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The 10 Best Active & Outdoor Toys

2021-04-07 by Melissa & Doug
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Active play means an active mind. Studies show physical activity helps improve cognitive function—but it also helps develop coordination and builds confidence and social skills. With the summer months fast approaching, it’s time to encourage kids to step away from the screens and into the sunshine.

The Power of Active Play Toys 

“The use of toys in physical activity (such as playing with balls) has the potential to facilitate gross motor development together with self-regulation and peer interaction because of the negotiations regarding rules that typically take place.” —The American Academy of Pediatrics

This is the seventh in a series of blog posts on the skill-building power of different types of play.

The 10 Best Active Play Toys for Kids

Active and outdoor play toys are a great way to facilitate your child’s motor development while having fun. We’ve included extra play ideas for each to keep the educational play going!

Melissa & Doug Happy Giddy Bowling Set

 

  1. Happy Giddy Bowling Set

Age: 2+ 

Why it’s great: This brightly colored plastic bowling set is right up everyone’s alley! With six bowling pins and a mini bowling ball, you can set up a game wherever you go. 

Sweet detail: Comes in a handy bowling bag with durable fabric handles, so you can easily take it outside!

Skills: Hand-eye coordination and gross motor skills.

Countless Ways to Play: Bowling but make it goofy! Make up different rules each round, like “Backwards Bowl,” “Tiptoe Bowl,” or “Disco Bowl,” where everyone busts a move before their turn. 

Melissa & Doug Seaside Sidekicks Funnel Fun

2. Seaside Sidekicks Funnel Fun 

Age: 2+

Why it’s great: This brightly colored funnel is an exciting sand or water funnel for outdoor play! Simply pour water or sand through this whimsical tower of sea creatures, then watch as the different layers funnel, tip, spin, and sift. 

Sweet detail:  With a convenient carry handle, it’s easy to bring it along to the beach or backyard!

Skills: Hand-eye coordination and gross motor skills.

Countless Ways to Play: Set up a timer and see how long it takes the sand or water to go from the top bucket to the bottom! 

Melissa & Doug Seaside Sidekicks Sand Baking Set

3. Seaside Sidekicks Sand Baking Set

Age: 3+

Why it’s great: Your young chef will have a blast “cooking” up beach treats with this sea-creature inspired “baking” set. Use the shell-shaped measuring cups, octopus whisk, and crab mixing spoon to make fabulous mudpies, and sandcakes. 

Sweet detail: The turtle lid on the mixing bowl doubles as a sifter!

Skills: Hand-eye coordination and gross motor skills.

Countless Ways to Play: Use the turtle lid as a sandbox sifter! Collect a bunch of unique rocks from the yard, and have your child sift the box until they find them all. 

Melissa & Doug Spark Shark Fish Hunt Pool Toy

4. Spark Shark Fish Hunt Pool Toy

Age: 6+

Why it’s great: This fun pool toy comes with six fish sinkers and two shark nets with a handle, so children can swim through the pool, scooping up all the fish. Challenge them to speed like a hungry shark to gobble up the tasty fish as fast as they can!

Sweet detail: The brightly colored fish sinkers are easy to spot in the water.

Skills: Hand-eye coordination and gross motor skills. 

Countless Ways to Play: No pool? Play “Fish out of water.” Spread out the sinkers on the lawn and have two kids (or two teams) race to feed their shark by putting all three fish into their shark’s mouth before the other team does!

Melissa & Doug Louie Lobster Claw Catcher Pool Toy

5. Louie Lobster Claw Catcher Pool Toy

Age: 5+

Why it’s great: Colorful, easy to use, and so much fun to squeeze, this Louie Lobster play set comes with three fishy sinkers to grab. Children can easily squeeze the handle and – SNAP! – Louie Lobster’s claws clamp shut.

Sweet detail: It’s great for playtime in and out of the pool! 

Skills: Hand-eye coordination and gross motor skills.

Countless Ways to Play: Have a friend drop a fish into the water. Try to catch it with your Claw Catcher before it reaches the bottom.

Melissa & Doug Froggy Kickball

6. Froggy Kickball 

Age: 2+

Why it’s great: This classic toy is perfect for playground and backyard games. The smiling Froggy Kickball adds delight to throwing, catching, kicking and bouncing activities. 

Sweet detail: Made of durable rubber so the happy times will last and last!

Skills: Hand-eye coordination and gross motor skills.

Countless Ways to Play: Set up obstacles in a straight line and try kicking, bouncing, or swatting the ball around them.  

Melissa & Doug Giddy Buggy Binoculars

7. Giddy Buggy Binoculars

Age: 3+

Why it’s great: Exploring nature offers connection to the larger world. These kid-friendly binoculars bring distant objects and the natural world up close with adjustable lenses that help your child discover adventure in every backyard. 

Sweet detail: The always-happy Giddy Buggy Sunny Patch character adds an adorable twist to a classic tool.

Skills: Encourages observation skills and interest in the natural world.

Countless Ways to Play: Bring a notebook into the backyard and have your child write down or draw the things they spot with their binoculars! 

 Melissa & Doug Giddy Buggy Tunnel

8. Giddy Buggy Tunnel

Age: 3+

Why it’s great: Navigating obstacles, like tunnels, is a great way to build gross motor skills, balance, and flexibility. This adorable Giddy Buggy is happy to invite active kids to crawl through a rainbow of color in this bright tunnel. 

Sweet detail: Made of durable wipe-clean materials, it sets up quickly and easily folds flat for convenient storage.

Skills: Develops gross motor skills and problem-solving.

Countless Ways to Play: Pretend the tunnel leads to a magical kingdom, a deserted island, or a different planet!

Melissa & Doug Snappy Turtle Mower

9. Snappy Turtle Mower

Age: 2+

Why it’s great: Doing yard work is a snap when the cheerful Snappy Turtle helps! This cleverly designed plastic lawnmower features realistic details like a storage compartment, sliding and turning dials, plastic fuel can, and pull-cord. 

Sweet detail: It’s got a sturdy handle for new walkers!  

Skills: Gross motor skill development, role play activities, and exploration. 

Countless Ways to Play: Have your child store “treasures” in the turtle’s shell (like feathers, cool rocks, or leaves) as they push their mower around the lawn. 

Melissa & Doug Dilly Dally Target Game

10. Dilly Dally Target Game

Age: 3+

Why it’s great: This smiling Dilly Dally turtle target game is a great backyard game! Pick a team–red or yellow–and take turns tossing the self-sticking beanbags at the turtle-shaped fabric target with numbered sections.  

Sweet detail: Durably constructed, making it perfect for the outdoors. 

Skills: Hand-eye coordination and gross motor skills. 

Countless Ways to Play: To make it more of a challenge, have players stand or hop on one foot while tossing beanbags at the target.  


In its “Selecting Appropriate Toys for Young Children in the Digital Era” study, the AAP noted that “High-quality toys in each of these categories can facilitate caregiver-child interactions, peer play, and the growth of imagination”:

Pretend Play Activity centers, dolls, play food, cooking toys, role play sets, puppets, vehicles

Developmental Play Fine motor manipulatives, activity stations, sorters & stackers

Problem Solving Blocks, construction play, puzzles

Creativity Craft kits, coloring activities, painting & drawing

Language & Concepts Alphabet activities, number activities, games

Physical Activity Balls, tunnel, gardening & nature

Check out our product picks for the best toys in these pediatrician-recommended categories!

Read The Power of Pretend Play >

Read The Power of Developmental Play >

Read The Power of Problem Solving Play >

Read The Power of Numbers and Letters Play >

Read The Power of Puzzle Play >

Read The Power of Creative Play >

 

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Melissa & Doug

Our team of play experts occasionally enjoys sharing news about our company, new product launches, and some of the #CountlessWaysToPlay with our toys, crafts, and games. At Melissa & Doug, we’re on a mission to inspire the innovators of tomorrow through kid-powered play!

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