This is it, parents: the 15 outside toys for baby that you’ll need to keep your little one entertained this summer until the weather changes. Water, bubbles, balls and active play will keep kids happy and wipe them out for naptime. We’ve also offered product suggestions to make your shopping easier.
1. Splash Mat
Introduce your child to the old-fashioned fun of playing in the sprinklers with a tot-size splash mat. All the fun of a public splash pad—with none of the big-kid crowds. Splash mats allow babies to stay cool and interact with water without having to be submerged in it. We love the fan favorite SplashEZ 3-in-1 A-Z Splash Mat ($26) for its fun theme and gentle spraying action.
2. Baby Pool
Here’s an equation for summer fun: an inflatable pool + a few inches of water = hours of fun for your little guppy. For wee ones, we like the Playkids Fill 'n Fun Water Play Mat ($10). For bigger babes, the Babymoov Aquani Protective Pop-Up 3-in-1 Portable Baby/Toddler Pool Play Area ($91, pictured above) is a winner thanks to a built-in sunshade, removable mosquito net and attached toys.
3. Water Table
Made for fun in the sun, a water table is an ideal toy for encouraging little ones' imagination, developing early motor skills and introducing water play. The Little Tikes Fish 'N Splash Water Table ($45) features a fishing pole, net, cup and colorful critters to play with.
4. Sand Table
If you can't get to the beach, bring the beach to your baby. Not only do tots have a blast, but they'll be touching, digging, burying and pouring their way into important sensory experiences. Add small tools like shovels, cars and miniature animals to up the fun—and learning—factor. This cute SOWOW Water Table Sand Table by Step2 ($36) will have baby feeling anything but crabby.
5. Toy Ball
When it comes to your babe's outdoor toy lineup, basic can be a good thing. There are few things more fun for a little one than tossing, bouncing or throwing a ball. (No wonder "ball" is a common first word!) The Edushape Sensory See-Me Ball (from $15) fits the bill by being able to do all the things a conventional ball can do, plus it has a nubby texture that makes it easy for tiny hands to grasp.
6. Toy Truck
Giving your child access to simple toys that encourage creativity and imagination is a smart parenting move. Plus, it's a universally known fact that kids love filling up and dumping things out of a toy dump truck over and over (and over). And because you never know what babies might put in their mouth, this Green Toys Dump Truck ($27) is made from recycled plastic that is free of BPA, PVC and phthalates.
7. Bubble Machine
No matter what stage of development your baby is in, we can guarantee one thing: They love bubbles. Blow a few into the air and watch infants become mesmerized by the floating orbs and older tots go into chase mode, complete with giggles and waving arms. Save your breath with a Little Kids® Fubbles™ Bubble Blastin' Machine ($12). Thanks to the placement of the bubble wands, bubbles tend to blow at baby's level rather than high into the air out of reach. Because we all know that popping them is half the fun!
8. Baby Swing
Depending on their mood, your babe will go swinging into high-energy fun or chilled-out bliss with an outdoor swing. Swings give alert infants and older tots a chance to take in the sights and sounds of the surrounding world from a safe perch, and they give tired or fussy babes a dose of soothing comfort thanks to their gentle, back-and-forth rocking motion. We like the TP Quadpod Adjustable 4-in-1 Swing Seat ($75) for its cocoon-like shape, safety bar and straps. There are cheaper swings on the market, but this one can be reconfigured to support kids comfortably up to age 8, so it's worth the extra investment.
A slide may seem like a simple toy, but it is actually a powerhouse in the outdoor toy lineup. Besides offering your little one a fun ride, slides help kids develop balance, coordination and visual skills. Choose a slide that's low to the ground to keep things safe for littles. The Little Tikes Hide and Seek Climber ($100) is an all-time favorite thanks to its gently sloping slide, rock wall and low-profile design.
10. Ball Pit
Babies don't only have a ball in a ball pit, they also have the chance to work on their coordination and visual skills. The Bright Starts 5-in-1 Your Way Ball Play Activity Gym ($54) sets up (and folds up) easily and allows babies to exercise their hand-eye coordination by sliding, dropping and popping balls into the four activity stations.