Normally having a mess of toys stresses me out. But when I sit on our covered porch and look out over the sea of toys strewn around our backyard, it makes me smile. When I envisioned having kids, this is exactly what I had imagined it would be like.
A devoted homebody, I’ve always striven to make our home a place that is comfortable and fun for both us, our guests and our children. Since our entertaining space inside is limited, we’ve relied on our backyard to host parties for our friends. Over the past two summers I made sure to take time to research and purchase outdoor toys that would keep toddlers entertained and safe so parents could socialize.
With the COVID-19 pandemic closing parks and daycares, we have been spending a lot of time in our backyard, and I have been so thankful that I invested in outdoor toys to keep Annabelle and Callahan entertained.
Today I’m sharing our favorite 15 outdoor toys. For each one I discuss:
- What we like about the toy
- Different ways, other than the obvious use, that we play with it
- Durability and how it’s held up in the elements in terms of wear and fading
If you’re looking for things to do with your toddler in this time of social distancing I’d recommend shipping yourself a few of these if you don’t have them already!
This plain and simple slide has been one of Annabelle’s favorite outdoor toys. Sliding is just the tip of the iceberg of what this slide is used for.
It’s often a part of the obstacle courses we create, and it also serves as a ramp for balls to catapult down. We also put this slide into various things that Annabelle can slide into: her ball pit and her little swimming pool!
I bought ours used on Facebook marketplace, but they’re not that expensive if you buy new. The plastic holds up well in the elements and ours hasn’t showed any signs of fading color after a year plus outside.
2. Fubbles Sky High Bubble Machine (Buy Buy Baby) (Amazon)
I researched bubble machines ad nauseum, researching on Amazon for hours and days, debating whether I should spend more for a fancy machine or not. Then Annabelle was gifted this Fubbles bubble machine before I got the chance to buy one.
This tiny, inexpensive bubble machine produces SO MANY bubbles it’s really incredible.
This photo shows our entire screened porch flooded with bubbles.
It does spill easily, but I just put it up high so Annabelle doesn’t knock it over. I feel like the quantity of bubbles and price make this a great inexpensive option that is fun for kiddos of all ages. Even 8-month-old Callahan was entranced by the sea of bubbles!
Since she was a baby, Annabelle has loved swinging. With social distancing in effect and parks closed, we’ve been glad to have this swing hanging in our front yard. Annabelle loves to go “real high” – a feat only her dad can achieve.
Callahan, our 8-month-old also loves this swing and it’s easy to adjust back and forth to make it fit both kids. It has held up well outside for 2+ years now and we plan on using it for several more!
To hang this swing you will also need a tree swing kit. This is the one we bought and like from Amazon: Adjustable 5-10ft Premium Tree Swing Straps Hanging Kit.
4. Hedstrom 15″ Playball (Target)
This item, less than $3 at Target, is one of our least expensive but oft used toys. Purchased as impulse buys on two separate Target runs, we now have two – one red and one blue.
Our sloped backyard provides lots of opportunities for these balls. Annabelle rolls them down the slide, kicks them into our soccer goal and even has tried rolling them down the roller coaster.
Our balls live outside but have held up for three summers now and are still going strong!
These cones were a recent addition to our outdoor play repertoire. We purchased them after we started making obstacle courses with our other outdoor items. These codes are fun to stack, and can be set up in all sorts configurations to encourage mobility and test toddler agility.
Also, you can purchase a carnival cone set that includes bean bags and rings. Annabelle recently enjoyed using these for ring toss at her cousin’s birthday party.
6. Little Tikes Easy Store Trampoline (Target) (Amazon) (Kohls) (Buy Buy Baby)
Annabelle’s Nonna and Papa got this for her for her second birthday and it’s been a backporch hit ever since. It’s a perfect way to get a little energy out at any point in the day. Lately Annabelle has been using it to practice her cheerleader jumps that I taught her. It’s also not only a trampoline, but often “home base” or the safe area in a game of tag.
The trampoline has been sitting under our covered patio, but I did want to mention that the blue the nylon has faded a bit in the 10ish months that we’ve had it.
7. KHOMO GEAR Rectangular Platform Swing and Spin Seat Set – Large 40″ x 30″ (Amazon)
There is a house down the street from us that has a swing like this in their front yard. Before the whole COVID-19 situation, we’d stop at the neighbors swing and play for a few minutes on our daily walk.
Once social distancing started and we had to avoid the neighbors swing we decided to buy our own. Unlike the other swing this one can accommodate multiple people and is more of a “lounge” swing. It’s a fun place to relax and watch the world go by.
While this swing comes one tree strap I found it’s more secure (and a toddler can’t fall out of it) if you have two straps. I used the same tree strap kit we used for the other swing that we bought on Amazon: Adjustable 5-10ft Premium Tree Swing Straps Hanging Kit.
Five out of seven days in the week we’re playing with chalk in the driveway. Our favorite things to do are to: make an obstacle course, draw Annabelle into a butterfly, and trace each others hand, feet and bodies.
We also recently created a “track” with chalk to race scooters on which was a big hit.
I never played soccer growing up, so I didn’t realize what a hit this soccer goal would be. My in-laws got it for Annabelle for Christmas two years ago, but she’s just recently gotten into using it now that she’s a bit more coordinated.
This net is fun for playing soccer but also is a key component of our backyard obstacle courses. We’ve had it outside for two years now and it’s held up really well with minimal fading.
10. Hula Hoop (Target)
I bought three toddler-size hula hoops at the DollarSpot in Target last summer on a whim, but they’ve been a hit! We use them for about everything except hula hooping. They are used for backyard obstacle courses, to pretend play circus, and lately to roll down the hill and chase.
I have also been practicing trying to juggle with them though I haven’t gotten close to mastering that yet!
This is one of our more recent purchases, but something I wish we had bought years ago. Annabelle has always been intrigued by these roller coasters and it’s the first toy she goes to when we’re at anyone’s house or birthday party who has one.
I finally found one like this Thomas the Train one on Facebook Marketplace and bought it for about 60% of the retail price. (I’ve found these coasters go quickly and for 70-90% of retail on Craiglist and Facebook Marketplace.)
It keeps Annabelle busy for at least an hour at a time. We have a sloped backyard, so it really gets going down the hill, which she gets a total kick out of.
These have been hot this summer and go in and out of stock, so if you find one, be sure to grab it up!
12. Rain Showers Splash Pond Sand and Water Table (Zulily) (Kohls) (BuyBuyBaby)
If you live in a warm climate, a water table for a toddler is a must. Annabelle loves her water table and has since she was a baby. Now that Callahan is bigger, he loves it too.
This was actually the second water table we bought. Originally we had the the Little Tikes Spinning Seas Water Table from Target but it has never snapped together right, and the cone in the middle wasn’t fun to play with.
Last year for Christmas we got this model by Step2: Rain Showers Splash Pond Water Table. This Step2 version, has much more fun features to play with and is still compact in design and not too pricey.
Water tables have been another hot commodity and many are out of stock, so if you find one you like set an alert and grab it when it comes back in stock!
13. Cozy Coupe (Target)
Did you know that in 2008 the Cozy Coup outsold every other car in the U.S.? According to Fox News, it would land in the top-20 best-selling models of all time, if considered, having sold more than 10 million units in its 30-year history.
Invented in 1979 the Cozy Coupe is a classic children’s toy that toddlers still love. Or at least mine does! Even my 10 month old loves this classic toy.
Our cozy coup is Annabelle’s choice for transportation all around our back porch and backyard. Recently she discovered the gas tank and has been using our water hose to “fill it with gas.”
14. Little Tikes Cozy Pumper (Amazon)
Which brings me to the Cozy Pumper…which we currently have on order. After the water hose was causing too much of a mess I broke down and ordered the real gas pump from Amazon.
Annabelle loves to pretend play gas station, go inside and get snacks, pay for her gas while filling up her car. She’s going to love doing it with this new toy!
Finally, the pièce de résistance of our backyard, Annabelle’s playhouse. This was a major project – her “big” Christmas gift in 2018 – but it has provided hundreds of hours of fun.
This is a must-have for any toddler. Girls and boys alike love to play in it. It is ripe with opportunities for imagination and pretend play. Our turns from a house to a restaurant to a smoothie shop to a troll hideout from minute to minute.
Though an investment – both in money and time to assemble – you won’t regret it! You can read a full tutorial about how I customized our playhouse here: Blue & White KidKraft Playhouse Makeover Tutorial.
Here is the playhouse we have as well as similar models incase that one is out of stock:
- KidKraft Greystone Cottage Playhouse (Walmart) (Academy) (Wayfair)
- KidKraft Seaside Cottage Outdoor Playhouse (Walmart)
- Trail Timber Wooden Outdoor Playhouse (Wayfair) (Buy Kids Playhouse)
- Kidkraft Forrestview II Wooden Playhouse (Walmart)
Do you have any of these outdoor toys? What are your toddler’s favorites? Share your favorites in the comments below!