Toddlers love to be outside. If you’re lucky enough to have a garden or other outside space you can buy all sorts of things to keep them entertained. The trouble is there is almost too much choice. For that reason I have written the guidance below of choosing outside toys for toddlers.
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Factors to Consider when Choosing Outside Toys for Toddlers
There are a few factors that you’ll want to consider to help you choose the best outdoor toys for your toddler, including space, budget and your toddler’s attitude.
How Much Space you Have for Outside Toys
If you have a big garden you can of course fill it with as many toys as you like. If it’s smaller, or even just a balcony, you’ll want to think carefully about what you choose. Playground equipment is great if you have the space but if you don’t it has the benefit of being more exciting when they go to the park. If space is limited I would focus on water play toys as these are small but provide a lot of fun.
What Your Budget is
When choosing outside toys for toddlers, you need to consider whether you have only a little bit of money to spend or are you looking to invest in something for the long term? For us, the garden toy we have had the most use from is without doubt out trampoline. We decided to skip the toddler size and went straight for an 8 foot one. This is has been used pretty much daily all summer, every summer and my kids are now 7 and 10.
If you only want to spend a small amount then a bottle of bubbles and a cheap paddling pool will get you the most bang for your buck (and peace from your toddler).
Your Toddler’s Attitude
Some toddlers hate messy play. If your toddler does then stay away from sand play and possibly bubbles and water play too.
If you have a toddler who is very careful, you might want to consider something for them to climb on to build their confidence. If you have a risk taker, you might find a climbing frame, swings or slides too much for your stress levels. Adventurous toddlers often find far more risky things to do with slides than just go down them!
You can also consider their interests. If they love copying you then a mini gardening set or toy lawnmower might go down well. If they are sporty then a football and a goal could be fun.
Types of Outside Toy you Could Choose
There are a huge range of different types of outside toys you could choose. Below I have listed them in categories and highlighted the key features.
Water Based toys – The Number One Outside Toy for Toddlers
When choosing outside toys for toddlers, my number one pick would be a water based toy. While some of the year it will be too cold to use them, when it isn’t they will provide more entertainment than anything else.
Paddling pools are great and you will almost certainly want one at some point. You can get just a simple
pool*, or some that are more like a mini water play centre*. Slip and slides can be fun too but depend a lot on your garden, slopes are ok but if you don’t have a smooth surface, like a well taken care of lawn, the results can be quite uncomfortable.
If you want something that doesn’t need quite so much supervision then a water table is a good idea. This one from Little Tikes* was a big hit with my kids when they had a go with it on holiday but it is quite pricey, this is a more budget friendly option*.
If you want to splash out then an Aquaplay* is a lovely toy. It’s almost like a water based rain set with boats instead of trains. I took ours to a summer fete once and every toddler made a beeline for it. While they will grow out of it after a few years it can be a worthwhile investment if you have more than one child. They also sell secondhand for a good price.
You can also create your own cheap water toy which your toddler will probably love just as much with an old washing up bowl and some plastic cups or bowls.
I used to beg my Mum to get a swing* for our garden when I was a child and now my children do the same to me but alas, our garden isn’t quite big enough. If you’ve got multiple young children remember that if you have a swing you’ll need to keep an eye out to make sure they don’t run in front of it.
Slides can be great fun in the garden and can also be put together with a paddling pool to create a makeshift water slide. It’s worth buying a fairly large one* otherwise you won’t get much use out of it before it’s outgrown.
Climbing frames for toddlers can come in many different forms, from simple ones like this* (which also make great dens) that are ideal for small spaces to really beautiful sets like this*.
As previously mentioned, our trampoline is our most used outside toy. You can buy toddler ones* which are small, and lower the likelihood of falling, or go straight for a full size one* that will last for years.
Most toddlers like to play with balls so a small football* and a goal can be fun. Like with the trampoline, you can buy a small goal* or just go straight to a larger one*.
You can also buy mini basketball hoops* for toddlers if yours happens to have particularly good hand eye coordination. Our kids had one as toddlers but it didn’t tend to hold their interest for long.
Other sports equipment could include a bat and ball (although wait until they are a bit older for swing ball) or a golf set. You can also set up fun activities with mini bean bags*, cones* and a ring toss*, this set* contains all three. If you’re the competitive style, you can even set up your own mini sports day.
Bubbles and other Cheap Outdoor Toys
A simple bottle of bubbles can provide hours of amusement. If you buy the giant ones* its a good idea to attach the bottle to something like a table leg with masking tape to stop little hands from spilling it. Bubble machines* are also great if you’ve had enough of blowing. Just make sure the ground where you are playing with bubbles doesn’t end up too slippery which can happen with some patios.
Chalk can be great fun for toddlers if you’ve got a patio where they can draw with it. Are sure you get the large, pavement chalks* which are easier for little hands to manage than the little sticks.
Ride on Toys for the Garden
While some people keep their ride on toys in the house, others keep them outside. If space is at a premium, something foldable like a Scuttlebug* is a great choice. If you prefer something plastic that won’t rust, a plastic trike* can work well. Alternatively, you can start their cycling career with a balance bike*. If you don’t fancy wheels flying about your garden you might also consider the classic Little Tikes Horse Rocker*. Check out the link at the bottom of this post for more advice about choosing ride on toys.
While my mum would never have considered sand in the garden, it’s pretty common these days. You can go for a sandpit* that is big enough for toddlers to get in or a sand table*. Make sure you get something that can be covered as otherwise your neighbourhood cats will use it as a litter tray. Look out for special offers on sacks of sand at the supermarkets, usually in the spring, you’ll be surprised how much of it you get through (not to mention the places it ends up!)
You can buy some lovely gardening sets* for children and these can be great if you want to stat showing them how food and flowers grow. There are also lots of toy lawnmowers* if they want to mimic you, including ones that blow bubbles*. Toddler sized brooms* are also usually a big hit and save them trying to steel yours.
I always dreamed of having a playhouse as a child so was definitely keen to have one for my children. They are great for role play games and have the added benefit of giving you somewhere to store your toddler’s outside toys. We had a plastic one like this* which lasted a good five years but you might prefer an attractive wooden one*.
A Toddler Bouncy Castle
If you want to go all out why not buy your own bouncy castle*? They don’t have a huge amount of longevity but your toddler will have great fun with it. They really come into their own if you’re having a birthday party at home for your toddler, your guests will all be very impressed! Just be aware that are noisy and do not cheap to run.
Garden Toys for Toddlers that aren’t Actually Toys
While there is lots of great stuff available to buy, your toddler will likely find ways to amuse themselves with whatever is available. Logs, buckets, stones, string, bowls, plant pots, old kitchen utensils and, mud will all come to life in your toddlers hands, providing lots of creative entertainment.
The 5 Best Outdoor Toys for Toddlers
If I could only choose five outdoor toys for a toddler, and space and money were no object, these would be my must have garden toys:
- A Water Table – Will keep them amused for the longest amount of time but doesn’t require as much supervision as a paddling pool
- A Bubble Machine – Toddlers love bubbles but I get bored of blowing after a while, this is the perfect solution
- A bean bags, cones and rings set – cheated a bit there, three toys in one but a great combination for playing games
- A Trampoline- I’d go straight for a big one, with netting for safety, rather than starting with a toddler trampoline that they’ll outgrow pretty quickly
- A Playhouse – As much for it’s storage potential as anything else but also great for toddlers who like to role play
So that’s everything you need to know about choosing outside toys for toddlers. Which outdoor toys do your toddlers like the best? Let me know in the comments. If you’re interested in other toddler toys, check out my guide to choosing ride on toys for toddlers guide to choosing play kitchens and the 6 Essential Toys for Toddlers as well as this post about Indoor Climbing for Toddlers.
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