Your BEST backyard toy ideas needed! - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 17 Old 03-23-2010, 03:54 PM - Thread Starter
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Hi Mammas,

I need to spruce up our backyard play area so the kids will spend more time out there. They actually love to go is just that they get bored. Kids are 4 & 7. The yard is not huge, but it is fenced in.

We have a basketball hoop. Although I would love to get a sandbox, dh said no way.

I would love to get a climber/swing set...but we are planning on moving in the next 1.5 years so I don't think that would work out.

What are some backyard toys, activities that your kids love?

BTW...just saw this today, the Spiro Hop. Looks fun!

Thanks! Jen
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#2 of 17 Old 03-23-2010, 03:57 PM
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A water table.

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#3 of 17 Old 03-23-2010, 06:10 PM
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I HIGHLY recommend or

Although pricey...the endless possibilities of this construction kit makes it well worth the money!

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#4 of 17 Old 03-23-2010, 06:17 PM
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I'd go for a variety of smaller equipment instead of a big piece. Sidewalk chalk (we use ours on the wooden fence) balls of all shapes and sizes, those big bouncy ones that have handles, jump ropes, bubbles, tons of different digging/"gardening" supplies-buckets, trowels, shovels, sifters, etc to use in the dirt, a sprinkler for warm weather, hula hoops, ring toss or horseshoe toss games, water table (Or just a big flat bin with water in it.) These are great because you can switch out things that go in it. Sand. Dirt. Water. Dry Pasta, etc. Small outdoor table and chairs can be fun, too.

I also try to take advantage of nice weather to do messy or art activities outside-playdough, moonsand, clay, painting, spraying colored water on large fridge boxes/paper/paper bags/whatever you have.

If you have a big, sturdy tree, could you rig up a heavy duty rope with knots in it for them to swing on?

Also, what about wood scraps and hammer/nails? You'd def have to supervise closely but that could be fun, too.

Also, I used to have tons of fun just bringing out things from the inside. I loooooved playing in the dirt with barbies, matchbox cars, little people, wooden blocks, etc. I remember feeling like there were so many new possibilities for scenarios I imagined up, etc.
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#5 of 17 Old 03-23-2010, 08:47 PM
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My boys had fun putting together and playing with this "Kid Wash" made using PVC pipes connected to the hose:

It cost about $25 for parts, and you can take to pieces apart and build different things (or store them, or move them).

You could also build a fort with them and cover with tarps or sheets.

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#6 of 17 Old 03-24-2010, 01:57 AM
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Since now isn't a good time for a swing set, could you get one of the larger little tikes stand alone slide. My kids still play on theirs and I have a 4, 7, and 10 yr old. Now, granted, they aren't always using it "as intended". It often is rigged to go into a small pool or they put the hose on it to go down fast. But, it is also often used as part of an obstacle course.

Other staples at our house are cones (great for soccer drills, but also for the "obstacle course"), hula hoops, bubbles, chalk, balls, butterfly net, bug house, kite (you can get the little "finger kites", jump rope (again, usually not actually used for jumping with over here), "binoculars" or "scope" (you know, for spying), pinwheels, wading pool, sprinkler to run through. Oh, and get buckets even without a sand box. They are great for collecting things and playing with in the water.

I second having things around to make forts/shelters. You need an outdoor blanket or sheet for picnics. Paint the rocks for outdoor/garden decor. We also have a geodome--that could be moved with you. We got ours at costco. It was so worth the money. They climb on it, hang from it, hide in it, cover it with a sheet for an igloo, etc.


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#7 of 17 Old 03-24-2010, 02:55 AM
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We have a trampoline, large climbing cube, small climbing cube, the little tikles 8 in 1 playground, a playhouse, sandbox, sm and lg basketball hoops, picnic table, large metal swingset, and also a plasma car, bikes, trikes, scooters, ride on toys (there is a section of paved driveway within the fenced area), plus balls galore, my kids love balls, LOL! We also have stuff like sidewalk chalk, bubbles, etc.
Honestly, despite what you said, I highly recommend a swing set. You can get a basic metal one for $125-150, which is the same price range at the spiro hop thing you linked to. Swings and slides are always a huge hit. even if you are moving, it'll still get used, and you can sell it when you move, recoup a bit of money, and buy the big wondeful wooden swingset of your dreams when you get to your long-term house.
I'm not sure what dh's issue is with a sandbox?? Do your kids eat sand or have sensory issues with it? You can get a cheap plastic one from walmart for $40 or less, sand is cheap, and kids absolutely love it. It's a wonderful toy.
The trampoline is a fave here, but I know some people have issues with them.
One thing we do not have that we want to get is a dome climber.
The 4 X 8 is $159, and would be fun to climb and swing on, you can throw a blanket over it and it becomes a fort/playhouse, etc.
Also, a sprinkler of some sort? We do not have a pool in our yard because i wan tot be able to let the kids go outside and play without my constant presence, which I could obviously not do if we had a pool. But,m I'm thinking of getting a sprinkler this year, since i don't believe it would pose the same type of drowning risk.

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#8 of 17 Old 03-24-2010, 03:27 AM
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A tree swing of some sort. We have this one, and it's by far the most popular thing in our backyard. We have kids who come over just to swing on it!

If no sand, then what about a really big pile of pebbles? Fills the same function, but without the accompanying sand tracking everywhere or the worry about cats.

A wading pool - yeah they're too big to wade in it, but you'd be surprised how many 'experiments' take place in our wading pool for the 4-9 year old crowd. (And it's cheaper than a water table.)

A set of bases for baseball/kickball, plus a good kickball and/or wiffle bat and balls.

A tent or tunnel.

Cones. I don't know exactly what they do with them, but they're popular.

Frisbees (soft ones, if you can)

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#9 of 17 Old 03-24-2010, 08:14 AM
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Have you thought about building a fort/house/clubhouse together with your kids? You could be really organic about it and use scraps and found materials, or you could work from a plan and buy sturdier materials. Either way, it's a great, engaging project that can be worked on for a long time and has lots of play value. I would do this rather than purchase something pre-fabricated. My kids have spent more time than I can say building and playing in their forts!

Also, not a play toy, but does gardening interest your family? Planning and putting in a small "children's garden" can be really rewarding. There are some great books about incorporating gardens and natural play spaces.

Lastly, anything w/water! We run a hose/faucet out to our sandbox because sand/water play still engages my school aged and middle school kids!
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#10 of 17 Old 03-24-2010, 01:39 PM - Thread Starter
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Great ideas! Thanks! There are definitely some ideas in here that I hadn't thought of or haven't seen before.

We do have an above ground garden that we built a few years ago. This might be the year I let the kids take it over.

Thanks again. This should be fun!
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#11 of 17 Old 03-24-2010, 01:51 PM
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my dd's absolute favourite is a mud area? do your children love getting dirty?

my dd loooooooooooves it. we dont have much place but even if we did, we wouldnt get equipement at all. we have bricks and a mud area. and boxes. stiiiiil at 7, boxes are still huge for dd. dd loves the mud area and makes sculptures of things she likes. in one area she created a whole city.

a lot depends on how your children like to play. dd is a sit down imaginative play person. so she doesnt need a lot of climbing toy stuff. she needs access to a variety of little things which i get like pebbles, bricks, rocks, different kinds of plants, little clay pots - all basic natural stuff.

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#12 of 17 Old 03-24-2010, 01:58 PM
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We currently have a couple different balls, Frisbees, they have rolling buckets and spades like mine and a designated digging area. We had to do that otherwise we'd have holes all over the yard!!!

This year I'm building containers for my garden, and if all goes well they will have their own small container for whatever they wish to try to grow. I know one will be an apple tree that my son hopes to start.

We also have a wading pool, neither of my children really care to 'swim' or 'wade' in it. They will either get in and out and make it nasty, or if it's a super hot day they'll actually get in to sit down! For about 5 minute before getting out and continuing with whatever they were doing to make them hot.

We would love a slide! We have a rope swing, but I think if the structure can hold I might look into a disk swing that thing looks pretty cool.

Oh, we have sidewalk chalk, they're allowed to draw on the deck, the retaining wall and the play structure. Finger painting, or brush painting also happens outside, dying eggs, much messy stuff we move outside and make it another thing.

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#13 of 17 Old 03-25-2010, 09:05 AM
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Ok, I didn't read all the other posts but this is what I'd do:

Water play, either water table or wading pool w/lots of buckets, bowls, spoons, ladles, funnels.

Balance beam (just a 4x4 on the ground would work)

Child's garden area, a small plot of fresh soil and some seeds, shovels, etc.

A small trampoline.

Lots of bubbles, balls, and streamers.

Nature constructive area: rocks, stones, pebbles, sand, wood, blocks, bricks, sticks, rope, stuff kids can use to make cool kid stuff.

I would also get a cool outdoor playhouse if I could afford it.

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#14 of 17 Old 06-13-2013, 10:44 PM
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I don't know what your backyard looks like, but if you have a tree you need to check out the swing and spin.


We just finally received our swing to hang in the oak tree in our back yard.  It seems just about any swing will keep kids occupied, but our three girls just absolutely love their new swing.


Looks like a spider's web, but is actually closer to a tire swing.  It is called Swing and Spin   but just google around for the best option.  I think Amazon is selling it with free shipping, and that is where we picked up ours.


We got the extra large 4 foot one, and we've had all our girls on it and 2 of their friends.  So far this looks like it will be toy of the year for them.

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#15 of 17 Old 06-18-2013, 06:47 PM
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We have a small backyard. And my DD loves to play around with water. So I think I am going to build her a water activity wall.

Something like some of these


I am sure she will love it and get hours of play from it. I am going to get her to help me build it from things we find in recycling bins.

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#16 of 17 Old 07-01-2013, 07:32 PM
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We have the Backyard Discovery Somerset swing set and the kids love it! Kids from all around the neighborhood come over to use it. It's a bit expensive, but totally worth it.
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#17 of 17 Old 07-06-2013, 02:56 PM
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I second the mud area.  My kids LOVE our yards, front and back, and they are basically completely unlandscaped flat southwestern dirt with scattered hardy plants.  We have a big tree  in front with two different swings, a lot of shade even mid-day, and I let them dig in the dirt in most of the yard.  They create all sorts of things.  Right now, since they learned that Purslane is edible, they've been marking off where it's growing with sticks.  Sort of making tiny gardens in the yard.  They play with trucks and cars, little animals, lots of small manipulables in the dirt and plants.  My son and his best friend used the little plastic six-pack containers of starter plants (no plants in them anymore) as pretend Easter eggs and had a good game of Bunny and finder.  We always grow tomatoes that they can pick and eat when they want (the rest of the garden stuff is not so good for that).  Our yard looks like junk, but from a little person's perspective it's pretty diverse and fun.


Climbing things are good too, and you don't have to be constrained by what the object was intended to be.  We have a plastic house that's meant for preschoolers playing house, which our kids have used it for, but it's also been used at least as much as a ship or something when they climb up on top of it.  Lots of things are fun to climb on.

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