Gift Guide 2013: Best Toys for Keeping Kids Active Indoors & Out!
If your kiddo 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.
These picks will also keep kids fit and either get them outside enjoying the fresh air or help them safely burn off steam when stuck indoors. 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 2013 Gift Guides here!
Once again this year, I’m heading up each list with my favorites from all the picks – here, in no particular order, are my top 7 Toys for Keeping Kids Active Indoors & Out (scroll down for full details on each):
- Diggin JumpStart Trampoline $62.05 (3 – 7 years)
- Yoga Pretzels Card Set $13.49 (all ages)
- FirstBike Balance Bike $154.79 (22 months – 5 years)
- Ultra Stomp Rocket $14.50 (8 – 16 years) and Jr. Glow Kit (3+ years)
- Kids Handheld Crank Flashlight $4.99 (3 + years)
- Radio Flyer Ultimate Comfort Wagon $169.99 (18 months+)
- Wobble Deck Extreme Balancing Game $22.99 (3+ years
- Firevision Sports Football $15.29 (6+ years)
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. Along those lines, 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. Ready for the big list? Here we go…
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.
- Pewi Ybike Ride On Toy and Walking Buddy $54.99 (1 – 3 years) – This may look like some kind of crazy walker the Jettsons would have but the innovative design is actually perfectly suited to transition with babies from the beginning walking to riding stages. With traditional walkers a child does not learn to fall as he or she typically just sits or hangs in the unit. (Plus my physical therapist mother-in-law says they’re really bad for baby’s hips.) In contrast, the Ybike allows freedom of movement at a young age that has proven to stimulate body in space awareness, a key for balance and motor skill development. Once baby is a little older and ready to ride, the multi direction caster wheels allow a child to ride and easily control the Pewi in any direction. Plus, non-marking rubber wheels won’t mark floors making it equally suitable for use for indoors or outdoors on smooth play surfaces.
- Little Tikes Pillow Racer $24.98 (18 months – 3 years) - This is two toys the kids love in one: a pillow pet and a ride on toy. It’s super cool how you can actually remove the stuffed animal from the wheel base when you want to cuddle. I also love that when kids are riding the wheels aren’t limited to forward and backwards motion, but instead allow 360 degree turns making them easier to maneuver.
- Prince Lion Heart Wheely Bug $69.95 (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.
- Rody Horse $43.69 (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 $23.64 (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.
- Monster Feet Stilts $8.71 (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 $62.05 (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.
- Wobble Deck Extreme Balancing Game $22.99 (3+ years) – I’ve actually got a couple of balance boards on this list. I just think they’re such a smart way to be active in a small, contained space. This one is an electronic version that features four fun balance games that challenge the mind and body. The original Wobble Deck is Winner of the Oppenheim Best Toy Award and selected as a Best Toy by Better Homes and Gardens.
- Alex Toys Monkey Balance Board $17.53 (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) $41.95 – 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!
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 is another card set I’ve had my eye on. Again the illustrations look beautiful and I like how there’s a story element to go along with each of the poses. Plus the set gets great reviews on Amazon.
- 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.
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.
- Radio Flyer 4-in-1 Trike $95.41 (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. Baby #3 may be the perfect excuse to finally pick one of these up for our family!
- Step2 Easy Turn Coupe $39.99 (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 and bigger kids will enjoy riding along as well 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 an extra 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) - What can I say? 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 light weight 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 $39.99 (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 friend of ours does have one and it’s truly ridiculous how much my kids beg to play with it every single time we’re at her house – even when we’re not outside or anywhere near it. 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.
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.
- Little Tikes EasyScore Basketball Set $24.97 (18 months – 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.
- 6 ft. PUGG Soccer Goals $59.95 (ages 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. The 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 $10.49 (3 – 8 years) - This is by the same makers as the tee ball set below and my parents bought it to keep at their house for the kids by coincidence. Just like with the other set, the kids loved it and had lots of early success with the soft, over-sized equipment.
- Diggin Jr. Big Boom Bat and Tee $13.95 (3 – 6 years) – I actually did a video review of this a couple of years ago as part of a contest. I was really impressed with how well C (then not yet three) was able to use the oversized ball, tee, and bat. This is a great set for giving your kids a successful introduction to baseball and, because it’s inflatable, you can use also it indoors without breaking your stuff. Plus, it’s surprisingly durable. We’ve had ours for over a year and it’s still intact.
- 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.
- Ultra Stomp Rocket $14.50 (8 – 16 years) and Jr. Glow Kit (3+ years) – This is another one that is almost definitely making it under our tree this year. Both my kids, my son especially, get a little hyper in the afternoon and I know we’d all love having this around for them to stomp to their hearts content in the backyard. The concept is simple, stomp on the launch pad to send a foam tipped rocket up to 200ft in the air. I like that both sets come with 4 rockets so the kids will 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 too. This simple, battery-free toy is a multi-award winner and gets great reviews – plus it’s cheap – gotta love that!
- Melissa & Doug Flying Disks $6.99 (3 – 10 years) – We gave these to the kids this summer to help inaugurate our new back yard 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.
- Foxtail Sport Ball $9.41 (3+ years) - Much like the ogodisks, the foxtail sport ball is a unique outdoor toy that will inspire kids to play differently with it each day. Kids can twirl it, throw it, catch it, kick it, twist it in knots, and even sling it high into the air and catch it by the tail on it’s way down. An MPMK facebook fan suggested using it along with this book of foxtail games for lots more ways to extend the fun.
- 90′ Eagle Series Seated Zipline Kit $153.30 (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.
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 your child explore nature and become a little scientist in their own backyard.
- 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.
- 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.
- Live Butterfly Garden $10.95 (4 – 12 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. I’d love to have a kit at home for them to check on each day.
- 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?
- 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 $14.59 (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.
- 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.
- 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. And growing plants indoors will help get the kids noticing all the vegetation around them outdoors.
- 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.
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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.
P.S. See all 10 of our 2013 Gift Guides here.
P.P.S. If you’re really looking to have the holidays in the bag early this year. Check out our new eBook, Hands-On Holidays, packed with low-prep and low-stress ideas for make memories crafting, cooking, reading and adventuring with the kids!
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