Active toddlers are happy toddlers and these outdoor play toys for 1, 2 and 3 year olds are the best for encouraging climbing, movement and creative play in your backyard. In this article, we’re going to give you our picks for the best outdoor toys for toddlers.
If you still need more ideas, you can find more toys that may work for your toddler in our list of the best outdoor toys for 4-5 year olds.
Why Outdoor Toys?
Before we get into a list of all our favorite outdoor toys, we’re going to examine all the unique benefits of outdoor play for a young child. There are so many benefits of outdoor play for your little ones, and any parent should understand just how important it is to get young children outside playing.
The first advantage of an outdoor toy is that it encourages physical activity. Even from a very young age, children need to be active and energetic. Not only is it necessary for health and development, but it helps them to develop physical skills from a young age. This includes basic skills like walking & running, as well as fine& gross motor skills, and hand eye coordination. Just like parents, toddlers need to lead an active life!
Of course, perhaps the most obvious advantage of outdoor toys is how much fun they are! Your little tikes love to play outside! Sometimes it doesn’t even matter what they’re doing, they just love to get outside and play. These backyard toys are a great way to encourage this outdoor play, and add even more fun to their favourite activities!
For 1 and 2 year olds I always know they’ll enjoy toys that allow them to have sensory experiences like digging, or playing in water, sand and mud. I look for outdoor toys that support them in learning to use their bodies and develop resilience through climbing and with fun obstacles.
Good for Development
Outdoor toys are excellent for the development of young children. Not only do they encourage the physical development that we examined above, but they are also great for social and cognitive development. These toys encourage imaginative play, where the only boundaries to their experiences are their imagination. Additionally, toddlers have the chance to spend outdoor times with other children their age, helping them to forge social connections from a young age.
Now that we’ve examined why these toys are such a good idea, let’s check out our top picks to help your child find their new favorite outdoor toy.
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Before We Start – Opt For Quality
Some of the best outdoor toys for 2 year olds can last for years, becoming part of backyard fun long past toddlerhood. The trick is to choose quality, open ended toys (meaning toys that don’t have just one use, but can be imaginatively used for multiple ways to play). The classics like a sandbox, a wagon, and hand trowels for instance are great for toddlers, and continue to be good toys all through childhood.
Our Favorite Outdoor Toys for Toddlers
Toddler love these sturdy little tables. A sand table is a wonderful addition to a backyard, especially if you only have a small space or a balcony for outdoor play. Sand and water tables keep messy play somewhat contained and give kids a place to enjoy the sensory experience of playing with water and maybe mixing in dirt or sand.
This climbing toy for toddlers (the toy is rated for kids ages 2 years – 10 years) is constructed of lightweight plastic tubes that interlock with self locking springs. Parent reviewers say their active kids LOVE this toy for climbing and making forts. It can be used outside on a lawn, or if you bring it indoors, one mom came up with the genius idea of putting a ball pit under the structure which her kids were thrilled with.
What I love about this climbing toy with a slide is that toddlers can have fun climbing up and sliding down, but they also can use the deck as a play house, giving it multiple possibilities for play. This slide is recommended for ages 18 months to 5 years. The maximum weight recommendation is only 50 pounds, so smaller kids will do best with it. One reviewer commented that she like that it is light weight enough to easily move for mowing the lawn.
All of our kids loved their Strider bikes for learning the balance and coordination needed to ride a pedal bike. Striders are small enough for a toddler, and can last through the preschool years (ours made it through three kids).
This durable bouncy toy made our list of top indoor active play toys as well, but it’s been used in backyard just as often. Rodies get kids jumping and bouncing, they encourage pretend play, and best of all, they last. Not only are they durable, they have lasting play power. Our kids have loved their Rody Ponies from age 3 all the way up to age 8.
This is another toy that works indoors and out – five years after receiving a couple Bilibos from Grammy, these funny bowl-like toys are still in use. Currently they’re being used to transport dirt and water in the backyard, but when they’re not outdoors, they’ve also been used for rocking and rolling in when the kids were preschoolers, Barbie bathtubs, to cradles stuffed animals and as stools. These are a truly versatile toy.
Bilibo now also makes a pack of 6 mini Bilibos, which could make a fun and creative addition to a sand and water table.
Many of us can probably look back on our own childhood with fond memories of splashing around in a plastic pool during the summer. My mother-in-law taught my the trick of warming the water in an inflatable pool by laying a black piece of plastic (a big garbage bag works) over the pool in the sunshine for a little solar heating.
How about a miniature basketball hoop? If your child loves sports but isn’t quite old enough to do the real thing, then try out one of these fun alternatives. A mini hoop is a great way to encourage an interest in sports from a young age, and won’t leave them frustrated at their inability to do the actual sport. Kids will have a great time shooting and dunking into this basketball outdoor playset!
Making the Best Choice
So with all the choices on our list, which one is the best? The answer is that there isn’t a “best” choice, rather there is a best choice for your kid! Talk to them, find out what their interests are, and pay attention to what they like to play with. We are confident that by doing this you can make the best choice from the list above!
Remember, with anything you buy for a toddler, safety is a number one priority! All of the items on our list are safe for toddlers, and you should be sure that you use these same criteria in anything you buy for your young kids. Remember to monitor them as they play!
A few more classic outdoor toys for 2 year olds:
- A Bubble Machine– chase those bubbles!
- Tonka Trucks
- Little Shovels and Rakes and a place they can of dig in the dirt.
- Small Slide
- Outdoor playhouse
More fun ideas of ways to play with your toddler indoors and out:
- The Best Winter Gear For Toddlers
- Best Bath Toys to Get Toddlers to LOVE Bathtime
- Our Favorite Board Games for 2 and 3 Year Olds
About the Author
Alissa is a resilience coach, cartoonist, and advocate for ‘connection, not perfection’. She’s dedicated to helping others find a sense of safety and belonging inside themselves so they can heal, connect, and build authentic, joyful lives.