BestReviews is reader-supported and may earn an affiliate commission. Details
Expert Shopper Toys & Games

Kids will have fun and learn with these 10 backyard toys

Expertly reviewed by Aimee Ketchum
The best backyard toys allow kids to have fun while they learn and develop important skills.

Best backyard toys to entertain your toddler for hours

It’s no secret that toddlers have a compelling desire to explore everything around them, and parents carry the important task of safely encouraging this fascination while allowing toddlers to be creative. One of the best ways to keep toddlers occupied and happy, especially in the summer, is by spending time outdoors. And you don’t have to go far.

We asked BestReviews baby and child expert Aimee Ketchum about the best backyard toys to keep toddlers entertained for hours.

Shop this article: Step2 Dino Dig Sand and Water TableLydaz Bubble Lawn MowerEssenson Outdoor Explorer and Bug Catcher Kit

Types of outdoor play

  • Free play: The main criteria for free play is that the child makes all the choices. They decide what they want to do without interference from adults. Being the sole director encourages children to be creative, problem solve and discover their hobbies and dislikes. For example, if you give a toddler building blocks and tell them how to stack it to create a tower, that’s guided play. However, if you give your toddler a stack of blocks and don’t interfere, they’re free to use their imagination to build a road for their car or make an obstacle course. 
  • Guided play: Guided play is also important as it focuses on developing other skills. In guided play, adults steer the activity in a specific direction or set a learning goal when they sit down. Benefits include developing active listening skills, building communication skills and critical thinking. 

Benefits of outdoor play

“Playing outside is great for young children,” said Ketchum. “Nature-based play is a great way to learn pre-kindergarten skills while getting some exercise and sunlight. There is greater opportunity for development of motor skills, coordination, visual skills, problem solving, creativity and imagination during outdoor play. Just don’t forget the sunscreen!”

The two main aspects of nature-based play are being outdoors and allowing unstructured activities. The physical and developmental benefits are virtually endless when toddlers can use their imaginations outdoors.

“Spending time outdoors is great for developing an understanding of conservation from a young age," Ketchum added. "Children can go to parks, hike in woods or just play outdoor games to begin to have an appreciation for nature.

"Climate change affects children more than adults because they are still growing and the environment has a larger effect on them. It is important that children are a part of the conservation conversation, and we can teach these concepts from a very young age.” 

Best backyard toys for toddlers

Step2 Dino Dig Sand and Water Table

Ketchum recommended water and sand tables for backyard toys because it allows the children to explore and get messy while keeping the mayhem outside. Both water and sand play also teach early science, technology, engineering and math skills while also working on sensory processing and interactive play.

Sold by Amazon

Lydaz Bubble Lawn Mower

One of the ways toddlers learn is by emulating behavior by the adults around them, and this bubble lawn mower will help little ones feel like they’re helping the grown-ups. Bubbles are also great for vision development. Plus, pushing and pulling this lawn mower will help with the development of motor skills and balance.

Sold by Amazon

Essenson Outdoor Explorer and Bug Catcher Kit

Help children truly engage in the outdoors with this adventure kit that includes bug-catching nets, a bug house, magnifying glass, binoculars and even a whistle to alert others when you have found a great catch. It’s great for early STEM and exploration while also teaching about nature and conservation. 

Sold by Amazon

Foam Sports Balls for Small Hands

Ketchum recommended balls for all kids, and these toddler-sized balls fit perfectly in little hands. These foam balls allow adults to begin teaching toddlers about basketball, football, baseball and tennis while also building gross motor skills and hand-eye coordination.

Sold by Amazon

"Exploring Nature Activity Book for Kids"

Spark a toddler’s curiosity and creativity with this nature activity book that has over 50 outdoor activity ideas. These projects cover a range of seasons and regions that allow little ones to keep up with the activities all year long. 

Sold by Amazon

Chalk City Jumbo Sidewalk Chalk

The opportunities are endless when you hand a toddler a piece of chalk. Not only does it help them to develop fine motor skills by holding the chalk and drawing shapes or letters, but it's also a great tool to teach kids about colors. 

Sold by Amazon

SplashEZ 3-In-1 Splash Pad

When you want to cool off on a hot day, consider a toddler-friendly splash pad. Since the water is shallow, it minimizes the risks of swimming in water but still provides a refreshing activity. Just know that it will be hard to get your toddler to leave the splash pad and come inside.

Sold by Amazon

Melissa & Doug Sunny Patch Pretty Petals Gardening Tote Set

If your little one wants to copy you while you're gardening in the backyard, consider this set of brightly colored tools, including a shovel, rake and spray bottle. Plus, it comes in a durable bag. Toddlers will have so much fun they won't realize they're developing fine and gross motor skills.

Sold by Amazon

Little Tikes Cozy Truck Ride-On

Let a toddler's imagination run wild with this ride-on truck. It has rugged wheels, a working drop-down tailgate and a working horn. Plus, the floorboard removes to accommodate growing toddlers.

Sold by Amazon

Strider 12 Sport Kids Balance Bike

In addition to learning about balance and steering, balance bikes also help toddlers transition to a big kid bike faster than using training wheels. The frame is lightweight and perfect for little ones.

Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

  • An adjustable T-ball set allows all ages to develop hand-eye coordination, boost fine motor skills and stay outdoors for hours.
  • With a toddler-sized slide, easy-grip side rails and multiple tunnels, kids won't want to leave this outdoor playset.
  • If your toddler loves basketball or carrying around a ball, the Little Tikes Basketball Hoop is exciting and encourages coordination.
  • Toddlers can use their imagination with this yard game set that comes with cones, rings and bean bags.
  • Not only will this double-sided water wall cool kids off in the summer and keep them entertained, but it also develops STEM play by creating inventive waterfall paths.

Want to shop the best products at the best prices? Check out Daily Deals from BestReviews.

Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

Bre Richey writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

Share this post: