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Gift Guide 2015: Best Toys for Keeping Kids Active Indoors & Out!

Best toys for keeping kids active - everything from yoga games to best beginner bikes and more!

 

This guide is a little different than the others in that it’s really two guides in one. The first half addresses the best toys for burning off steam when you’re stuck inside and, let me tell you, these finds can be an absolute life-saver on a rainy day.

Such a great list of toys to get kids outside and being active in good weather or bad!

The second part of this guide is all about getting outside. If your little one has an adventurous spirit, I say run with it!  Whether their fascination lies in the stars above, their own backyard, or testing out their own speed and agility, our finds will help you milk their curiosity for all it’s worth. And this stuff will help keep your kids fit too.

A pick or two off this list will keep the whole family happy and feeling good all year long.

Don’t forget – you can check out all 10 of our 2015 Gift Guides here!

Also, I’m doing my best this year to keep our readers up-to-date on any sales I see on our gift guide items.  To be in the loop, be sure to

Follow us on facebook and subscribe to our newsletter and to see every sale we find – join our brand new “MPMK Gift Guide Sales Alert!” facebook group!

One last thing, before we get to our list. While shopping, please consider adding an item from Hope on the Hill Guild’s

Gift Wish List for Seattle Children’s Hospital

The list benefits the Autism Center & Opera​tion Family Care and contains items that are in high demand within that program. You can have the items shipped to the provided address and they will be delivered to the Autism Center or hospital directly. There are many items as low as $2 – $5 and every gift helps a child in need!

 

Once again this year, I’m heading up each list with my favorites from all the picks (there are over 40!) – here, arranged by age, are my

Top 12 Toys for Keeping Kids Active Indoors & Out 

  1. Little Tikes First Slide $31.60 (18 months – 4 years) – A few years ago when we had a 20 month old and a brand new baby, we bought an indoor slide and put it in the upstairs landing between the kids’ bedrooms. It was one of the smartest things we’ve ever done! A sturdy plastic slide used inside can be a life-saver when the weather is bad and the kiddos are restless. This particular slide – highly rated for durability and usability for kiddos young and old – also serves double duty outside as an excellent safe place for toddlers to play their big siblings scale taller play equipment.
  2. Yoga Pretzels $13.49 (2 – 14 years) – This is a beautifully illustrated card set that can be used a myriad of ways. I like how there’s a story element to go along with each of the poses too.  The set got such great reviews on Amazon that we bought them for the kids last year and we’ve pulled them out quite often this year when a case of “bouncing-off-the-walls-itis” hits. One of our favorite things to do with the cards is to lay them on the ground in a circle and walk around them with music playing. When the music stops, each child attempts the pose they’ve landed on. There are partner and individual poses on the cards to make it even more interesting.
  3. Kid-O Bilibo $29.14 (2 – 7 years) - This thing is kind of silly looking but my daughter loves it.  There were a couple at her toddler group and she always spent a considerable amount of time bopping happily away on one.  It’s like a one person teeter-totter, so I can see why a kid would think that was fun. I think the bright colors, small footprint, and reasonable price are quite fun myself and I’m not alone, this one gets tons of rave reviews.
  4. Stomp Rocket Jr. Glow Kit (3+ years), Dueling Double Stomp Rocket Kit $14.95 (3+ years) and Ultra Stomp Rocket $14.50 (8 – 16 years)  – My kids both got to play with this at science camp this summer, during their study of physics, and fell in love. They both, my son especially, get a little hyper in the afternoon and I knew we’d all love having this around for them to stomp to their hearts content in the backyard. Lucky for us, we got one for C’s 6th birthday and I was absolutely right. The concept is simple, stomp (or jump) on the launch pad to send a foam tipped rocket up to 200 ft in the air. I like that both sets come with 4 rockets so the kids get to launch multiple times before running around to pick them all up and do it all over again.  Obviously the glow-in-the dark aspect of the Jr. Glow Kit is pretty cool. Siblings will love going together, and not having to take turns, and hosting friendly competitions with the Dueling Double Stomp Rocket Kit. In summary, these simple battery-free toys are multi-award winners and get great reviews. Plus they’re cheap – gotta love that!
  5. FirstBike Balance Bike $154.79 (22 months – 5 years) – I think a balance bike will probably make it onto my gift guide for as long as I’m writing them. Both of my kids have been zooming around on bikes since they were 2 years old thanks to this genius idea of taking away the pedals and letting the kids pick up their feet and balance when they’re ready.  I also really love how lightweight they are.  Both kids could easily pick theirs up and carry it around as soon as they started using it. In previous years I’ve always recommended the Strider Balance Bike because that’s what we have and it’s worked great for us.  The only drawback has been when the kids get really good at it and can’t stop when going down steep hills due to the lack of brakes.  This new FirstBike version comes with a hand brake that could come in very handy for those scenarios (no pun intended).
  6. Little Tikes TotSports T-Ball Set $13.89 (2 – 4 years) – Just like the Little Tikes Basketball Set, the T-Ball set gets stellar reviews as toy for introducing kids to T-ball and setting them up for success. The set includes an easy-to-use oversized bat, 2 oversize baseballs and an adjustable height “T” that adapts to a child’s developing skills. It also has a special “hang-on-the-wall” design for easy small-space storage and you really can’t beat the price.
  7. Educational Insights Magic Moves Talking Electronic Wand $14.06 (3 – 10 years) – Normally I’m not big on electronic toys with lots of sounds and lights, but when said toy can help my kids get rid of all their pent up energy inside on a stormy day, it becomes my new best friend. This inexpensive magical wand uses 90 silly commands (sway, creep, stomp like a dinosaur, leap) and 26 songs, along with a light show to get kids moving. This is one of those rare toys that’s great for siblings of different ages to play together. It will keep the bigger kids interested (who doesn’t like having the mic and being the star of the show?) while developing listening skills in the younger set along with enriching their vocabulary and ability to follow directions.
  8. Mini Micro Scooter $79.99 (3 – 5 years) – Hailed as “the quality choice in 3-wheel scooters for young children” this scooter has more than it’s fair share of rave reviews and awards (the Oppenheimer Toy Portfolio Gold and Platinum Award Seals for Best Toy, the Parent’s Choice Approved Seal, ‘Best Pre-School Scooter’ by Toy Report, ‘Best Outdoor Toy’ by Learning Express Stores and was featured on the NBC Today Show as part of its ‘Best Toys for Summer’ series). The key is the “learn to steer” design and back brake, both of which grant preschoolers an extra element of stability. Also, the Mini can be ridden inside while learning (or waiting for Spring) as the quality wheels, made especially for Micro, are non marking. And the Micro-Mini 3-in-1 Kick Scooter $114.99 (1 – 5 years) – lets even new walkers in on the fun. 1 year olds start out sitting on the scooter with the seat attachment and using it as a typical ride-on toy. Later they advance to the O-bar (which is lower than the traditional Mini Micro Scooter) and eventually graduate to the real deal.
  9. Live Butterfly Garden $19.99 (3 – 10 years) - Both kids had one of these in their preschool/toddler group classes but both missed the butterflies coming out of their cocoons due to not having class that day so I’ve always wanted to have a kit at home for them to experience. Happily, S got a kit for her birthday so we’ll be trying it out soon. The stellar reviews this kit gets has me confident we’re going to have a great time with it.
  10. Kidoozie Foam Pogo Jumper $14.95 (3 – 10 years) – The key to a good indoor toy is it’s ability to wear a child out without requiring a lot of space to do so. This soft pogo jumper is an Amazon #1 Best Seller because it does just that. It will keep the kids happy (and get them good and tired) and you won’t have to worry too much about them knocking over your stuff (or each other).
  11. Diggin JumpStart Trampoline $65.40 (3 – 7 years) - Every day around 4:30 PM I wonder why we haven’t bought one of these yet.  Two of C’s buddies have one and they each love to jump and jump and jump on it.  Chances are very high Santa will be bringing the kids a trampoline this year and if he does it’ll be this one due to the good reviews and space saving design.
  12. Radio Flyer Ultimate Comfort Wagon $169.99 (18 months+) – A quality pull wagon is a great way to get even the youngest kids outside enjoying nature and bigger kids will enjoy riding along as well as pulling, so this is an item that you’ll get lots of use out of. I really like that this one comes with a canopy to be used on extra sunny days, as well as cup holders and padded 5-way flip and fold seats for a super comfy ride and lots of easy storage options for all your gear.

Read on for over 40 of my favorite toys for keeping kids active inside and out, broken down into:

  • Burning Off Steam Inside
  • Yoga Games
  • Bikes, Scooter, and Vehicles
  • Sports & Games
  • Exploring Nature

Special Note: In an effort to help you out as much as possible this year, I’ve included both prices and age recommendations for each item.  Please take the age ranges as just that – recommendations – you know you’re child best after all!  

Also, this time of year prices can fluctuate quite dramatically.  So if you see something a little outside of your price range, it might not be a bad idea to click over and check  it out anyway – you may get lucky and catch a sale.

Ready for the big list? Here we go…

Top toys for kids to burn off steam indoors - many of these have been a life-saver during the rainy season!

Burning Off Steam Indoors

This section was born purely out of necessity.  With two rambunctious kiddos bouncing off the walls around here, I’m asking everyone in the family to think about gifting active toys this year!  Below is a carefully curated collection of my favorite picks for expelling energy when stuck indoors.

  • Little Tikes First Slide $31.60 (18 months – 4 years) – A few years ago when we had a 20 month old and a brand new baby, we bought an indoor slide and put it in the upstairs landing between the kids’ bedrooms. It was one of the smartest things we’ve ever done! A sturdy plastic slide used inside can be a life-saver when the weather is bad and the kiddos are restless. This particular slide – highly rated for durability and usability for kiddos young and old – also serves double duty outside as an excellent safe place for toddlers to play their big siblings scale taller play equipment. 

  • Prince Lion Heart Wheely Bug $68 (18 months – 6 years) – This is a very high quality riding toy equipped with multidirectional casters, an easy grip handle, and a comfy 1 inch sponge layer on the seat. It’s also made with non-toxic materials and is PVC free.  You can pick from 6 friendly looking animal designs and two sizes (small for ages 18 months – 3 years and medium for ages 3 – 6 years).  A good friend of ours has the ladybug and bumble bee and they are regularly played with at play dates by all our kids, ranging in age from 2 to 5. She’s had them for several years now and I can attest that they are built to last.

  • FirstBike Balance Bike $154.79 (22 months – 5 years) – I think a balance bike will probably make it onto my gift guide for as long as I’m writing them. Both of my kids have been zooming around on bikes since they were 2 years old thanks to this genius idea of taking away the pedals and letting the kids pick up their feet and balance when they’re ready.  I also really love how lightweight they are.  Both kids could easily pick theirs up and carry it around as soon as they started using it. In previous years I’ve always recommended the Strider Balance Bike because that’s what we have and it’s worked great for us.  The only drawback has been when the kids get really good at it and can’t stop when going down steep hills due to the lack of brakes.  This new FirstBike version comes with a hand brake that could come in very handy for those scenarios (no pun intended).

  • Rody Horse $49.95 (2 – 4 years) – We have a family membership to our local kids museum and hit it up on a regular basis.  Every time we do, our daughter beelines for Rody.  This is another excellent toy for burning energy and kids often like to use him for elaborate dramatic play scenarios as well. Best of all, his durability is legendary.

  • Hop on Air Hop Balls $31.89 (2 – 5 years) – My sister got these for the kids last year, per my request.  The bouncy ride-on balls have been a fantastic way for the kids to get some energy out when stuck inside. (So much better then running around the living room and kitchen until someone inevitably gets hurt.)  We got a 15″ version for then 2 year old S and an 18″ ball for then 4 year old C (both of whom are tall for their age) and they are both still using them a year later.

  • Kid-O Bilibo $29.14 (2 – 7 years) - This thing is kind of silly looking but my daughter loves it.  There were a couple at her toddler group and she always spent a considerable amount of time bopping happily away on one.  It’s like a one person teeter-totter, so I can see why a kid would think that was fun. I think the bright colors, small footprint, and reasonable price are quite fun myself and I’m not alone, this one gets tons of rave reviews.

  • Educational Insights Magic Moves Talking Electronic Wand $14.06 (3 – 10 years) – Normally I’m not big on electronic toys with lots of sounds and lights, but when said toy can help my kids get rid of all their pent up energy inside on a stormy day, it becomes my new best friend. This inexpensive magical wand uses 90 silly commands (sway, creep, stomp like a dinosaur, leap) and 26 songs, along with a light show to get kids moving. This is one of those rare toys that’s great for siblings of different ages to play together. It will keep the bigger kids interested (who doesn’t like having the mic and being the star of the show?) while developing listening skills in the younger set along with enriching their vocabulary and ability to follow directions.

  • Kidoozie Foam Pogo Jumper $14.95 (3 – 10 years) – The key to a good indoor toy is it’s ability to wear a child out without requiring a lot of space to do so. This soft pogo jumper is an Amazon #1 Best Seller because it does just that. It will keep the kids happy (and get them good and tired) and you won’t have to worry too much about them knocking over your stuff (or each other).
  • Monster Feet Stilts $7.54 (3 – 5 years) – I used to play on stilts like these in elementary school gym class and I remember fighting my friends over them. The price is inexpensive enough that you can get a pair for everyone.
  • Diggin JumpStart Trampoline $65.40 (3 – 7 years) - Every day around 4:30 PM I wonder why we haven’t bought one of these yet.  Two of C’s buddies have one and they each love to jump and jump and jump on it.  Chances are very high Santa will be bringing the kids a trampoline this year and if he does it’ll be this one due to the good reviews and space saving design.
  • Alex Toys Monkey Balance Board $18.84 (3 – 7 years) – This is the stripped down version of the above balance board.  It appeals to my purist heart (and my disdain for having to listen to noisy toys all day).  Plus I think the happy monkey will make kids smile.
  • Hop Around Steps, Set of 30 (3+ years) $42.95 – My kids also got these last year.  I came across them at one of my favorite sites for educational toys while looking for balance toys.  I like how they can be used to set up different obstacle courses each time they’re brought out and the kids are getting better at them as they get older. They’re also by far the best price I could find – most toys like these are sold to be used in classrooms and are priced as such!

Yoga promotes health & self-esteem in kids while reducing feelings of helplessness and aggression.

Yoga Games

Not all active pursuits have to be high energy.  Yoga is a fantastic way to get kids of all ages moving indoors. We started making it a part of our routine after I read a Wall Street Journal article which reported findings that yoga improved students’ behavior, physical health and academic performance, as well as attitudes toward themselves and also that it reduces feelings of helplessness and aggression and, in the long term, helps emotional balance. The benefits of yoga are particularly strong among children with special needs.

  • The ABCs Yoga for Kids series is one I’ve seen recommended several places. I’m extremely tempted by the lovely illustrations. Along with the original book $16.04, there’s also a coloring book $5.36, a learning card set $17.95, a poster $15.82, and even a spanish version $8.06 now available.
  • Yoga Spinner Board Game $19.99 – This silly game can be played alone or in a group.  The basic idea is to spin the spinner and try to hold the yoga pose you land on for 10 seconds without laughing or falling down.  This is an award winning game of simple fun.
  • Yoga Pretzels $13.49 (2 – 14 years) – This is a beautifully illustrated card set that can be used a myriad of ways. I like how there’s a story element to go along with each of the poses too.  The set got such great reviews on Amazon that we bought them for the kids last year and we’ve pulled them out quite often this year when a case of “bouncing-off-the-walls-itis” hits. One of our favorite things to do with the cards is to lay them on the ground in a circle and walk around them with music playing. When the music stops, each child attempts the pose they’ve landed on. There are partner and individual poses on the cards to make it even more interesting.
  • Before moving on, I also wanted to mention that our beloved High Five magazine also often has a feature in the back that, while not yoga per-say, reminds me a lot of the kid yoga stuff I’ve seen in that it incorporates imaginary play with different poses and movement.  S and C are big fans.

Such a great list of toys to get kids outside and being active in good weather or bad!

Bikes, Scooters & Vehicles

Getting rid of excess energy when stuck inside is great, but I’m a big proponent of getting outside whenever possible.  Bikes, trikes, scooters and other vehicles are huge lures for getting kids to head outdoors and these are some of our time-tested favorites.

Best bikes, trikes, scooters and more to get kids moving outside.

  • Mini Micro Scooter $79.99 (3 – 5 years) – Hailed as “the quality choice in 3-wheel scooters for young children” this scooter has more than it’s fair share of rave reviews and awards (the Oppenheimer Toy Portfolio Gold and Platinum Award Seals for Best Toy, the Parent’s Choice Approved Seal, ‘Best Pre-School Scooter’ by Toy Report, ‘Best Outdoor Toy’ by Learning Express Stores and was featured on the NBC Today Show as part of its ‘Best Toys for Summer’ series). The key is the “learn to steer” design and back brake, both of which grant preschoolers an extra element of stability. Also, the Mini can be ridden inside while learning (or waiting for Spring) as the quality wheels, made especially for Micro, are non marking.
  • Micro-Mini 3-in-1 Kick Scooter $114.99 (1 – 5 years) – This 3-in-1 version lets even new walkers in on the fun. 1 year olds start out sitting on the scooter with the seat attachment and using it as a typical ride-on toy. Later they advance to the O-bar (which is lower than the traditional Mini Micro Scooter) and eventually graduate to the real deal.
  • Radio Flyer 4-in-1 Trike $80.99 (9 months – 5 years) – I never got one of these but always wanted one (probably because I see them EVERYWHERE at the park and on the playground).  The clever 4-in-1 design easily converts from a stroller to a steering trike, learning-to-ride-trike, and finally a classic trike. That means you have something fun for your little one to ride around in from the time they need to be pushed until they are ready to pedal all by themselves. The height adjustable handle and seat along with the removable canopy and tray allows for a lot of flexibility.
  • Step2 Easy Turn Coupe $61.74 (18 months – 8 years) – The cozy coupe has been a quintessential outdoor toddler toy since I was a kid.  Little ones love tootling around in these things and getting to play driver like the grown ups. This updated version now includes a front castor wheel in order to provides easier maneuverability – so smart. Other features include gas cap, ignition key, working horn, cup holders, and molded in push handle in the roof (a feature parents will especially appreciate).
  • Radio Flyer Ultimate Comfort Wagon $169.99 (18 months+) – A quality pull wagon is a great way to get even the youngest kids outside enjoying nature. Bigger kids will enjoy riding along as well as pulling, so this is an item that you’ll get lots of use out of. I really like that this one comes with a canopy to be used on extra sunny days, as well as cup holders and padded 5-way flip and fold seats for a super comfy ride and lots of easy storage options for all your gear.
  • Radio Flyer My 1st Scooter $36.42 (2 – 5 years) – Our daughter discovered this when we went camping with friends last summer. The innovative design (two wheels in the front instead of in the back) made it simple for her to master even at barely 2 years old.  But don’t get me wrong – her 4 year old big brother loved it too.  This is a versatile ride-on toy that will get lots of use from kids not ready for bikes and accomplished cyclists alike.
  • FirstBike Balance Bike $154.79 (22 months – 5 years) – I think a balance bike will probably make it onto my gift guide for as long as I’m writing them. Both of my kids have been zooming around on bikes since they were 2 years old thanks to this genius idea of taking away the pedals and letting the kids pick up their feet and balance when they’re ready.  I also really love how lightweight they are.  Both kids could easily pick theirs up and carry it around as soon as they started using it. In previous years I’ve always recommended the Strider Balance Bike because that’s what we have and it’s worked great for us.  The only drawback has been when the kids get really good at it and can’t stop when going down steep hills due to the lack of brakes.  This new FirstBike version comes with a hand brake that could come in very handy for those scenarios (no pun intended).
  • PlasmaCar $44.99 (3 – 8 years) – Check out the stellar reviews on this one and you’ll be sold.  It’s a cool space-age car that’s powered solely by wiggling the steering wheel.  This multi-award winning toy is one that will be enjoyed by kids of all ages for many years.
  • Ezy-Roller $99 (4+ years) – We did a giveaway with a large toy store last year and the owner wanted to give this away because he said it’s his best-selling toy ever. That right there says a lot.  This is another fun non-bike option for getting some exercise outside.  It’s also a great pick for bigger kids.
  • Power Wheels Jeep Wrangler $262.49 (3 – 7 years) – Ok, I admit it, Power Wheels don’t encourage a whole lot of activity, and the price can be prohibitive. Honestly, we don’t have one for those two reasons. However, a good friend of ours does and so do our neighbors and it’s truly ridiculous how much my kids beg to play with it every single time either of them pull them out. They even seem to enjoy being the passenger as much as the driver. Also, I’ve noticed that these vehicles can lead to some pretty involved “lets act like grown ups and run errands, do yard work, etc.” dramatic play. So… if you have the budget to splurge this year and you want to see your kids’ eyes pop out of their head Christmas morning (or if you can justify the purchase because your child fights your every time you try to get them outside), this is definitely something to consider.
Top sports and game toys to keep kids active indoors and out - one of 10 awesome gift guides for kids!

Sports & Games

Sports are excellent for establishing healthy habits and high self-esteem that will serve your kids for their entire life.  While organized team sports can be great, at a young age I’m a big fan of keeping things low key and introducing sports and games in the back yard with the family.  Here are some of our favorite picks for all playing together or for kids to practice on their own.

Sports

  • Little Tikes EasyScore Basketball Set $24.97 (2 – 5 years) – Once again a friend of ours has this hoop and, again, I can attest first hand to what a draw it is to young kids (and the stellar Amazon reviews definitely back me up here).  Her hoop is kept inside but I like that this can be used outside too.  I also really like that it grows with your child (height can be adjusted to 6 settings from 2 to 4 feet) so this is a toy that you’ll get lots of years out of for a very reasonable price. 
  • Little Tikes TotSports T-Ball Set $13.89 (2 – 4 years) – Just like the Little Tikes Basketball Set, the T-Ball set gets stellar reviews as toy for introducing kids to T-ball and setting them up for success. The set includes an easy-to-use oversized bat, 2 oversize baseballs and an adjustable height “T” that adapts to a child’s developing skills. It also has a special “hang-on-the-wall” design for easy small-space storage and you really can’t beat the price.
  • 6 ft. PUGG Soccer Goals $59.95 (walking – adult) – If you’ve got a soccer enthusiast at home, or just want an easy way to play with the kids in the backyard, these portable soccer goals are a great pick.  They come in this 6 foot size as well as a smaller 4 foot set, both of which are well-made durable, and easy to set-up and break down and store away in the included tote.  Our then 2 and 4 year olds got a set and a couple kid-sized soccer balls from their grandparents last year after taking summer soccer classes and it’s been a great addition to our back yard.
  • Big Boomer Golf Set $19.99 (3 – 8 years) – My parents (who are big-time golfers) bought this set to keep at their house for when the kids come to visit. When they were first introduced to it, both my 3 year old daughter and my 5 year old son were drawn to big bright clubs. Plus, they had lots of early success with the soft, over-sized equipment, which is key when introducing a new sport.
  • Step2 Kickback Soccer Goal and Pitch Back $34.99 (3 – 7 years) – This versatile set gives you a lot of bang for your buck.  It includes 1 soccer ball, 2 hockey sticks, 1 street hockey puck and 1 pitch back ball.  That means young kids can use this to play soccer and hockey as well as to practice their pitching and catching with the pitch back feature of the net. If you have a little sports lover, this set will give him or her lots of ways to have fun outside for a wallet-friendly price.  Note: Reviewers report that the soccer ball size is small and suitable for small children.
  • Mini Hockey Goals – Set of 2 $27.69 (3 – 15 years) – And speaking of hockey, this indoor mini hockey set was recommended by one of our facebook fans and gets rave reviews as being perfect for all ages, from toddlers who are just starting out, to teens using it to play “knee hockey”. It easily folds up and comes with two goals, two soft foam balls, and six sticks including goalie sticks and both right-handed and left-handed player sticks. This will make your house the place to be if you have a room spacious enough for it.
  • Firevision Sports Football $15.29 and glasses $10.99 (6+ years) – This is one of those toys that pre-teen boys (as well as younger boys and lots of girls) will just think is flat-out cool. Using unique Microprism Technology, anyone wearing the special glasses can see the ball light up a dark night sky at a range of over 100 feet.  The football comes with two pairs of glasses but you may want to pick up a few extra sets for group play – you can buy different colors for different teams.  There is also a basketball and hoop, a hyper bounce ball, and a sports flyer disc available using the same technology.

Games

  • Stomp Rocket Jr. Glow Kit (3+ years), Dueling Double Stomp Rocket Kit $14.95 (3+ years) and Ultra Stomp Rocket $14.50 (8 – 16 years)  – My kids both got to play with this at science camp this summer, during their study of physics, and fell in love. They both, my son especially, get a little hyper in the afternoon and I knew we’d all love having this around for them to stomp to their hearts content in the backyard. Lucky for us, we got one for C’s 6th birthday and I was absolutely right. The concept is simple, stomp (or jump) on the launch pad to send a foam tipped rocket up to 200 ft in the air. I like that both sets come with 4 rockets so the kids get to launch multiple times before running around to pick them all up and do it all over again.  Obviously the glow-in-the dark aspect of the Jr. Glow Kit is pretty cool. Siblings will love going together, and not having to take turns, and hosting friendly competitions with the Dueling Double Stomp Rocket Kit. In summary, these simple battery-free toys are multi-award winners and get great reviews. Plus they’re cheap – gotta love that!
  • Melissa & Doug Flying Disks $6.99 (3 – 10 years) – We gave these to the kids to help inaugurate our new backyard and they really took to them.  I think they were surprised how far they could fling the disks and they’ve spent many hours throwing and chasing them down. I was presently surprised by the durability and amount of fun derived from such small, inexpensive toys.
  • Mini Ogodisk Super Disk Set $18.98 (3 – 12 years) – This was another facebook fan suggestion and I love that it uses one of my favorite childhood toys, the koosh ball. The light weight set can be used as a flying disc that catches and throws balls up to 150 feet in the air. It adapts to many sports such as volleyball, baseball, and tennis, floats on water, and can even be used with water balloons. This is one of those great open-ended toys that will not only get your kids moving, but will also spark their creativity as they come up with their own unique games to play with it.
  • 90′ Eagle Series Seated Zipline Kit $145.89 (7 – 15 years) – Last but not least, if you’ve got an extreme sports athlete in the making, and the space, check out this highly-rated backyard zipline kit. This set boosts an easy 30 minute set-up and smooth, consistent speed with gradual stop due to the “slack at the end of the line”. Reviewers consistently report lots of fun for the whole family.

Great finds for getting kids interested in going outside and exploring.

Exploring Nature

Of course, one of the very best parts about getting kids outside is giving them the opportunity to interact with, and learn about, the world around them.  All of these picks will help get your child excited about nature and ready to become a little scientist in their own backyard.

  • Little Tikes Gas ‘n Go Mower Toy $17.06 (walking – 5 years) – This toy is great for taking dramatic play outdoors and, honestly, it’s totally worth getting just for the adorable pictures you’ll get of the kids following around Dad (or Mom) while they mow the lawn. Seriously, this toy is a real winner – it has lots of parts to interact with (pull cord, vrooming engine, push throttle, turning key and more) but doesn’t require batteries. It will ignite the kids imagination and get them moving at the same time.
  • Constellation Night Light, Sea Turtle $39.95 (2+ years) - This guy literally shoots stars onto the walls and ceilings of your child’s room while she falls asleep (it automatically turns off after 45 minutes). We picked him up for C on his pediatrician’s recommendation.  We were having trouble with him night wandering and she suggested setting up a routine where he wakes up, turns this on, and goes back to bed (as opposed to a routine where he wakes up and roams around the house).  It worked instantly and there’s something so magical to C about falling asleep under the stars
  • Everything Bug Book $7.16 (3 – 6 y years) – A great read for any child interested in all those creatures living in their backyard.  This book would be excellent bundled with any of the other outdoor exploration toys listed here.
  • Live Butterfly Garden $19.99 (3 – 10 years) - Both kids had one of these in their preschool/toddler group classes but both missed the butterflies coming out of their cocoons due to not having class that day so I’ve always wanted to have a kit at home for them to experience. Happily, S got a kit for her birthday so we’ll be trying it out soon. The stellar reviews this kit gets has me confident we’re going to have a great time with it.
  • Kids Handheld Crank Flashlight $4.99 (3 + years) (also available through Amazon here) – My kids absolutely adore playing with “grown up” flashlights right now, both indoors and out. The problem is they keep leaving them on and draining the batteries.  So we’re putting these in their stocking this year.  I just know they’re going to think the hand crank power system is super cool.  IKEA only sells them in stores but you can use the link above to get them online through Amazon.
  • Assorted Dinosaur Fossil Skeleton 5-6″ Figures, 12-Piece $7.65 (3 – 15 years) – Even some indoor toys can be great for getting the kids interested in exploring outside. This nifty set of fossil skeletons can be used for making play dough impressions during art time and then brought outside to play excavation site in the sandbox.
  • Backyard Safari Field Scope/Insecto-Scope $9.99 (4 – 12 years) – This scope’s large, easy-to-handle design is perfect for little hands.  Kids can trap whatever they want under it, then use the light and knob for 6x magnification.
  • My, Oh My – A Butterfly: All About Butterflies $7.56 (4 – 8 years) – And who better than the cat in the hat to come along with us on our Butterfly exploration?
  • The World of Eric Carle Terrarium $20.00 (4+ years) – Such a sweet idea to read Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar with your kids and then grow a butterfly bush together using this terrarium.  Plus, growing plants indoors will help get the kids noticing all the vegetation around them outdoors.
  • GeoSafari Jr. Bug Watch Kit $11.99 (5 – 9 years) - This is the perfect beginning science kit for any bug lovers in your family.  A lot of parents also report kits like these helping their little ones to overcome their bug phobias.
  • Backyard Safari Vest $17.69 (5 – 12 years) & Field Toys $12.20 (5 – 12 years) – Props like these are the perfect way to turn playing in the backyard into a full-blow exploration.  I could see both of our kids having a blast excavating around the sandbox with the field tools, especially if he had the snazzy vest to hook them to.

*Post contains affiliate links.

If you like these recommendations, I encourage you to pin or bookmark them for later when you’re ready to start shopping.  I would also love it if you forwarded the list on to your parenting friends or shared it on facebook – trust me, your friends will thank you for the help and you get to be the cool mom (or dad) with all the best resources. It’s a win-win.

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