One of the most magical things about summertime is that we can deal with a lot of what drives us crazy about our kids — like sibling fighting, whining about being bored and crazy, and bouncing-off-the-walls hyperactive behavior — by using those two magic words: Go outside!
The key to making this work, though, is to invest a little time at the beginning of the summer filling up your backyard with enough stimulating props to keep the kids engaged from sunrise to sunset. This doesn’t require a lot of money, but it does help to be strategic about your purchases and setup.
You want toys that will appeal to kids of various ages so you get your money’s worth year after year. You also want to pick items that invite open-ended creative play to keep the kids’ attention for as long as possible.
Here are our top 10 finds for creating the ultimate boredom-busting backyard this year:
10. Digging Toys — Shovels, buckets and even excavating toy trucks are big hits with both boys and girls. My son and daughter have already staked out a dirt corner in our backyard on which they plan to erect an entire city over the course of the summer. We like to encourage them to use natural elements as well as their gardening tools for this sort of play. It’s also a great idea to get tools of different sizes. So far, they’ve used long handle shovels to excavate, shorter shovels to dig a trench around the city, and lots of branches and twigs as perimeter markers.
9. Sandbox — A patch of dirt is really all you need for digging fun, but a sandbox can also be a great backyard addition. You can plot a spot and build your own to whatever dimensions work best for your space or, if space is tight, go for a store-made version.
8. Kiddie Pool and/or Water Table — Water play is big during the warm months and a small kiddie pool is well worth the five or ten bucks that the big box stores charge for them. Of course, the pool is great for cooling off, but your kids can also use it for tons of sensory play activities simply by adding a collection of measuring cups, small bowls, funnels and other kitchen tools. On days when it’s not quite warm enough to swim, you can even prop the pool up on a few empty crates and use it as a huge (and cheap) water table or, if you really want to splurge, buy one of the water tables that comes with some fun pouring toys. You won’t regret it!
7. Wagon – A family wagon is great for walks around the neighborhood, as well as treks to the zoo, or a concert in the park. Plus younger kids usually have a blast pulling each other around in the backyard and often use wagons in outdoor imaginative play with dolls, pets and even the baby if you happen to have one on hand.
6. Bikes and Scooters — Summer just wouldn’t be summer without bikes and scooters — and they’re great for getting exercise and burning off steam. We started our kids off with balance bikes, which made it possible for everyone to get in on the fun at a really young age and pretty much skip the training wheels phase. A simple scooter is another way to change up the activity just enough to keep kids interested for hours.
5. Bubbles — Whether you stick to the store-bought bubbles in the dollar aisle or get creative with some DIY bubble blowers, bubbles are always a crowd-pleaser.
4. Sidewalk Chalk — Sidewalk chalk is an excellent way to let your little ones express their creativity without having to worry about the mess. When they finally tire of coloring with the standard chalk, be sure to check out our DIY squirtable version.
3. Frisbees and Balls — Let’s face it, stuff to kick and throw are always welcome with kids. Stock the yard with a few Frisbees and rubber balls and you’ll be amazed by the complexity of the games they create.
2. Explorer Gear — Some kids see the backyard as a bit ho-hum, while others see it as the latest frontier just waiting to be discovered. Help get your kids into an explorer frame of mind with magnifying glasses, field scopes, binoculars, butterfly nets and a homemade notebook field guide to record their findings.
1. Sports Equipment – Whether your child is into soccer, baseball or croquet, there’s a bevy of backyard equipment available these days to help fuel their interests and provide hours of play in the fresh air.
More from Stephanie Morgan
DIY Rainbow Sensory Box
Make It: Simple DIY Bubble Blowers
Recycling and Gardening with Little Ones
Photo Credits: Stephanie Morgan