Our Favorite Outdoor Toys

No matter the weather, my boys and I absolutely LOVE to be outside.  The fresh air does wonders for all of us, even the dog.  And although I am the type of mom who lets my boys play in the dirt, I much rather prefer that they use some of the amazing outdoor toys that are on the market.


So without any further ado, here are our tried and true outdoor toys that have withstood the rough play of two little boys and the freezing cold and blazing hot days that we Chicagoans are subjected to by Mother Nature.

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  1. Gymboree Bubbles  Through attending Gymboree Play and Learn classes, I learned the wondrous magic of their bubbles. I’m not sure if it is the consistency or a secret ingredient (I have heard it is sugar) in their formula, but they are AMAZING.  The bubbles are absolutely fool proof and last for hours and hours.    And they come with an awesome bubble blowing wand that is great for kiddos who are just starting to become independent and want to do everything themselves.  Perfect for a 1st birthday gift!


  1. Playground Balls Don’t be fooled—not all balls are created equal!  If you have kids who love to bounce the ball against the pavement, walls, fences, etc. you probably already know this since cheap balls tend to spring leaks all of the time.  As a school teacher, I know the one tried and true type of ball that survives recess all year long:  the thick, rubber playground ball.  I promise it will last longer than any other ball you have ever had!


  1. Infalta Bowl Speaking of balls, what do most kids like to use them for?  To knock things down of course!  We love this Land of Nod bowling set because it is not only stylish and well made, but it also keeps my boys focused on an activity while practicing strategy and of course, counting.


  1. Bikes For the younger set, a balance bike is best.  And since I am no expert on this topic, I reached out to local expert Lesley of Roscoe Village Bikes.

Balance Bikes —These are the lightest version of bike available and are appropriate for younger toddlers (1.5 to 2 years old).  Why are they popular?  In Lesley’s words, “The advantage of a balance bike is it can help kids learn balancing and handling so that they can reply less on training wheels and learn to ride a regular two-wheeler more quickly.”


“Regular Bikes”—Starting off with a 12” bike is best to start with around age 3.  One of Lesley’s top picks for girls is the Jamis Miss Daisy 16” because it is durable, comfortable, and great for learning.  Jamis makes boy versions of bikes as well.


Be sure to visit Lesley at Roscoe Village Bikes to try out both a balance and regular bike, as well as gain from her insight as not just a bicycle shop owner, but also as a parent.  As she pointed out to me when I was trying to find a bike for my preschooler, the most important part is that he loves whatever kind of bike he picks and takes his time on his lifelong bike riding journey.

  1. Bike Trailer  Planning a family bike ride?  Then keep your little ones safe and cozy in a Burley bike trailer.  I love that there is enough room for both of my boys, as well as some toys and blankies so that we can enjoy long weekend rides whenever the mood strikes us.


  1. Scooter  There are so many different types of scooters out on the market, but I have found that starting with the Mini Kick Scooter is the best way to go. It is perfect for younger ones who are establishing their balance, lightweight, and has stability features such as being low to the ground, three wheels, and lean to steer handle bar that is perfect for 3-5 year olds.  Talk to Katherine at Building Blocks Toy Store about the many different scooter options as your child grows…and of course, helmets, too!


  1. Radio Flyer Tricycle Sometimes the classic is best.  And in the case of the Radio Flyer tricycle, this couldn’t be more true.  The fact that this tricycle can grow with your child with an adjustable and removable push handle makes it the perfect investment for your family.  We have had ours for over four years and you would think it was brand new by looking at it—a testament to the great quality and craftsmanship that you can expect from Radio Flyer.


  1. Sand and Water Table  Since we love sensory play, we prefer the most basic sand and water table out there. Not only is this product sturdy, but it is extremely easy to clean out since the bin is lightweight and removable, unlike more “snazzy” water and sand tables on the market.  It also has an adjustable height, which allows the sand and water table to grow along with your kids.


Don’t forget to head to your local neighborhood shop to make sure you are getting the perfect things for your family.

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Looking for fun places to play outside?  Simply search “outdoor” in the side bar.

Have fun playing!
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  1. Victoria says

    Great tips! Another item my kids liked outdoors when they were little were the bouncy balls that had handles. They were a lot of fun. Oh and on a hot day, a pail filled with water and a simple paint brush can be hours of fun for a toddler. They can pretend to paint the house or fence. My daycare kids use to love doing that.

  2. Erin Branscom says

    Great post! I love your list of toys. I think the most important one for us is that we have great quality bikes. We do so much biking and I love encouraging my kids to get outside and get active. Bubbles are pretty awesome too! 🙂

  3. Leanne | The Transplanted Southerner says

    I believe we may have the largest collection of bikes, scooters, and riding toys otherwise in our neighborhood. We just open the garage in the summers and the neighborhood kids drift down with theirs, or borrow some of ours if they don’t have one, and then they all enjoy riding through the (small) neighborhood. I agree about playground balls! My kids are older and choose sport balls now, but the thin plastic ones you get at WalMart for younger kids will be gone in a day most of the time. I love that rainbow one!

    I’m putting Inflata Bowl on my wishlist. That would be so awesome in the cul de sac for the kids!!

  4. Renee says

    My son has a strider balance bike and loves it. I really like the look of those scooters too! We have a water table that we used extensively outdoors in the summer. This is a great list. Thanks for sharing.

    • amandasimkin says

      Everyone I talk to loves the strider balance bikes…it is making our bike buying decision a no-brainer!

  5. Nikki says

    My son has always loved riding his scooter. He never really learned the bike, but he’s quite good with a scooter! I love the playground balls. I agree, if you want real bounce- not to mention durability- they’re the way to go!

  6. Nancy says

    I love hanging out with my two nephews doing all the stuff I used to as a child. I’m only visiting them right now since I live right across the country now. But running around outside playing tag, climbing trees with them or riding their bikes with them – that’s the epitome of childhood right there.

  7. Adrienne says

    Great list! I know this list was intended for kids, but I kind of want a bubble machine and life-size bowling set for myself! hehe You are never too old to enjoy toys. I think these items will come in handy when my cousins come over to my house to spend the weekend – I think they’ll get a kick out of these toys.

  8. Crystal Green says

    You’ll find many of these same items in our yard too. My daughter absolutely LOVES her Strider bike. My husband wants to get her use to using a “real” bike, but I want to get her the next size up of the Strider bike because she does a remarkable job keeping up with the boys using her Strider bike as it is. I’m actually jealous of her bike because I want one (they make them in the adult size too.)
    The rest of the items are loved here too. This is a great round-up of things to have outside for the kids.

  9. Sara-Jayne says

    My boys LOVE to be outside – water, sand, mud and bubbles are high on their list! I’m happy now that we also got a hugr trampoline so they can wear off even more energy on there [and Ihave a sneaky go too!]

  10. Melissa Vera says

    These are some great ideas for outdoor toys. My go to outdoor toys for my girls when they were little was sidewalk chalk and bubbles. They would spend hours outside.

  11. Winter White says

    I’ve always been interested to see how that bike trailer worked as I see them around my town all the time. It’s a cool little contraption although it totally scares me when I see kids in it on busy streets. Very cool outdoor toys!

    • amandasimkin says

      I love that everything is more lightweight than actual bowling sets (my boys like to throw things).

  12. Kevin Man says

    Nowadays children grow very fast, the outdoor activities are essential to them. My niece has a strider balance bike, and her loves to ride it out every day.
    Thanks for your shared useful informations about favorite outdoor toys.

  13. Becky Yuen says

    Getting kids to play outdoors wasn’t too hard than I’d thought. The most important thing is to encourage them the sooner the better. My daughter’s favorite outdoor toy is the Kazam balance bike. Playing with it not only brings her so much fun, but also helps her to learn riding bicycle faster.

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