“I’m just an outside boy,” my son (now eight) said to my husband and I years ago on he and his twin sister’s fifth birthday. Their grandmother gifted them many things, but among them was a handful of indoor toys.
He smiled, thanked her, and then waited for the party to end and all the guests to go home before telling us that he just does not care for inside toys.
The inside is no fun. Inside is boring. The inside is not for outside boys. He is an outside boy, and please make no mistake about this. At the tender age of eight, he’s awake in the morning before school hanging out on the pool deck playing pool basketball or checking the weather.
The moment we get home from school in the afternoons, he literally vibrates his way through cleaning out his lunchbox and hanging his backpack in the mudroom before bolting out the door. He’s outside until we force him to come in for dinner – though he loves it when the weather is nice and we eat dinner on the pool deck.
All of our kids, actually, enjoy spending time outdoors, and we are not mad about it. Screentime is also something they love, but we limit the hours they’re allowed on their iPads and phones, but they don’t complain. They’re outside playing.
Outdoor Toys Make Life So Much Easier
We’ve reached an age in our home where toys are no longer items our kids are interested in. The kids turn 15, 12, 9, and 9 this year, and no one is interested in toys any longer. Games, art supplies, and outdoor items for the littles, and clothing, shoes, and accessories for the older two. It makes our lives so much easier, neater, and more enjoyable.
I don’t consider myself an expert in, well, anything, but I am well-versed in all of the outside toys. We have four kids, they all have friends, all of our friends have kids, and I am really, really good at knowing what they like to do outdoors, and these are the 20 best items you’ll keep for your kids outdoors that they’ll actually play with, use, and enjoy no matter their ages. Sometimes, they even play nicely together. But don’t blink or make eye contact because you’ll ruin it.
Don’t forget, too, that the benefits of your kids being outdoors more often are endless. They’re healthier, happier, more physically fit, and they’re less likely to suffer from depression. That is just scratching the surface, too. Outdoor kids aren’t inside, which means it’s quiet. Everyone wins.
1. A Trampoline
All right – this is a highly personal choice. You may not want to make this choice, but we’ve had one for over a decade now. No matter the ages of the kids, they love it. Small, big, whatever. They love it. The key is to purchase one with a net so that they’re a lot safer. Knock on wood, but we’ve never experienced a trampoline injury. My only advice is to replace the net every two years or so.
2. A Pool
I know this is a big ‘toy’ and it’s expensive. Trust me. But it’s also the one thing that all children love and adore. We are Floridians, and a pool is a necessary home item, though we did not have ours built until the twins were five. We wanted everyone to become strong swimmers, understand the dangers of a pool, etc.
However, it’s the greatest item we have. It’s fun for the entire family. The kids are always outside. We get to spend time with them in the pool, and everyone is always happy.
With a pool comes a list of fun pool toys, too. Feel free to judge, but we did let the kids pick out a float at Target that’s actually a game of beer pong for in the water.
They obviously do not play beer pong with it, but they do love to play with it. We have an in-pool volleyball net, a floating basketball hoop, dive sticks, and so much more. We also have a giant inflatable shark that we like to run, jump on, and see how far we can go without falling off. I’m sure it’s all dangerous, but it’s also a great time.
May I also add that when the kids are home for the summer, they love to swim all day, every day, and it allows me to sit on the lanai and work until I’m done working. Then, I switch to a book while they swim. They’re having fun, I’m there to watch, and everyone is getting to do what they need/want to do.
3. A Sun Shelf
All right, maybe this isn’t a toy, but hear me out. When we had our pool built, we chose to forgo a ‘shallow’ end in favor of a sun shelf. It’s about 11 inches deep, and it’s eight feet by eight feet.
Little kids can sit on it, play on it, and never leave it. The big kids like to put the loungers in it and sit partially submerged in the water. It’s a delightful place to hang out, and it’s perfect for all kids of all ages. It’s also the most used part of the pool.
4. A Playhouse
These are so cool, and kids love them. Little kids have such creative imaginations, and this is precisely the kind of outdoor item they need to make their imaginations come to life. Ours has been a space ship, a princess castle, an underwater mermaid village, a house in the woods, and so much more.
5. A Slide
Who doesn’t love a slide? Slides are fun, and kids love them. End of discussion.
6. A Swingset
I highly recommend a playhouse that’s attached to a slide and a swingset for maximum fun, but I do realize budgets, size constraints, and personal comfort do dictate a little bit of what you decide. Swings are a good, fun time for kids.
7. A Basketball Net
There’s nothing like a pick-up game with the kids to really show them who is the boss, right? We love our basketball net, and we have a lot of fun with it. So does everyone who comes over.
Bikes are the childhood activity of choice. If your kids don’t have bikes, you need to get them bikes. Be sure you’re getting the correct size, and also be sure you’re getting new bikes as they grow. Bikes for the entire family means you can all ride together, which is such a fun bonding experience.
9. A Hoverboard
I can’t use one, but my kids can. They love these, and they find them so easy to maneuver. They’re little experts, but I do recommend helmets. Our kids are great with their hoverboards, but they are not permitted to use them without a helmet.
10. A Zip Line
We don’t have one simply because we don’t have enough trees close enough together for one, but we do have friends with them, and they are a fan-favorite. Kids love them. They’re not for adults, though, unless you buy those specifically made for higher weights.
11. A Treehouse
Did you know you can buy these in kits? You can, and you should. Or, perhaps you’re the creative type who knows how to construct things without using a kit. Either way, a treehouse is a childhood dream come true, and we recommend it.
12. A Jungle Gym
These are not my favorite outdoor activity, but kids love them. Our parents surprised the kids with a jungle gym a few years ago (that we had the pleasure of assembling ourselves…lovely gift) and it gives me more than a little anxiety. However, these kids love that thing, and they won’t let us get rid of it.
13. Roller Skates
Let’s throw it back to 1990 when we were all attending birthday parties at the local skating rink. The music was blaring, the lights were blasting color everywhere, and the entire place reeked like sweat and dirty kids.
It was the single greatest decade. Roller skates on the driveway don’t have quite the same effect they did in the roller rink, but they’ll do. Kids love them (helmets are good), and I’m convinced they pull double duty allowing kids to learn to become more coordinated.
These things freak me out, and it’s because my weird kids feel the overwhelming need to get on them with sandals…or no shoes at all. My feet ache thinking about that – and the potential for missing toenails and other foot-related injuries. Regular shoe debates notwithstanding, we do know our kids love their scooters.
15. A Volleyball Net
Easter 2022. The Easter Bunny brought the kids a volleyball net for the yard along with their Easter baskets. Following an egg hunt and a late Easter lunch with our families, the entire family headed outside to play volleyball. It was hours of absolute manic competition. Neighbors taking family walks even stopped to see what we were up to when we were fighting for the win. It was the best afternoon, and the kids (and adults) loved it. It’s one of our most-used outdoor toys.
16. A Football
It’s simple. It’s small, and it’s easy to use. If you give your children sports equipment, they will use it. They will play games of flag football that are completely unplanned in advance. They will head outdoors to create some competition, and you’ll find yourself joining them. How about that? Family fun and exercise at the same time? There is no way to lose.
17. Baseball Accessories
This is another one of those outdoor toys that works for everyone. A tee ball stand for batting, gloves, balls, bats, and a helmet, and you’re good to have a game in the yard with the kids. Our kids love to go out with us and play catch, and we do enjoy the time.
18. A Golf Net
This one might be a little niche, but we also have two little golfers. They love to golf, they take lessons, and our daughter made the middle school golf team. It’s also one of those sports that’s just good to learn – after all, many deals are made on the course. It’s a great way for kids to practice their swings – or for you to practice yours. We do love a family-friendly outdoor toy, you know.
19. A Soccer Net
Personally, soccer is not for me. Or the girls…or my husband. But our son loves it. His friends love it. They play all the time. It’s easy to set up and assemble, and everyone has fun when they’re over playing.
20. Nerf Guns
I did save the best for last, and you’re welcome. Few things in life are as much fun as Nerf guns when they’re used outdoors. We have family wars. We load down our pockets with ammunition – the kids have goggles and vests and all kinds of cool accessories – and we head outdoors.
The key here is to separate the family into two teams. We buy two different color bullets, and we know who is who that way. We have the most fun running around the yard, taking cover, and making nonsensical plans of action with our hands that no one understands but we pretend we do. Memories are made with Nerf gun wars.
Outdoor Fun is As Amazing As You Make It
I asked my kids if they found my list acceptable, and the resounding answer is yes. My teenager, however, would like me to add flashlights as an outdoor toy for nighttime games of manhunt in the yard. They’d also like me to mention walkie talkies because they are necessary for outdoor hide and seek and war survival.
Our son would like me to throw in a slip and slide – but full disclosure: I dislike them. Dirty feet, wet mud, dirt, and grass all over their bodies? Pass. But I will say that these kids love some soap and the sprinkler on the trampoline. But, again, that’s a personal choice depending on how you feel.
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