The best outdoor toys and games for kids of all ages – Insider – INSIDER

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Outdoor toys are one of the best ways to encourage kids to spend time outside. We talked to five toy and play experts to find the best outdoor toys for kids, including toddlers, elementary-schoolers, and tweens. See also: the best kiddie pools, playhouses, swing sets, and outdoor toys for toddlersDue to unusually high demand and supply shortage, some of these toys are out of stock at major retailers. We continue to monitor inventory and update this list accordingly.It can be hard to get kids off screens and into the great outdoors. But with the right games and toys, they’ll be begging to go out, and you might even get to relax while you watch them play. From simple water balloons to elaborate inflatable pools, we compiled some of the best outdoor toys for your kids this summer. To learn more about what to look for in an outdoor toy and to find some of the best, we spoke to five child and toy experts: Laurie Leahey, senior editor at Toys, Tots, Pets & More, Joyce Shulman, founder and CEO of Macaroni Kid; Lee Scott, director of curriculum and enrichment programs for The Goddard School; Adrienne Appell, senior director of strategic communications at The Toy Association and an expert behind the Play Today campaign; and Laurie Schacht, chief toy officer of The Toy Insider. What makes a good outdoor toy? Before getting into specific recommendations, our experts shared the attributes they believe are necessary for an outdoor toy to be great. Most of them agree that not only should an outdoor toy obviously get kids outside, it should also get them moving. In addition, Scott recommends open-ended toys. “Using interactive toys help children express their creativity and build critical thinking skills,” she said. Toys like this allow children to use their imagination while playing because there is no one set way to engage with them.”Outdoor toys that stand the test of time are those that tap into a child’s inherent desire for creative play, physical movement, and the joy of nature,” said Shulman.A good toy needs to be durable and safe, too. Be sure to practice constant, close supervision around water and always use helmets with toys like bikes and scooters. Here are 14 of the best outdoor toys for kids: The best scooter: Micro Maxi ScooterThe best outdoor playhouse: KidKraft Blue Trail Timber Wooden PlayhouseThe best outdoor game: GoSports Wooden Toppling TowerThe best sandbox: KidKraft Outdoor Sandbox with CanopyThe best bubbles: Gazillion BubblesThe best sidewalk chalk: Crayola Sidewalk ChalkThe best kite: In the Breeze Rainbow KiteThe best kiddie pool: Intex Jungle Play CenterThe best water balloons: Zuru Bunch O BalloonsThe best water table: Step2 Rain Showers Splash PondThe best balance bike: Strider 12 Balance BikeThe best outdoor toy for sports lovers: Step2 Soccer Goal and Pitch BackThe best swing set: KidKraft Cranbrook Wooden Swing SetThe best outdoor toy for nighttime: Capture the Flag REDUX

The best scooter

Target

Appell recommends the Micro Kickboard brand, and I’ve tested one of their toddler scooters as well. Their scooters are very well made and sturdy. With two wheels on the front, it’s easier for kids to balance. The Micro Maxi also features a lean-to-steer design — kids use their body weight to maneuver rather than turning the handlebars. The T-bar is adjustable to grow with your child, making this an investment that will last for years. Recommended ages: 5 to 12 years old

$129.99 from Target

$139.99 from Amazon

The best outdoor playhouse

Wayfair

This wooden playhouse has it all to fuel your kid’s imagination: a stove with utensils, a window seat, a grill, and a covered patio. It even has planter boxes for kids to grow real flowers, giving them a chance to bring their dramatic and pretend play to life. Wooden playhouses are extremely durable, and they look great in your yard. Schacht recommended this one from KidKraft. “It looks like a beautiful cottage, and it has so many elements that I love to see in a playhouse,” she said. For more options, read our guide to the best playhouses.Recommended ages:  2 to 10 years old*Currently out of stock

$499.99 from Wayfair

$500.00 from Birch Lane

The best outdoor game

Amazon

Shulman said giant outdoor wooden blocks are a great toy for outside play. Kids can use them to play a classic game of Jenga, but they can also be used as building blocks. This set includes 54 blocks, a carrying case, and a dry-erase board players can use to make up their own unique rules. This element is wonderful for helping kids get creative and develop critical-thinking skills. Depending on the set you choose, your tower can reach up to 5 feet. Recommended ages: 8 years and up*Currently out of stock at some retailers 

$69.98 from Amazon

$84.99 from Walmart

$95.99 from Overstock

The best sandbox

Amazon

Sandboxes are the ultimate open-ended outdoor toy, and we especially love this one because it has a canopy to shield kids from the sun. Insider Reviews named this the best wooden sandbox. The innovative design includes benches that double as storage for toys. It also comes with two plastic bins kids can incorporate into their play and a mesh cover to protect the sand when not in use.  Recommended ages: 2 to 8 years old

$234.39 from Amazon

$234.39 from Walmart

The best bubbles

Walmart

Most of our experts hailed bubbles as an excellent classic outdoor toy. This solution of bubbles from Gazillion will ensure your child won’t come running asking for more anytime soon. It features a long 7-in-1 bubble wand that makes every breath count. The bubble solution is nontoxic and doesn’t stain, so you can hand over the bottle and let your kids have at it. Recommended ages: 3 years and up

$10.52 from Amazon

Originally $12.99Save 19%

The best sidewalk chalk

Staples

Crayola is a long-revered brand, and their sidewalk chalk doesn’t disappoint. Schacht recommends Crayola as a tried and true brand for kids. This set comes with 48 different colors, ideal for any young artist who really wants to get creative. It washes off easily with water, and each piece of chalk is squared so it won’t roll away. Recommended ages: 4 years and up

$4.19 from Staples

The best kite

Walmart

This simple 30-inch kite will look beautiful in the sky and give you and your child an excuse to get outside on a windy day. The classic rainbow diamond kite with a beautiful rainbow tail is made of weather-resistant fabric and fiberglass rods. It is recommended for winds from 6 to 20 mph and comes with a kite line and handle, so your kids can get out and fly it right away.Recommended ages: 3 years and up

$13.99 from Walmart

The best inflatable kiddie pool

Intex

This pool has a fun design that offers something for little and big kids alike. Some kiddie pools come with a slide, which adds an extra element of fun to pool play. The Jungle Play Center includes both a slide and a sprayer. The pool area is shallow enough for toddlers to comfortably play, and the slide provides added excitement for the bigger kids. An inflatable giraffe and monkey and five floating balls add to the fun. Insider Reviews contributor Jackie Brown named this the best kiddie pool in our guide and said it was an instant hit with both her toddler and big kid.Recommended ages: 2 and up*Currently out of stock

$99.99 from Walmart

The best water balloons

Zuru

Gone are the days of spending an hour prepping water balloons for a water fight. With Bunch O Balloons, you can fill and tie 100 water balloons in less than a minute. All you need to do is connect them to the hose, turn the water on, and pull them off when they’re full. They’ll come off sealed and ready to go. Leahy gives Bunch O Balloons her seal of approval. Recommended ages: 3 years and up

$9.99 from Amazon

The best water table

Wayfair

This one landed at the top of the list in our roundup of the best water tables. It has two levels, 13 accessories, and multiple buckets and pouring areas. Kids can pour water into the top level to create a rain shower. The table also has a water maze kids can arrange themselves, which provides an element of STEM play that involves problem-solving and learning about cause and effect. Recommended ages:  1½ years old and up*Currently out of stock at some retailers 

$69.98 from Wayfair

$69.98 from Step2

Originally $79.98Save 13%

$69.98 from Buy Buy Baby

$69.98 from Bed Bath & Beyond

The best balance bike

REI Co Op

We named this the best balance bike in our guide to the best kids’ bikes. The Strider 12 has air-free tires so you’ll never need a pump. It’s also lightweight, making it easy for your child to maneuver in tight spaces, and you can toss it into the car for trips to the park. Even better, this bike is designed to grow with your child with its adjustable seat and handlebar.Recommended ages: 18 months to 5 years

$110.00 from REI Co Op

The best outdoor toy for sports lovers

Amazon

Whether your children love baseball, soccer, or hockey, this net and pitchback will help them hone their skills. The set comes with a goal/pitchback, soccer ball, two hockey sticks, a street hockey puck, and a pitchback ball. The goal measures 30 inches wide and 48 inches high and requires very minimal assembly. Recommended ages: 3 years and up

$33.69 from Amazon

$39.99 from Step2

Originally $44.99Save 11%

The best swing set

KidKraft

This sturdy KidKraft swing set is our top pick for the best swing sets. It includes a wavy slide, rock wall, playhouse complete with a door, decorative windows, and a full cafe setup complete with a dining bench. Business Insider Senior Editor Debbie Strong recently bought this one for her family. “It’s only been a week, but we are loving it. It’s not too huge and it seems durable and well made,” she said. The structure is made of wood, while some of the features are made of plastic. KidKraft estimates that it will take two people 8 to 10 hours to assemble, but once it’s done, your kids (and maybe even your grandkids someday) will have years of fun ahead of them. Recommended ages: 3 to 10 years old*Currently out of stock at some retailers 

$1,175.99 from The Home Depot

$1,701.39 from Walmart

$939.99 from Wayfair

The best outdoor toy for nighttime

Amazon

Leahey recommends glow-in-the-dark Capture the Flag because it’s perfect for the whole family. If you’ve never played before, the rules are simple: Find the opposing team’s hidden flag without getting caught. This glow-in-the-dark version takes gameplay into the night with glowing territory markers, bracelets, and orbs (flags). Capture the Flag is a great way to help the family or neighborhood bond and engage together. This set also comes with 12 game variation cards, so you’re not limited to only playing Capture the Flag. Recommended ages: 8 years and up

$49.00 from Amazon

$49.90 from Walmart

Check out our other great guides and roundups for outdoor play

Intex

The best kiddie poolsKiddie pools bring the fun of water play to your own backyard — some with added features like slides and sprayers. When choosing the best kiddie pools, we considered ease of set up, durability, and performance.The best water tables for kidsWe talked to a child psychologist and two toy industry experts to learn about the benefits of water table play and to narrow down our selection to bring you the best. From combination sand/water tables to a table reminiscent of a carnival game, we have a pick for every age and interest.The best playhousesA good playhouse will be your kids’ hideaway for years, and it’s a great catalyst for the dramatic play that kids crave and need as they develop. We talked with a developmental psychologist as well as toy experts to learn about the benefits of playing in playhouses and to narrow down our selection to bring you the best.The best outdoor toys for toddlersToy industry and play experts shared with us their recommendations for toys that toddlers will love playing with all summer and beyond. These are the best outdoor toys for toddlers, including a sandbox, play house, inflatable pool, scooter, and water table.The best sandboxesSandbox play helps improve fine motor skills as children dig, dump, and sift sand. Playing in a sandbox with others promotes problem-solving and social skills. We researched and tested large sandboxes for multiple kids, wooden sandboxes, indoor sandboxes, and sand and water tables to find the best ones you can buy.The best swing sets for your backyardWe spoke to a toy industry expert and a child psychologist to find the best swing sets for toddlers and older kids. Many of these swing sets include added features like playhouses, rock-climbing walls, and slides. Some are easy to assemble but don’t skimp on fun.The best bikes for kidsWe’ve rounded up the best kids’ bikes across five important age groupings, from toddlers on up to tweens and teens — and included why each size is ideal for a certain age.

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