“Where is everyone?”, my children asked the other day while walking past the playground in our neighborhood. The birds were chirping, the sun was shining, there was not a cloud in the sky, yet the smiles and laughter of happy children were nowhere to be seen or heard.
The sad reality is that COVID has forced most indoor play centers and museums to shutter their doors. Most beaches, playgrounds, and other outdoor family-friendly facilities remain closed to the public or open with limited hours and many restrictions.
It may be only four months since the pandemic started but it feels like more than a decade, especially if you have got one or more busy toddlers at home. With normal go-to activities for toddlers still closed, what are tired, frazzled parents to do?
Regardless of whether your home has a well-stocked playroom or toys bursting from every crevice of the living room, even the most resourceful of parents are running out of ways to keep our toddlers entertained.
If you feel that the walls are slowly closing in, it is time to venture outside with your toddler and take advantage of these last few weeks of summer. Whether your yard is the size of a postage stamp or a football field, there are toys to fit every outdoor space and budget!
If you have got a future NASCAR driver then look no further than The Little Tikes Cozy Coupe (my #1 Top Outdoor Toy recommendation). This colorful, ‘classic coupe’ has been a steadfast favorite of toddlers and parents alike for over 30 years. It features a red and yellow facade, with animated headlights in the shape of eyes and a playful smile that is sure to win your toddler over.
The removable floorboard means it can accommodate growing legs and toddlers ages 1.5 to 4 are able to take these wheels for a spin. Speaking of wheels…they move and turn, along with the steering wheel. Your ‘little tike’ can navigate traffic jams by pressing on the horn, and they also can turn the key in the ignition and open the doors when they arrive at their final destination.
There are even two cup holders at the rear so your little driver (and you) can stay hydrated on their journey. Out of gas? No problem, pull up to the Little Tikes Cozy Pumper, lift up the plastic gas tank cover and fill ‘er up!
Even toddlers with the littlest of legs can enjoy going for a ride. Simply leave the removable floorboard in place and let them unleash their inner back seat driver as you grab the hood and push them around the yard or driveway.
There is also a D.I.Y. Cozy Coupe (my #2 Top Outdoor Toy recommendation) that allows your toddler to customize their wheels! Touted by Little Tikes as “a cozy coupe as unique as you”, it comes with all the same features as the original but is a bright white blank canvas that includes washable paints, markers, and colorful decal stickers.
This arts and craft project on wheels is sure to provide endless hours of fun and is the perfect way for budding Picassos or Frida Khalos to channel their creative curiosity. Add one of these personalized license plates and your little driver is ready to hit the road!
All that driving making your toddler hot? Then have them park up at the Cascading Cove Water and Sand Activity Center (my #3 Top Outdoor Toy recommendation) by Step 2.
Recommended for ages 2 and up, this sturdy dual-sided table will keep the kiddies cool as they splash in the water and dig in the sand under the roomy 60-inch umbrella which, according to Step 2, “provides shade at every angle”.
Measuring approximately 4 feet long by 2 feet wide, this sensory smorgasbord has plenty of space for siblings to gather around and play. The table even comes with a durable cover that doubles as a roadway; perfect for car enthusiasts; and a durable 6-piece sand and water accessory set.
Float some of these animal figures from JOYIN in the water and bury some in the sand for added hours of fun.
You and your toddler not a fan of sand? Why not invest in the Intex Sun Shade Inflatable Pool (my #4 Top Outdoor Toy recommendation) instead?
Pop on the removable sunshade and your toddler can splash to their heart’s content and stay safe from the sun’s harsh rays as you sip lemonade from a chair nearby. If the water is a little too chilly for your toddler’s toes simply remove the shade and let the sun do its thing.
Together these toys will surely ‘catch’ your toddler’s attention. The handy drain plug makes emptying and cleaning the pool a breeze at the end of the day, and the provided repair patch will stop any leaks in their tracks.
When your toddler is tired of being a water nymph, simply pull the plug, and swap the water for these 200 Plastic Balls by Click and Play. Open the handy mesh storage bag, pour, and VOILA, you have an instant ball pit. The balls, which are phthalate and BPA free, come in an assortment of colors designed to withstand even the most energetic of toddlers!
If your toddler is a fan of bubbles, but you are not a fan of the mess that comes with them, then say hello to this ocean-inspired Kidzlane Bubble Machine (my #5 Top Outdoor Toy recommendation).
The motor is quiet, but powerful and is easily operated with a flick of the blue dolphin’s green fin. With its 10 interior bubble wands and a reservoir designed to hold 6 fluid ounces of bubble liquid, this mighty machine boasts an incredible output of up to 500 bubbles per minute.
It is definitely all thrills and no spills, as your toddler, along with their siblings and any pets, chase these spectacular spheres around the yard. Batteries are not included so make sure you stock up on at least 6 AA’s as well as extra bubble solution to avoid a toddler tantrum.
All that digging, splashing and popping means your toddler is bound to work up an appetite. Satisfy your toddler’s cravings with Step 2 Happy Home Cottage & Grill (my #6 Top Outdoor Toy recommendation) and Little Tikes BBQ Grillin’ Goodies (my #7 Top Outdoor Toy recommendation).
This combo will fuel even the most ravenous appetites and spark endless hours of imaginative play. The house is sure to boost backyard appeal with its decorative shutters, matching Dutch door and faux stone, and wood accents.
Guests can announce themselves by ringing the working doorbell. No one at home? No problem! Family and friends can pop a letter through the realistic-looking built-in mailbox.
Parents can keep a watchful eye through the four open windows as their toddlers wash dishes at the sink or rest their tired legs on the built-in kitchen seat.
The attached mini BBQ is the perfect place to test out the “grillin’ goodies”. The 20-piece grilling set provides toddlers with an opportunity to hone their BBQ techniques, as well as their fine motor skills, as they use the utensils to flip burgers and turn hot dogs and corn on the cob.
Please note that the grill set does contain small parts so best to keep them away from the inquisitive hands and hungry mouths of children 3 and under.
After filling their belly with pretend BBQ, it’s time to direct your toddler to the Ninja Warrior Obstacle Course for Kids (my #8 Top Outdoor Toy recommendation).
Instead of climbing the walls of your house, your toddler can navigate the 50-foot slackline and 10-piece accessory kit which includes multiple rings and monkey bars, a climbing rope, obstacle net, swing, and more.
The line must be securely attached between two trees but can be adjusted to suit the height of your nimble Ninja.
Unlike other play structures geared towards toddlers, this set will grow with your child. As their limbs lengthen, simply move the slackline higher up the trees and swap the accessories around to create new challenges that will build their gross motor skills. Who knows, maybe your tiny toddler will grow up to become “America’s Next Ninja Warrior”!
Tired of the backyard? Or maybe you do not have access to one? No problem. It’s time to introduce your toddler to the Micro Kickboard – Mini Deluxe LED 3-Wheeled, Lean-to-Steer, Swiss-designed Micro Scooter (my #9 Top Outdoor Toy recommendation).
As they move and groove through the neighborhood, they are assured to attract attention with the dazzling LED wheels. The best part about this flashy feature? They are motion activated so you do not need to invest money in a never-ending supply of batteries.
What’s more, the T-shaped handle is fully adjustable and grows with your toddler from ages 2 to 5 which eliminates the need to invest in a new ride every year. Even a minor crash will not keep your toddler down as this stylin’ ride comes with an extended two-year warranty and replaceable parts to boot.
Some assembly is required, but even your toddler could figure it out. Simply snap the T-bar into the base, adjust it to the correct height, and tighten with the hex wrench that is included. Yes, it is THAT easy!
If your toddler prefers a comfy cushion for their bottom as they boogie around the block then look no further than the Schwinn Skip Toddler Balance Bike (my #10 Top Outdoor Toy recommendation).
Available in eight groovy colors, it features 12-inch wheels, making it the perfect choice for novice riders. The lightweight steel frame and moveable steering handle make it easy for your toddler to maneuver as they push themselves along with their feet. Weighing in at only 14 pounds, this balance bike is light enough for you or your toddler to carry! You might even be able to carry them both.
The seat is fully adjustable (no tools required), and the bike boasts a limited lifetime warranty that is valid for as long as you own it.
The unique coasting style of this bike means that your toddler will be using balance and coordination to glide down the sidewalk. Before you know it, they will be ready for a pedal bike and who knows? They might even skip the training wheels. Just make sure your mini-me has all the necessary safety gear before they speed away down the block!
Whether you have the outdoor space for one, two, three, or all ten of these toys, you cannot go wrong with any of them. These are unprecedented and challenging times for children and adults alike as we are confined at home and cut off from interactions with friends outside the bubbles of our immediate families. As a parent, you owe it to your children to reintroduce a little normality and fun to their lives.
These top ten toys will keep your toddlers engaged and physically active for hours at a time while giving you and your house much-needed break. If you’re lucky, when you finally venture back into your home after spending the day zipping around the yard and the neighborhood, your toddler will be so tuckered out they might even fall asleep early, leaving you to binge on Netflix and enjoy that much-needed glass of wine. That is unless you fall into bed beside them!