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.

Today Show tomorrow

I’ll be on in the 9:30 half hour talking about some of my favorite outdoor toys.  I’m now interested to hear from toy testers on a new batch of toys that went out for review last week.   After I’m done with the segment, we will start on the huge pile of craft kits that have come in as well as the games, construction toys, books, audio, videos…you get the idea!

Just back from the Today Show

I had a great time this morning–it was fun to do the segment with Ann..and the kids had so much energy!  Right before we went on they were all spread out doing different activities. At the last minute Ann asked, “who likes to paint?”…and then they all walked over to the easel and window setting! I didn’t get to the games at the end–but all of the info is posted.  That’s live tv–you just never know what’s going to happen.   If you didn’t get a chance to see it I’ll post the link as soon as they post it to the website.  Time to take off the “tv” high heels and start playing with the toys again!  The sun is out–so it’s time to start thinking outdoor toys…

Today Show tomorrow: Recession Proof Toys and Activities

Getting ready this morning for tomorrow–making more crayon muffins (you’ll see)…The forecast is now for a beautiful morning but we’ve been moved inside.  Too bad since I had a really great spring coat all good to go.  The segment will be on in the 9 o’clock hour.

Looking forward to seeing the kids that will be doing the segment with me–we have a new family joining us.  Two of the kids have been testing for us since they were toddlers–it’s fun to see them getting older and getting to see them with their younger siblings.  Funny to think of five year olds as the veterans.

Getting ready for the Today Show

It hasn’t been lost on us here that dollars, much less toy dollars, are tight.  As I’m working on my segment for Thursday morning on Recession Proof toys and activities…my mother just noted that one of the dolls that we really love is $40.  As reviewers we had just gotten back into the swing of reviewing products after all the lead controversy of the last two years. Now–we’re struggling with price.  Most companies have, out of necessity, become much more price aware–a very good thing.  We were expecting toy prices to go up due to all the added costs of safety testing…but there is such pressure at retail to be competitive that the majority of toys coming in for review are under $25.  I have a sense that people will not be filling the “cart” –but be more selective in the products they bring home.

I hope it doesn’t rain on Thursday…I love being outside with the kids and the crowd. There’s a lot of energy that just makes doing the segment more fun!

Ok, I'm on Facebook

Last week I started getting emails from people I grew up with in Monticello New York. Addicted to my iphone, I was puzzled by the flurry of emails. Of course the source was a new high school page.  My two sons felt pretty strongly that I should NEVER join Facebook. So here I was–with an inbox of friendly invitations from people I haven’t seen in a long time–and many of them I knew since we were in preschool. 

At the same time I started getting email from toy testers and public relations people–all encouraging me to join.  So, with apologies to my sons…I’ve posted.  You can visit my page and there is also one for the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio. Please feel free to join me on either page. If you have pictures of your kids playing with the toys we’ve recommended or toys that you think we should know about…send them our way.