning ring of light changes color when you pull on its two plastic handles. When the center gets to spinning, the light creates all sorts of shapes. Groovy! Versions available include Blue Angel (multi-colored lights); NytFyr (red and white lights) and Cyclone (green and white lights). Spin alone or in a group -- the more the more mesmerizing.
"Masters of the... Night" are featured on FyrFlyz' YouTube videos.
Age: 8 to teen
What it is: Spinning Ring of Light
Award: The Oppenheimer Toy Portfolio 2011 Platinum Award
Next up: It's humongous and incredibly fun...Continue to 7 of 11 below.
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The biggest of Heartsong's GBOP collection (Great Big Outdoor Playballs), the Incred-a-Ball is a 65-inch translucent orange and yellow humongous ball. It does the typical rolling, bouncing things that outdoor playground balls do, but children can also climb inside (without shoes). Adult supervision suggested for this particular activity. For best results, play with the Incred-a-Ball on a smooth surface -- it will help it last longer.and to ensure long-lasting play, it is recommended that the... GBOP be used on a smooth surface. Maximum combined weight: 200 lbs.
Age: 8 and up
Maximum combined weight (ball and children): 200 pounds
Size: 65 inches diameter
Also available: The original 52-inch GBOP and the 36-inch GBOP Jr. -- great for dodgeball.
Next up: A new look for an old-fashioned outdoor activity..Continue to 8 of 11 below.
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Melissa & Doug Bella Butterfly Hopscotch
Melissa & Doug are known for bright colors and lively graphics. Their Bella Butterfly Hopscotch set comes in a sturdy carrying case for nice, tidy storage and portability. Open up the case and set up eight interlocking, easy-to-clean foam hopscotch pieces to put on a walkway, patio, deck, lawn, balcony -- wherever it fits!
Fully assembled, the Bella Butterfly Hopscotch set measures 20" long x 19.7" wide and 3.15" high.
Weight: Approximately 2 pounds
Next up: A fun zone classic...Continue to 9 of 11 below.
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Radio Flyer Classic Bumper Car
Radio Flyer is a name that has been around for as long as some of our grandparents -- or longer, even. It's the iconic logo emblazoned on the side of shiny red wagons and cool tricycles that are still sturdier than most of the competing trikes.
With a solid reputation and sense of nostalgia, Radio Flyer's Classic Bumper Car is the perfect streamlined fun-zone vehicle for the youngest driver in your household.
In addition to its cool retro styling, the car's bumper action triggers seven... fun "bumping" sounds.
Age: Toddlers to Preschoolers
Weight Capacity: 42 pounds -- sorry, Grandpa
Award: Oppenheim Toy Portfolio 2010 Best Toy Platinum Award for Toddlers
Next up: Getting back to your roots...Continue to 10 of 11 below.
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Root Vue Farm
Ever wonder how deep the roots of your favorite vegetables grow? Root Vue Farm is a self-watering grow unit / grow box with a viewing window that allows children to watch the development and progression of roots "underground." Plant carrot, radish, and onion seeds and watch them grow upward as their roots grow down and spread.
Included in the kit:
- Styrofoam growing unit with acrylic viewing window
- Built-in water basin
- Drainage reservoir
- A light shield, which keeps plants growing but can be... removed for viewing
- Eight super-expanding grow mix wafers
- Three packets of seeds (carrot, radish, onion)
- Identification labels
- Water wicks for the self-watering system
- A 16-page booklet with complete instructions and experiments
Awards: Oppenheim Gold Award; Dr. Toy Award
Next up: Zip across the yard...
Compare pricesContinue to 11 of 11 below.
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Twizzler IIWhat's more fun than swinging from tree branch-to-branch in your backyard like Tarzan, the Ape Man? Well, one thing that might squash that dream is the lack of trees or sturdy vines hanging in your backyard. Buzzkill!
But wait -- it is possible. The Twizzler II can be easily attached to a tree limb, swing set or other support. All your child does it grab its handles, push off an swing, twist and spin. Guess what? It's in all-season toy, so your child can enjoy it as much in the snow as he... does during the summer. Don't tell your kids, but they're secretly getting exercise on the Twizzler.
- Ages:3 and up
- Recommended maximum weight: 225 pounds
- Safety tested to 600 pounds
- Overall length of handle is 12 inches for correct placement of hands
- Includes 5 1/2-foot weather-resistant rope with a -djusting design plus all parts and instructions.
Now, go play outside!