When was the last time your kids played outside all day? Or had a day with no screen time?
If you’re like most parents these days, getting your kids to play outside can be a struggle—especially with the lure of video games and television shows keeping them indoors.
Kids today are so used to be entertained all the time, and getting them to go outside and make their own fun or explore the world around them is hard. But the right outdoor toys can help.
Ideally, you’ll find toys that your kids can play with outside for hours without getting bored and coming back inside. We have a few tips and tricks to help you pick the perfect outdoor toy for your kids.
Why play outdoors?
First, let’s talk about why it’s so important for kids to be outside. Sure, fresh air is nice, and you might want your kids out of your hair for a bit, but there are even bigger reasons to get kids outside.
The great outdoors gives your kid space to try new things. They can run, jump, and play freely, with more space to explore and no fear of breaking something.
And while they’re running around, kids are staying healthy. When we think of exercise and burning calories, we’re usually talking about grown-ups. But childhood obesity has more than doubled in the past 30 years, making it more important than ever to make sure your kids are getting plenty of active play time.
But besides staying in shape, there are tons of reasons for kids to get outside and play. Outdoor play has been shown to reduce stress, help curb symptoms of ADHD, and even improve test scores and academic performance.
Guidelines for choosing a toy
So what kind of outdoor toys should you be giving your kids to encourage them to get out there and play? There are a few things you’ll want to consider:
- Pick an age-appropriate toy. When you send the kids to play outside, you might not monitor them as closely as you can inside, so make sure the toys they’re playing with are age-appropriate and safe.
- Choose toys that are more fun outside. If you’re buying a toy specifically for outdoor use, you don’t want your kids bringing it back inside to play.
- Search for toys that encourage physical activity. The whole point of sending kids outside is to get them active, so pick a toy that will get them moving around.
- Stay away from electronics. Sure, there are fun tech gadgets the kids would love to bring outdoors. But why send them outside just to stare at a screen?
- Get the whole neighborhood involved. If there are other kids living around, find toys that encourage teamwork and playing together.
One reason parents tend to keep their kids inside is so they can keep a closer eye on them. Letting kids roam free outdoors is a scary idea for some parents, but with simple guidelines, kids can be perfectly safe. Here are a few things to keep in mind when sending kids outside to play:
- Know the neighborhood. You know which parts of your neighborhood are safe for your kids and which areas should be avoided. Make sure your kids know, too.
- Teach road safety. Talk to your kids about looking both ways before they cross the street and listening for cars. Make sure they always follow basic road safety rules.
- Set limits. Tell your kids where they can go when playing outdoors and what time they need to be back home.
- Use the buddy system. If your kid will be roaming around the neighborhood, make sure they have a friend or sibling with them. This will help in case of injuries or accidents.
- Talk about stranger danger. Yes, kids should already know not to run off with strange adults, but remind them before you send them out to play.
Favorite toys by age group
With guidelines and safety out of the way, let’s talk about favorite outdoor toys. Every kid is different, but these are some of the toys that are a hit with almost every kid.
Young children (Ages 2-4)
Toddlers are just beginning to explore the outside world, but they’re not quite big enough for scooters or bikes. Getting them outside still has many benefits, and there are tons of toys for them to enjoy:
- Slides and swings are great for toddlers, as long as they’re the right size. Miniature plastic slides and swing sets (make sure your tot is strapped in tight!) are tons of fun for toddlers.
- Kiddie pools are perfect for toddlers in the summertime. Even kids too young to swim will love splashing around and playing with toys in the pool. Just be sure to keep a close eye on your toddler, as even a few inches of water is enough to drown a small child.
- Cars for toddlers are great outdoor toys. Look for one where your toddler has to push with his feet to make it go, as this encourages physical activity and gets them exploring.
School age children (Ages 5-8)
By the time they start going to school, children can do more on their own, and this really expands your playtime options.
- Bikes, scooters, and roller blades are a big part of childhood, and this is the age to get started. Make sure you teach proper safety and strap on a helmet and pads before sending your kid out.
- Sports are a big part of life for kids. A soccer ball and net, or a basketball and a hoop, can provide hours of outdoor fun.
- Water guns are also a big hit at this age, and perfect for hot summer days.
- Jump ropes and hula hoops are often favored by girls, and lend themselves well to solo play or group playtime.