Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Best Outside Toys

With summer already here, it is always refreshing to get that outdoor time with the kids.  And sometimes it is made so much better with the right outside set-up at home, including outdoor toys.  Here are some of our family favorites:

  1. The Sandbox. Our biggest issue with it is getting the kids to keep the sand in the box, but it is otherwise a great outdoor toy.  We made ours by making an extra veggie box and filling it with sand from Diamond K instead of dirt (we were scared off the "play sand" from Home Depot when someone on the listserv reported silica in it, plus Diamond K is a really fun outing and their sand is washed river sand).  When the kids grow out of the sand box, we will fill it with dirt and make it a veggie box.  The most-used items in the sand box are the old plastic yogurt containers and some gardening trowels.  The measuring cups also get a lot of play.
  2. The Water Table. This gets hours of play, and the kids love pouring and filling and re-filling any objects, as well as the table itself.  Its biggest downfall is that it attracts bees.  We got a bag of rocks at Diamond K last time we were there, and they go between the sand box and water table and get a lot of action.
  3. Dump Trucks and Shovels. We have a bunch of these in varying sizes and materials.  The most-used are the big huge plastic ones from Target, but I know the plastic will go brittle after a year or two and wish I would have invested in some nice steel Tonka ones a few years ago (now I feel like it's too late).  For shovels, the kids love the gardening ones (the trowels and the mini shovel from Ace Hardware that looks like Mommy and Daddy's big shovel).
  4. A few bricks.  They love to stack and unstack these, and make seats, and garden art.  If you're not into bricks, try rocks.  Seriously fun.  They can wash them and stack them and paint them...
  5. A mini wheelbarrow.  The bricks go in here, or the weeds we pluck, or they love to roll it around empty.  In addition to being great for gross motor development and proprioception, my boys love to roll that thing all around the garden, and their buddies always see it and want a turn - even if we are doing something unrelated.
  6. A swing from the tree.  Depending on your child's age, you could hang a swing with a cross-bar for a baby, a regular swing for ages 2-4 (and up), and a disc swing as they near ages 5 and up.  You could also hang a rope for climbing, or a trapeze bar to swing on.  The best part of hanging it from a tree?  It's always in the shade.  Worst part?  There is a big tree trunk right there they need to watch out not to hit.
  7. Some stumps.  The kids can climb up and down them, bang nails into them, jump off them, or take a break in the shade.  You could also make a dedicated work bench for banging nails into, and drilling.
  8. Sidewalk Chalk. The kids love drawing, and tracing their feet, and washing it away and starting again.  
  9. Soccer goal and a few balls.  Depending on your kids' ages, a little basketball hoop is also nice.  
  10. Wheeled Ride-On Toys.  The classic Big Wheel, or a tricycle, or bike is always a good time.  Scooters are also fun, and they come with two or three wheels for balance these days.  Littler kids could use a mini coupe or sit-on scooting toy.
Regardless of how you spend your time outside, make sure and keep an umbrella out there, and some water for drinking.  
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