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I have three sons, ages 1, 5, and 7. Getting them OUTDOORS to play is extremely important to me… I like to garden and just generally enjoy being outside so I want them to enjoy being outside too.
Also, I like highly engaging toys so they will play with the toys long enough for me to get things done. If you have a 1 year old, you know what I mean… you never get a chance to sit unless they’re super occupied.
I’m going to split these into fantastic toys for 1 year old children based on price. Some are expensive, some are under $20. All of them should entertain even the most difficult to please child.
Just keep in mind that I take manufacturer age recommendations pretty lightly… many of these items do require some supervision. I set them up next to whatever I’m doing so they don’t get hurt.
Outdoor Toys for Toddlers: Under $20
Water Beads: My 5 year old son came home from pre-K the other day and said he didn’t finish his lunch because he wanted to go back to playing with water beads. I FORGOT ABOUT THESE! These were a HUGE, huuuuuuge hit with my 5 and 7 year old when they were younger. Here’s a blog post that I wrote about these when my oldest was a baby!
You have to be careful because they WILL eat them and they really shouldn’t… but they’re such a fun sensory toy. His class was using plastic toy animals in the water beads, but for toddlers, you can just let them play around with them with their hands. Supervision is key here. They are affordable and you get a LOT with one purchase- don’t think you need more than one order unless you plan on using these for a preschool. A little goes a long way.
Bubbles: The same ones that entertained you as a kid. I love using bubbles in the bath tub too to distract a child who hates baths. But mostly we use them outdoors. If you want to get fancy, you can buy Bubble Blaster Gun Sets, Giant Bubble Wands, and Party Favor Wand Sets. But they’ll be thrilled with any bubbles at all. My kids also adore bubble machines… just make sure to clean them out after every use to store them dry, otherwise they are prone to breaking.
Balls: No specific ball. Any ball. Baseball. Basketball. Soccer ball. Whatever. My 1 year old will entertain himself for quite some time throwing alllllll of the basketballs all over the driveway while I collapse on the ground and try not to move for a few minutes because I am EXHAUSTED from chasing him all day. Haha.
Squirt Guns: My toddler is fascinated by all of the toy guns. It never fails to amaze me how quickly they pick that up from older siblings and wherever else they get it. Squirt guns are pretty cheap and they’ll love them. My toddler also loves Nerf guns even though most are wayyyyy beyond his capacity to shoot.
Swing Set Accessories: You can add accessories to your swingset pretty affordably if you want to make an old toy more interesting. I find that 1 year olds really like figuring out the mechanics of everything more than they’re engaging in pretend play… so they want to ring bells, open and close doors, open the mailbox, etc.
Stomp Rockets: While I wasn’t sure if the 1 year old would ‘get this,’ we pulled it out recently and he LOVED it. Super entertaining.
Outdoor Toys for Toddlers: $20-100
Water Table: This was a must-have purchase for us. It’s another fun sensory activity (sensing a theme?) and they spend a lot of time playing with it. I usually park a good chair next to the water table, fill it up (hot water for chillier days), and read a good book while they play. I get GOOD use out of these. Make sure to check out my post on how to clean them too! Here’s one of the water tables we’ve tried out over the course of having three kids.
Spider Web Swings: These are perfect to hang from a tree or swing set and my kids LOVE ours. We just relocated it under the tree in our front yard.
Bunch O Water Balloons: Ahhhh the kids LOVE these. If you’ve ever spent hours filling up water balloons just so the kids could pop them faster than you can fill them, you know the pain. These are made so you can fill many, many balloons very quickly. While I wince and think these are a waste of money and probably terrible for the environment/animals, they really do save the day in terms of speeding things up. FWIW, they’re supposedly biodegradable. I try to remind myself that time is money and therapy is expensive, whenever I buy them.
Toy Lawn Mower: I have many fond memories of my kids pushing their toy mowers while daddy mowed the lawn with the real mower. It’s adorable and these are always a fun toy for them to play with, indoors or out. $35 range
Toy Basketball Hoop: This toy also got a lot of use from all three boys and it’s still going strong after 7ish years (I think we got it when my 7 year old was a little guy). The net is replaceable if yours wears out.
Sandbox: These could definitely run over $100 if you let them, but we built our sand box pretty affordably, then added a shade too. They spent so many hours playing in it and we certainly need to build one at our new house. These sit on diggers are also a fun purchase if your sandbox is bit enough. My kids love to use it in the snow too!
Plasma Car: The kids seem to catch on to how these work better around 2+ but my toddler still loves to ride along with his brothers and attempt to ride this himself. He mostly scoots along using his legs which, win win, tires him out. We repainted our old plasma car to give it a makeover.
Bikes: My 1.5 year old hasn’t gotten the hang of pedaling his own bike type toys yet, but he loves when we push him on a bike. He also loves putting on his helmet which is great training for when he’s older. These 4 in 1 tricycles seem like a good starter bike so they can grow with them.
Color Changing Car Sets: These are a lot of fun. The toy cars change colors depending on if they’re dunked in hot or cold water. It’s like a fun and safe science experiment for kids. I make these an outdoor toy because I don’t want a mess of water in my house. They have their own plastic storage bin. Empty and dry before storing.
Mining Sluice: We DIY’ed this so it was under $100. Our toddler hasn’t played with it yet, but I think it would make a great toy for him to play with if supervised. It’s essentially a big rock and water table!
Outdoor Toys for Toddlers: $100+
Bounce House: This was the priciest toy that we have bought the boys, but it’s gotten SO MUCH use. It is listed for $699 right now. We used to rent a bounce house for birthday parties, but I think they were around $300 to rent and it made sense to invest in our own. This thing is definitely not as sturdy as the rentals, but it’s light weight, inflates fast, and keeps them entertained. My 1 year old loves to point at the storage box to let us know it is TIME TO PLAY. I’m able to wheel it out and set it up in maybe 5-10 minutes. I recommend a LARGE tarp to go under it and a storage bin with WHEELS to move it in and out of your storage shed/garage.
Playhouse: I got ours free from a dumpster and updated it, but these generally cost $100+ or come with the fancy playgrounds that you can buy at your favorite big name store. The kids will spend hours playing house, kitchen, and whatever else in it. Plus toddlers love to open and shut doors… make sure the playhouse has a door and preferably windows too. When they’re older, they’ll spend time climbing it.
Shallow Pool: This will depend on the age and swimming level of your child, but we loved the pool setup that we had last year. It’s a shallow pool but still too deep for a one year old to stand in though. It’s the perfect height for my toddler WITH me supervising and it’s better for my 5 and 7 year old. Our pool setup included shade and pool toy storage that you could adjust to work with a shallow baby pool.
Dune Racer: While over powered for a toddler, our Dune Racer is still being used by my 7 year old. My 1.5 year old can technically “drive” it but he doesn’t steer it… he mostly crashes. He does, however, love to ride along with his big brothers. You can always get a smaller ride on toy for the little guys. We have a low powered Paw Patrol ride on that my guy loves too.
Roller Coaster: We love our Thomas the Train roller coaster. The big boys used it and now my baby is using it while the big boys help him get on. As I’m posting this, the product is under $100, but it usually runs over $100.
Swing Set: Expensive, but worth it. At 1.5 years old, my son is starting to sit on a big boy swing that is close to the ground. A baby swing is safer, but you need to supervise them at this age anyways unless you buy a toddler swing set. Personally, I’d rather supervise because those are expensive and don’t last long.
Other Outdoor Ideas for Kids
Make sure to check out my post on Outdoor Kids Spaces for outdoor playrooms ideas! Do you need a fence for your play area? This fencing was perfect for our dog run and would be perfect to contain children as well.
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Danielle Pientka is the sewing and DIY blogger behind DIYDanielle.com. She taught herself to sew in 2011 when she wanted to make cloth diapers for her first son. She’s been sewing everything from ecofriendly items to kids products to clothing since, as it has become a passion. She loves learning how to do new things and teaching others in the process. She hopes to inspire other moms to take time for themselves to find their own creative passion.
Danielle lives in Maryland with her three young sons and her husband, Brandon. In her spare time, she gardens, reads, horseback rides, and has a small homestead with goats and ducks. Visit her shop to buy patterns or her sewing eBooks. Subscribe to her newsletter to get blog updates, free patterns and other printables by clicking here.