When it comes to outdoor toys for toddlers, the name of the game is engagement. The toddler years are when your child develops their motor skills, forms their language and social skills and begins utilizing their senses to better react and interact with the world around them.
While most children at this age are not quite ready to tackle the works of William Shakespeare or dive into the mysteries of Algebra, toddlers are nevertheless ripe for learning as they begin to take in and process vast quantities of information every day.
Outdoor Toys For Toddlers – Things You Should Know
This stage of development will provide the building blocks for their future educations, and the more ways you can help them explore and engage the world the better.
Outdoor time is particularly important at this stage. Not only does going outside provide general health benefits–fresh air and sunlight are as important for humans as they are for plants–but the outdoors offers multiple avenues to strengthen the areas where toddlers are developing.
Most recommend taking your child outside to play about twice a day for at least an hour. There are plenty of new sights, smells and sounds for toddlers to processes when they step out of their front doors, and opportunities to flex their growing muscles and to socialize with peers in wholesome settings.
Outdoor toys for toddlers should help support this exploration and engagement. They should safely provide avenues for children to exercise their minds and bodies and should encourage social development. When choosing outdoor toys for toddlers, consider whether or not the structure and function of the toy stimulate the physical, intellectual and/or emotional aspects of your child. Ask yourself:
- Does this toy encourage solitude or does it actively call for group play?
- Does it invoke my toddler’s imagination?
- Will my child move around when using this toy?
- Will he/she remain stationary?
- Are his or her senses being engaged? Are their interesting textures, sounds or colors for them to feel, hear or see while using this toy?
Asking questions like these will help you evaluate different outdoor toys for toddlers so that you can decide how useful they’ll be. You should be on the lookout for toys that have multiple uses or functions, allowing for endless play options.
These toys will keep your toddler entertained for hours, enabling their imaginations to flourish along with their motor and cognitive skills.
Of course, when looking at outdoor toys for toddlers, you also want to make sure that they’re not only going to be learning tools but also that they are safe, durable and attractive. As with any toy you give a child, there shouldn’t be many small parts that could be swallowed, and they shouldn’t be unstable or unwieldy in their construction.
Since by definition outdoor toys for toddlers will be used outdoors, you should also make sure the materials used are ones that can withstand not just the usual wear and tear of play, but also that of the elements.
Finally, look for toys that are attractive to toddlers. Bright, vibrant colors with cheerful designs will encourage your child to play with the toy, ensuring that your purchase is well worth the money spent.
Still not sure what outdoor toys to get your toddler? Here are six examples of great outdoor toys for toddlers that encourage the type of play that leads to child learning and growth. All of the items listed below are easy to find and order online and should spark more ideas of what to get your toddler.
Outdoor Toys for Toddlers – Top 6 Picks
- Play Structures
The first thing that probably comes to mind when thinking of outdoor toys for toddlers is play structures. Though there are many forms that people can buy, with all sorts of bells and whistles, when looking for one that is age appropriate for this stage, think in terms of scale.
Your toddler needs to be able to navigate the structure easily. So while it might be tempting to go for a set that your child can “grow into”, it is worth holding off on the larger set and come back to it when your child’s grown another foot or two. Instead, look for a play structure that is easy to climb with only a few steps, like the Step2 Panda Climber.
You also want to find a play set that allows for multiple forms of movement: climbing, sliding and crawling. And be sure as always that it is one meant to be outdoors. Look for plastic or wood construction, and stay away from metal structures that might get very hot in the sun, especially if you live in a warmer climate.
- Swing Sets
Another popular outdoor toy is the swing. Swings and swing sets are easy to find and are beloved by children of all ages. For a toddler, swing sets allow for leg muscle development and give you an opportunity to play directly with your child.
Turn the moment into a bonding experience by talking or singing with your child as you push him or her. Rhyming songs or repeated phrases set to the rhythm of a swing can help further foster language development.
As with other outdoor toys for toddlers, safety is a priority when it comes to a swing set. You want to make sure that the swing you buy is not made of metal. As mentioned above, metal can heat up quickly and lead to burns. Not only that, but many swing sets use exposed chains to hold up the swings and it’s easy for little fingers to get caught in the links.
Look instead for swings like the Kettler Baby Seat Swing Set that uses ropes, or at the very least one which wraps the chain links in rubber. Also, make sure that the seat itself has a secure seatbelt function so that your child doesn’t slip out and fall.
There are classics in every toy category, and seesaws definitely fit the bill when it comes to outdoor toys for toddlers.
Seesaws come in all shapes and sizes, with fun characters like the green Little Tykes Classic Alligator Teeter Totter.
Not only are most seesaws and teeter-totters made out of safe, toddler-friendly materials, by definition they call for social play, encouraging your child to interact with others.
They also foster balance and motor skills, making them an all-around good choice for children at this age.
- Monkey Bars
Though your toddler is probably not ready for the full sized monkey bars that can be found on most playgrounds, they are ready to stretch their arms and practice the fundamentals. Today you can easily find mini-monkey bar arrangements like the Toy Monster Monkey Bars Climbing Tower from Eezy Peezy.
These monkey bars are great for many reasons. To start with, they’re scaled down to a size toddlers can manage. Additionally, unlike traditional monkey bars, they’re made of treated plastic tubes so you don’t have to worry about them heating up or fading. Most importantly, the igloo-like construction allows for multiple methods of play.
Toddlers can climb up the outside, swing from the inside, and crawl through the sides. The shape also lends itself well to imaginative play. Add a sheet over the top and you have a tent. Close your eyes and you’re in a bear cave. The possibilities are endless for the growing imagination, making this a great addition to your list of outdoor toys for toddlers.
- Beginner Bikes
At this age, your child should be ready for his or her first bike. A set of wheels is not only excellent exercise but also encourages your toddler to get out of the house and explore the world. A bicycle will also free you up from stroller detail. Today, there are limitless options of bikes to choose from when it comes to toddlers.
When choosing the right first bike for your toddler, consider the materials very carefully. Not only do you want to be careful about metal (again, heating), you want to also take look at the moving parts. Chances are, in addition to riding the bike, your toddler will also try to play with it in other ways. So spoked wheels can be a hazard to small fingers.
Look for a bike that has solid wheels, like those found on the Fisher-Price Rock, Roll, ‘n Ride Trike. Also, you might want to try a bike that uses gravity and friction, like the PlasmaCar by PlaSmart that keeps your child’s feet off the ground for very early riders who still tend to get their feet caught under a traditional bicycle’s pedals, or who tire easily.
Even if they don’t fall into those categories, most toddlers enjoy the feeling of driving PlasmaCars since they in many ways simulate adult vehicles, allowing them to feel in control and ‘grown up.’
- Water Toys
The final entry in this list for great outdoor toys for toddlers are water toys. Water toys are great for toddlers not only in helping them cool off on hot days but because water provides an additional layer to outdoor sensory exploration.
While most think of kiddy pools and sprinklers when they think of toddler water toys, there are many other options available. For example, the Spill & Splash Seaway Water Table from Step2 has two layers of shallow plastic pools that allow toddlers to scoop and pour water into numerous receptacles, letting them build motor skills while they play.
Most water tables on the market today include buckets and other fun accessories that are age appropriate and effortlessly hook up to your average garden hose for quick assembly. Make sure you place any water toy you buy, be it a pool, water table or even a plain ol’ bucket, in an area that won’t get slippery when wet.
A shaded porch or patio is ideal for water toys. Remember also to supervise your child carefully whenever water’s being used in play to keep. That being said, you’ll love how your toddler’s face lights up with the addition of water, making water toys a must add to your list of outdoor toys for toddlers.
And those are our top six picks for outdoor toys for toddlers. Remember, the keys to remember when looking for outdoor toys for toddlers are that they encourage multiple forms of interaction and play, are safe, durable and finally attractive to toddlers. If you keep those points in mind, you’ll be out with your toddler having a blast in the fresh air in no time!