There are an abundance of toys that can be used outside.
However, I want to show you the best outdoor toys for kids that will lead to learning through natural, unstructured play.
These toys are excellent for boosting your child’s creative and imaginative side.
Have you noticed that fewer kids seem to be playing outside?
And by playing, I don’t mean partaking in a weekly soccer game.
I mean good old fashioned, getting dirty, running around, being carefree play.
The reason for this is probably partially due to the busy schedules many families have as well as safety concerns.
And then there is the rise of technology.
Children love screens and many would prefer to sit inside playing a new game, checking out a fun app or just watching a show on TV.
It is the responsibility of the parent to ensure their child is getting outside, just like it’s a parent’s responsibility to make sure their child is fed and clothed.
In addition to facilitating creativity, imagination and pretend play, these toys all boost language development through theme specific vocabulary.
For example, Garden Table vocabulary can include: flowers, flower pot, dig, water, pour, dirty, clean, wet, dry, etc.
Children can also practice fine and gross motor skills, problem solving, prediction, cause and effect and social skills with all of these toys.
I will start with some toys for children ages 2-5 and then look at some that are more appropriate for those over the age of 5 (however, most are fine for children over 3).
To jump to outdoor toys for children over 5 click here.
Best Outdoor Toys For Toddlers and Preschoolers (2-5 Year olds)
Most children seem to love dinosaur digs and treasure hunts! With the Step2 Dino Dig sand and water table, your child can play with dinosaurs while going on treasure hunts!
Your child can mine for treasures and dinosaurs in the sand (it comes with 4 dinosaurs, you would have to add the “treasures” yourself).
This set also comes with two scoops and a shovel/rake.
There’s also a “volcano” that can be placed on top of the sand portion of the table. Alternatively it can be taken off so your child can play with the sand.
The “volcano” can then be used to clean off buried treasures or dinosaurs.
This garden table makes a great indoor and outdoor toy. Your little one can become a budding gardener year round!
When used outside, the table can be filled sand or water, or both, we all know mud is a child’s best friend!
Your child can play independently and pretend to plant flowers with the plastic soil discs and flowers that fit into the flower pots. Or you can show your child how to plant real flowers using soil. There is a small hole at the bottom of each pot so water can drain out.
If you don’t have enough space for a wooden or plastic playhouse, a pop up tent and tunnel set like this one by Truedays Kid’s might be what you are looking for.
Of course, since it is quite portable (and can be used indoors) it is bare bones inside. There are no sinks, faucets or stoves. So your little one can use their imagination, or if you have some small toys, you can easily put them inside.
Please note, the balls shown in the picture do not come with this product. They need to be purchased separately.
But you don’t need to add any balls. Your child can pretend that the “ball pit” is simply another room in the house. Or maybe it’s the bathtub for her dolls. Again, there are no limits on your child’s imagination!
An outdoor (or indoor, as most can be set up inside) playhouse is the perfect toy to inspire imagination and creativity. This playhouse is the perfect size for 2-6 year olds (although the manufacturer says children up to the age of 8 can play in it).
You might be wondering how specific speech and language skills can be enhanced with playhouses and that is great because I have the answer for you here.
There are so many different types of ride on vehicles to choose from. So I won’t choose just one to show you. The one pictured below has been a beloved toy for 30 years! But there are many others to choose from.
Ride on vehicles boost imagination because a child can drive literally anywhere they want (for pretend of course!). For example, they might go to the store, or stop at the gas station. Perhaps the car broke down and they need to take it into the mechanic. Or maybe the car is now a train, boat or plane.
Want to know the best part? I have an entire article dedicated to the benefits of a ride on fire truck. While that article is specific to a fire truck many of the skills discussed can be applied to any ride on vehicle.
Best Outdoor Toys for School Aged Children (5+ years)
Unfortunately there aren’t many outdoor toys that inspire imaginary play for children as they get older other than fancy backyard playsets. Don’t get me wrong, the large outdoor playsets are fantastic, if you have the space. And they can get quite pricey ($1000+).
But if space and cost are not an issue, then a large outdoor playset such as the Summerstone Cedar Summit Playset might be right for you and your family.
However, there are a few larger playhouses and climbers that are reasonably priced and not too big that work well for older children, or children of varying ages such as a 3,5 and 8 year old.
While this isn’t a playhouse it would still work well for children between the ages of 3-10. And it can easily be moved inside over the winter months! Kids can host their own backyard party and make all of the food with their very own BBQ. If you have a playhouse or some other play structure, move the BBQ in or near it for more creative play.
♥ You Might Also Like: The 5 Best Kids Play Kitchens: They Will All Encourage Language and Learning! ♥
This climber is so basic that your child will come up with so many different play scenarios! It is great for children ages 3-10 (so it can fit in both age categories).
Children will burn calories while climbing and playing! However, you might also notice that your child’s imagination may turn this climber into a restaurant, or a greenhouse, or maybe a UFO. Turn it into a tent by covering it with a large sheet or tarp!
If you would prefer something smaller, check out the Toy Monster Jungle Monkey Bars Tower. It’s meant for children ages 3-6.
This playhouse is appealing to older children as it looks like a cute cottage. It also has a play burner, sink and faucet. Your child can turn the cottage into a restaurant where one child is the cook and the other can sit on the attached bench outside and place his order!
And it’s made of cedar so it will look wonderful in any yard!
Step2 2-Story Playhouse & Slide
This playhouse is recommended for children ages 3-8. Since it has 2 levels, older kids won’t find it too babyish, yet younger children can still play as well.
As I mentioned above, outdoor playhouses are the perfect toy to practice and develop speech and language skills while engaging in pretend play.
Which Outdoor Toy Is Best?
There are so many wonderful toys to choose from, but these are the best outdoor toys for kids if you are looking for a way encourage their imagination and creativity. Pretend play is a necessary part of language development and learning and should not be taken for granted!
What are your child’s favorite outdoor toys?