Spring has sprung, summer is on the horizon, and warm forecasts are encouraging families to take advantage of the nice weather. This is especially true for families with toddlers running around the house; little ones go stir crazy when they’re cooped up for months on end, especially in Covid times when parents have to navigate working from home and spending time with their family. One solution would be to set up shop on the patio and gather enough outdoor toys for toddlers to keep your tot busy while you work (or take a much-needed mental break yourself).
Pandemic or no pandemic, it’s important for children to get outside. They can breathe in the fresh air, soak in a little vitamin D, and expel some of that pent-up energy they’d otherwise use to make their parents go crazy. Of course, during the summer when the sun is beating down and unforgiving, you also have to take weather conditions into consideration and invest in toys and activities that will also keep your child cool and protected from the sun. So, what are your options?
According to Jackie Breyer, Editorial Director of The Toy Insider, some of the most popular and timeless toddler-friendly summer activities include biking or scooting, swimming in a baby or big pool, and running through a sprinkler. At home sandboxes are also a hit, Breyer tells Spy. “Kids can stay busy building sandcastles and construction toys work really well in the sand, too.”
That being said, the best toys to keep your child entertained this summer will ultimately depend on your child’s interests. Keeping Breyer’s tips in mind, we’ve rounded up some of the best outdoor toys for toddlers on the market in 2021. From water play to their first set of wheels, this list has something enticing for every tot.
1. Little Tikes FOAMO Foam Machine
FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY
Little Tikes is making sure no one in your family experiences FOMO this summer with this epic backyard foam machine. Little ones will love running through the clouds of bubbles with mom, dad, and their siblings in tow, but if you’re swamped with work, no worries; the toy is approved for ages 3 years and over, so you can supervise your toddlers’ fun from your patio table.
2. Little Tikes 2-in-1 Lemonade and Ice Cream Stand
FOR THE MINI ENTREPRENEUR
This summer, your toddler’s first lemonade stand comes courtesy of Little Tikes. Help them scout out the best place in the yard to set up shop and pay a visit once in a while for a refreshing (plastic) beverage and some good company. This two-in-one Cool Treat’s cart comes with 25 accessories, including ice cream scoops, pull-apart popsicles, and a lemonade pitcher, plus a useable chalkboard, so your little businessperson-in-training has everything they need to keep customers (aka you) coming back for more! (Don’t forget to tip.)
3. Step2 Full-Court B-Ball Inflatable Bouncer
FOR THE ATHLETE-IN-TRAINING
If you have a big backyard just begging to be filled with outdoor toddler toys, Step2 is here with the assist. This awesome inflatable bouncer’s design is comparable to the full courts you’d see at an NBA game. With two hoops and a detailed floor, plus an inflatable slide to roll down and climb up, Step2’s version of a bounce house helps toddlers learn the value of teamwork through sports and helps fine-tune their motor and critical thinking skills through passing, running, and figuring out their next move before making it. Plus, with mesh siding, parents can keep a close eye on their MVP from all angles.
4. NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC Balance Stepping Stones
BEST FOR FINE MOTOR SKILL DEVELOPMENT
Toddlers learn and grow so much in so little time, but any chance you have to help them fine-tune their fine motor skills, like coordination and balance, take it. This outdoor toddler toy from National Geographic is a great way to do just that: Simply arrange the colorful stepping stones in an obstacle-fashion around your yard and watch as your little one hops from one to the other.
5. Sunny Patch Butterfly Exploration Gift Set
FOR THE NATURE LOVERS
As the weather starts to warm up, butterflies will break free of their cocoons and fly around your home, no doubt catching the eye of your curious toddler. That’s when the Melissa & Doug Sunny Patch Butterfly Exploration Gift Set will come in handy. Equipped with the brand’s Sunny Patch Cutie Pie Butterfly Bug House, Cutie Pie Binoculars, and Pretty Petals Flashlight, your child will be well prepared to find, observe, and maybe even catch these gorgeous insects.
6. Chalk City Non-Toxic Sidewalk Chalk
FOR COLORING OUTSIDE THE LINES
If you have a driveway or concrete walkway of sorts, put away their coloring books in lieu of a much bigger, less limiting canvas. With Chalk City’s massive bucket of non-toxic sidewalk chalk, toddlers can scribble and shade in their freestyle creations for all of your visitors to see. Toddlers will love having free reign to draw whatever and wherever they please, and parents can rest assured knowing their little Picasso’s creations aren’t permanent.
7. Step2 Cascading Cove Sand & Water Table
BEST FOR SUN PROTECTION
Not everyone lives down or near the shore, but luckily there are sand boxes and tables to bring that beachy experience to toddlers who love digging in the dirt. This setup from Step2 is an especially great outdoor toy for toddlers because not only does it keep them entertained with sand and water play, it also keeps them protected from the sun via a 42-inch umbrella big enough to shield your toddler and their BFF.
8. TP Toys Muddy Maker Mud Kitchen
TO PLAY WITH DIRT
There are toddlers that like playing in the sand, and then there are toddlers that like playing in the mud. If your little one is among the latter, let them get down and dirty in a more controlled setting with the Muddy Maker Mud Kitchen from TP Toys. With wet and dry activity areas, “mud kitchen” stencils, an oven door they can open and close, removable splash tub, storage space for their tools, a hanging rail, chalkboard, serving station, as well as stainless steel pots, pans, and a whisk, the playset comes fully stocked with everything they need to whip up decadent mud pies and other earthy creations.
9. Bunch O Balloons Instant Water Balloons
BEST FOR KEEPING COOL
Water balloons are a vastly underrated water toy, probably because they’re a pain to tie up correctly. Enter Bunch O Balloons: The water balloon your older toddler (3 years and up) can fill up and secure all on their own because they’re — wait for it — self-sealing. Of course, these innovative water balloons are so cool (and cooling), we can’t blame mom and dad for wanting in on the fun, too. Just screw the bundle to the water hose, and watch as each balloon fills up and pops off one by one. No muss, no fuss, and whatever materials are left over can be collected and shipped to TerraCycle to be recycled.
10. Step2 Up & Down Roller Coaster Rapid Ride & Hide
BEST RIDING TOY
After watching her nephews zip up and down Step2’s roller coaster for hours, this writer can vouch that this outdoor toy for toddlers is just as awesome as it looks. The colorful track comes with two sets of non-slip steps that allow your little one to climb up to the platform from either side, as well as a bright red coaster car they’ll cruise on in style. Think toddlers are too little to have a need for speed? Think again.
11. Magna-Tiles 32-Piece Clear Colors Set
Some of the best indoor toys also make great outdoor toys, too, and that’s definitely the case when it comes to Magnatiles. For toddlers who enjoy building and parents who don’t want to deal with mess, swap molding clay and soft doughs for these 3-D magnetic shapes that will not only spark your child’s creative fire, but also help fine-tune their math, science, spatial, and tactile skills.
12. Lydaz Bubble Mower
BEST PUSH TOY
Toddlers love to mimic Mommy and Daddy, especially when it comes to yard work. The Lydaz mower let’s them “help” you maintain the lawn, with an added bonus — bubble play! The push toy (great for fine-tuning balance and coordination) emits real engine and gear sounds, and, with a push of a button, releases a flurry of bubbles they can pop on the job.
13. Playskool Sit ‘n Spin
As a ’90s baby herself, this writer is all for introducing the toddlers of today to the toys of generations past whenever possible, and the Playskool Sit ‘n Spin is no exception. This classic outdoor toy for toddlers is sure to draw up all the nostalgic feels for Mom and Dad, but it will also provide hours of play for tots that like to keep it moving. What’s more, the self-twirling toy also helps little ones practice balance, coordination, and sharpen their motor skills. All this to say: Just because it’s old school, doesn’t mean it’s overrated.
14. Radio Flyer My 1st Scooter
The jury’s out on whether scooting or biking is better for toddlers; both forms of exercise offer your child a slew of health benefits like core strengthening and stabilizing their thigh muscles, as well as developmental skills like spatial awareness, balance, and coordination, so it really comes down to what your toddler is most interested in trying. Personally, this writer’s a big fan of scooters, and this model from Radio Flyer is a particularly great option for beginner riders. With two front wheels and a wide deck for balancing, plus a specially designed turning radius to ensure your little one’s safety, parents can rest assured their tots are taken care of as they zig and zag on this set of wheels.
15. Hesung Dreo Inflatable Play Center
Toddler pools are a great option to keep your child cool on hot summer afternoons, but Hesung’s sweet pool doubles as a play center, with features that make wading in the water a little more entertaining for your tot (especially if they’re playing solo). Sliding down the sprinkled slide into the water will give them a thrill, while sitting under the iced pink archway waterfall will help to keep them cool. There’s even an inflatable candy umbrella for shade and inflatable rings and lollipops to toss and twirl. And if you’re not in the mood to fill up the pool with water, Dad, no worries; the center works just as well as a makeshift ball pit.