Best Outdoor Toys

I really love that we’re heading into summer with longer days – which means more time to be outside with our kids. Here are some of our new favorites for the season…we’ll be continuing to update this list in the coming weeks.


Nature Station Playhouse (Step 2)  I love this little playhouse that is designed for older toddlers and preschoolers – maybe because it looks like Pooh, Tigger and Piglet should be there too. Kids enjoy having small spaces that are designed just for them. This playhouse has a working periscope (really fun), a sink, a working shutter,  and a fenced in area so if you’re invited in- there’s a bigger space for adults. This product is pricey at $249.99 but will be used for a long stretch. (This playhouse  is marked 3 & up  due to all the extra things that come with it–but the structure itself will be enjoyed by younger children. There are larger play sets from Step 2 that have more height–our recommendation is take your kids along when you’re shopping for this type of equipment. If you decide to bring this product  home to older toddlers, put the goodies away until they’re older.)

Sandbox Vehicles Eco Trucks from Sprig Toys were a hit with our testers.  These are very lightweight – making them easy for kids to use and to take along to the park or backyard sand box. Made from recycled materials. Our favorite is the Dump Truck.

Dump Truck (Green Toys)  The new line of green trucks from Green Toys are heavier than the Sprig trucks. They feel more like a traditional plastic toy truck- with the upside here being that they are also made from recycled materials.   Handsomely designed – they got high marks from our testers.

Hot Wheels Color Shifters Blaster (Mattel) I’ve already blogged about this toy and I think I’m a little sad that I gave our sample away!  My mother doesn’t agree with my over the top enthusiasm for this play set–but I really think this is one of the best toys going.  I’m suggesting that it’s even better if you play with it outside–because truth be told-it does get alittle wet if you’re really playing with it full tilt.  The cars react to cold and hot water–and will turn a different color when put into either temperature (I KNOW!)  Best yet, it comes with a squirt bottle so you can change the cars by squirting them.  If you don’t want to buy the whole set–I’d suggest buying one of the cars–you can use any squirt bottle to have the same experience.  If you want to be the super cool grown up, bring this toy home to any three year old you know. I do think the car that turns from blue to yellow is much more dramatic than some of the other color changes (yellow/orange).


Drive, Chip and Putt Golf Trainer (Little Tikes) There are two different”ts’ to hit the golf ball from…making this a little different from your average plastic golf set.  Our testers really enjoyed the sport of this game and the sturdy design made it a solid choice for the 2-4 crowd.

d431ae4ea2e0258e5b58795242af18f9 Monster Badminton Set (International Playthings)  This set will be ready next month but I had to show it to you now.  These over-sized rackets and birdies are just what our family needed. They are fun for little kids–but truth be told, if you’re not the most athletic person–this is a set for you!  You’d be hard pressed to miss this birdie!  It does not come with a net–our toy testers just liked playing with it alone.


Maxi Scooter (Kickboard USA) Maybe because I’m not the most coordinated person, I loved the idea of this scooter.  It comes with three wheels and a wider platform for added stability but still  looks cool.  As I hoped, our new scooter testers had no trouble with this scooter and really enjoyed it. It comes with two handles–a traditional T-handle and a joystick.  We recommend the traditional handle as a starting point. It’s designed for kids 6-10.  The company now also makes a Mini Kick Scooter (smaller in scale for younger kids 2-5)…also with three wheels.  Helmets are a must!

Razor Spark Scooter (Razor) The granddaddy of scooters just got a very neat feature. When you break, it sparks out the back. Our testers thought this was pretty cool–although if you’re the one doing the braking, it is hard to see the spark–but your friends will!

Outdoor Treats

Freeze Pop Factory (Little Kids)  According to the company, more than 7 billion freeze pops are sold each year (makes you think we should all go into the freeze pop business!) ….in any case, this do-it-yourself kit is really fun. Comes with those pop sleeves (which magically close up and don’t leak) and plastic molds for making bigger pops.  You can experiment with making your own family recipes and limit the amount of sugar your kids use. Every grown-up I’ve mentioned this kit  to has asked the same question, “Could you make grown up freeze pop for a party?” and then they say…don’t say that out loud….but it’s true. Just don’t get them mixed up. It comes with 36 sleeves for making the pops…and the good news is that you can also order more ($4.95 for 50 including shipping) from the company’s site or by calling (800) 545-5437.

Step 2's Water Quarry

I grew up playing in a sandbox–it was right next to the hose which meant that floods were a great part of the fun. My two older brothers  always seemed to tell the best stories–that required swift action that often resulted in mud!  My mother’s only complaint about our adventures was that a good number of her good spoons ended up in the mix.

So when we both saw Step 2 ‘s new Water Quarry – that included vehicles, water and sand…we were very excited. (Of course there is a self-aware moment that most people probably don’t get as excited as we do when we see a new toy–but that’s part of the job description.)

One of our testers is here with the toy set up–but not yet in use.


You can see that there are lots of play possibilities here–the roadway, the ramps, the digger…all seem good.  Both families that took a whirl with this toy had almost the same reaction.  It’s wonderfully messy and right on target in terms of play for the 2-4 year old crowd.  If you don’t like mess-this toy is not for you. (No judgement here…but if you’re not happy with a lot of water, mud, etc….you know certain toys are not going to be a good choice to bring home.)

Both families wanted this toy to work–the kids initially loved the concept and enjoyed exploring both portions of the toy. They liked pouring water down the ramps. One parent also commented that she liked that the red piece fits like a lid so you could close up the toy from the elements.

However….they both reported the same problems with the design…the green roadways do not stay flush with the red road–so the cars get stuck at each point. The bigger ramp also fell off from time to time.They also wish the lower section was higher up so the kids could get to the sand without kneeling…(I would have just sat in the container).

At $99, both families felt that while this was fun–it needed some tweaking before they would recommend it to others. We agree–the concept is fresh, fun and right on target for the age group…we hope the company will address these design issues for their next sand toy!

Pick of the Day: Sprig Toys Eco-Trucks

51ildpwlsfl_sl500_aa280_Looking for a great lightweight truck to take to the sandbox–or just enjoy in your house?  Take a look at Sprig Toys new Eco-Trucks ($14.95).  We’ve been big fans of this truly green company that makes it toys from repurposed milk jugs and saw dust!  There are three trucks in the new in line:  a loader, a dump truck and an exacavator.  While we were concerned that some folks may find them too lightweight, our testers across the board thought the weight was a plus–making the toys easier for their kids to tote about.

Pre-Toy Fair Buzz: Sprig Toys New Eco-Trucks

eco-trucksexcavatorlrI’m often asked for good truck recommendations–so I’m eager to see this new line of  trucks from Sprig Toys.  Their products are made from repurposed plastic milk cartons and saw dust–so there is a very nice green component to this line.  We should have samples soon.   Each of the three trucks (Dump Truck, Excavator and Loader) retail for $14.99 – making them competitive with the big guys in this category.