Some of my best memories as a child were exploring, adventuring, and playing outside. Even now as an adult I still need to get in my fresh air and outdoor exercise. Of course, once I became a parent, I wanted my kids to also develop a love for the outdoors. I started with walks in the stroller or baby carrier then moved onto playgrounds and outdoor toys like a sandbox, playhouse, and anything with wheels. Today, I’m talking about some great toys to get your kids playing outside this year.
Benefits of outdoor play
While I’m not an expert, I do know as a parent and someone who works with kids that outdoor play is important for many reasons. Besides the obvious reason that kids need daily exercise, outdoor play also provides many learning opportunities.
Being outside gives kids the opportunity to play freely, make up their own rules, be loud, climb, and jump. In turn, this helps build their confidence which may then spill into other areas of their life such as at school. Children need to be able to take safe risks and face challenges to learn and grow their skills with adult supervision. Playing with friends outside gives them opportunities to ask questions, work as a team, problem solve, and grow their gross and fine motor skills.
As a mom, I loved going outside with my boys to supervise and make sure they had the proper seasonal outdoor gear such as a raincoat and boots, splash pants, a snow suit, sunscreen, hats, and more. Make sure you have your own gear too because I’m almost positive kids don’t feel the cold like we adults do.
Kids love to go fast outside, and that might involve something with wheels. I’m talking about everything from bicycles to RC cars to e-bikes. When I was a kid I loved riding my bike. In fact, I still do. There’s something freeing about it. My sons were born before the balance bikes became popular for toddlers. They transitioned from a tricycle to a two-wheeler with training wheels and then onto no training wheels. After that, there was no stopping them and they loved riding their bikes with their friends.
As they got older, they moved onto scooters. We had both the standard scooter and one with bigger wheels which was great for gravel pathways. Now kids have the option of an electric scooter. This is a great option for when their little legs get tired, and they need a little boost. This will also save parents from having to push them up hills or carry their scooters for them.
One of my sons loved RC vehicles for a period. While they may not provide a great deal of exercise, they do usually bring in a crowd and provide social interactions which is also important in childhood. It’s also a nice way for kids to meet friends outside of school that have the same interests as them.
I always instilled the importance of wearing a helmet too. Whether they were bike riding, scootering, rollerblading, ice skating or skiing, protecting their growing and developing brain is most important. Now that they’re older they don’t even give it a second thought, they always put on a helmet. In many provinces, it’s also required when riding.
Playhouses and sandboxes for outside play
Looking back, I have to say the playhouse with matching sandbox was one of our best and most used purchases when my boys were little. In fact, they’re both still going strong at my mother-in-law’s house. My sons also had a plastic BBQ that they loved incorporating with their playhouse.
Imaginative play fosters creativity and builds communication skills in kids. Outdoor play is a great way for them to practice these skills. My sons would serve up many a meal out of their little playhouse and create cities in their sandbox. Friends would bring over their kids and us parents would sit and enjoy the outdoors while the kids played for hours.
Building material and durability were the top things my husband and I looked for when we purchased our playhouse and sandbox. They’ve lasted almost 20 years with little wear and have been passed on through all the younger cousins. You can even find many playhouses with a play structure attached for more play options if you have the space for it.
Educational outside play
If you have a child that loves adventure and is a curious hands-on learner, there are some options for both play and education such as a telescope, obstacle courses and fort building kits.
Telescopes are a wonderful learning tool for kids who are drawn to planets and anything space related. They can easily spend hours searching the sky for stars, planets, the moon and more. How cool would it be to track the phases of the moon and get an up-close look at the different moons throughout the year?
In my job, we love a good obstacle course and kids seem to naturally gravitate towards them. They’ll even build their own with no direction from an adult. I find their imaginations allow them to look around a room and use a variety of objects to create one, but there are also some great obstacle course kits to get your kids started.
I have yet to meet a child who doesn’t love to build a fort. My sons would take over the whole family room and use the couch and love seat as the base. Then came all the pillows and blankets followed by the cats who also loved a good fort. Forts will entertain for hours and the clean up is totally worth it. There are some great fort making kits available which means your kids can now take fort building outside. They can use picnic blankets for the floor and roof and spend their day playing and eating outside. Kids love a picnic too and how fun would it be to enjoy a picnic with them in their fort they created with their own hands, an imagination, and a little muscle work.
As an adult I know that kids learn from their peers and adults in their lives and it’s important to lead by example and provide the necessary clothing and accessories to encourage outside play year-round.
Best Buy online has a large variety of outdoor toys and play options to get your kids excited about exploring outdoor fun.