All children love to blow off steam outdoors, running around, playing make believe and indulging in some wet and messy play. A souped-up ride-on, an eco-friendly playhouse, a trampoline, water-powered toys and a sand pit or table are all great ways to turn your garden into a super-fun place for outside play.
Here are our favourite garden and outdoor toys, as tested by children…
GOLD winner, Best Outdoor Toy, 2018 MadeForMums Toy Awards
What it is: A sit-and-glide ride-on for older kids that’s like a cross between a zoomy sledge and a futuristic go-kart.It nips along at a top speed of 12kph, and you steer by leaning, using the pedals to control how fast you go. Features side handles and a safety flag. Comes with rechargeable 12V battery (needs overnight recharge) and has a run time of about 90 minutes.
Why we love it: You should see how this turns kids’ heads in the park! This is one seriously cool piece of kit that every primary-school child will covet like crazy.
What our child testers made of it:
- ‘Theo says it’s “shiny, epic and awesome” and he’d give it 100,000 stars as it’s best ride-on toy ever! It’s easy to steer and balance, and he feels really special riding it in the park because all his friends think it’s really cool.’ Chloe, mum to Theo, 8
- ‘This is brilliant! Georgie absolutely beams from ear to ear riding this – she screams with joy! It’s really quite nippy and speedy, so more suited to parks than streets. What an absolute joy of a toy!’ Danielle, mum to Georgie, 9
Available from: Hamleys and Smyths Toys
SILVER winner, Best Outdoor Toy, 2018 MadeForMums Toy Awards
What it is: A robust and well-padded glider swing seat for 2 (160cm x 52cm x 19cm) that can be converted into a hammock with headrest. The swing is compatible with traditional swing sets, so it can be fitted to an existing frame. Max weight: 100kg.
Why we love it: It’s pretty quick and easy to put together (and unclip to store if it rains) and the seat really is wonderfully big and comfy.
What our child testers made of it:
- ‘It’s better than the swings in the playground. I like it so much because my brother, Sammy, can come on with me – that’s the best bit about it. And when my friends come round, we all play together: one of us pushes and another one jumps on.’ Theo, 4
- ‘My little boys are very close in age and what’s great about this swing nest is that they can play on it together, so there’s no fighting over who goes first or having to take turns.’ Maxine, mum to Ellis, 3, and Theo, 2
Available from: Plum Play and Mothercare
BRONZE winner, Best Outdoor Toy, 2018 MadeForMums Toy Awards
What is it: A 76cm x 203cm x 190cm tower with a slide that can be used indoors as well as out (though it is tall!). Comes with 25 plastic balls, a bucket and a hand-powered crank to send them up to the top of the tower from where they’ll shower back down on your head. Can be attached to a garden hose to turn it into a mini water-park complete with water cannon. Assembly required.
Why we love it: Yup, it’s not cheap but, listening to our testers, we can tell you it guarantees simply hours and hours of active fun.
What our child testers made of it:
- ‘This is the best present I’ve ever been given!’ Rosie, 4
- ‘I have 2 boys and they both love it. We like to promote outdoor play and it’s big enough that they actually play well together on it, rather than fighting over it!’ Rachel, mum to Teddy, 3, and Herbie, 2
Available from: Very and Amazon
What it is: An extremely well-made trampoline with a Springsafe technology and a unique telescopic enclosure that can be packed down when the trampoline isn’t in use. Comes with 2-year warranty.
Why we love it: The fold-down enclosure is great for those days when the trampoline isn’t being used and you want to see more trees and leaves than safety netting.
Available from: Plum Play and John Lewis
What it is: A robust and stylish pedal-powered 62cm x 62cm 114cm go kart, featuring inflatable rubber tyres (suitable for tarmac, gravel and grass), forward and reverse pedalling, a handbrake and gear stick. Perfect for doing laps around the park and getting a feel of four wheels!
Why we love it: It looks very good with its neon green and glossy black tubular steel frame – and it’s a really decent size.
Available from: Amazon and Argos
What it is: A water gun that shoots (non-staining) slime. Pour the pre-measured slime powder into the water tank, fill with water, shake, wait – and fire! Comes with 12 sachets of slime powder (200 slime ‘shots’). The slime is non-toxic, safe on the skin, and environmentally friendly. A refill pack of 30 sachets (500+ ‘shots’) costs £7.99.
Why we love it: This slime-tastic twist on the traditional water gun was a out-and-out success with our child testers, who were all gobsmacked at how far it could shoot and named it our Gold winner in our 2017 Toy Awards. We love that the slime doesn’t stain (or harm animal or plants), and that the blaster can be used with just water if you run out of powder sachets.
Available from: The Entertainer and Amazon
What it is: A water table with fountains and taps that has interchangeable plumbing pipes to allow your child to control where the water comes out. Comes with 3 accessories (a boat, a water cup and a funnel) and a peekaboo character that rises with the water. Includes a drainage hole to empty it afterwards. Some assembly required.
Why we love it: Water play gets a science twist as the plumbing elements teaches your child about water pressure and engineering (and plumbing is a well-paid career area to get them in to…). Our young testers loved being able to play their way, too, awarding it Bronze in our 2017 Toy Awards.
Available from: Little Tikes and Argos
What it is: A garden playhouse with an environmentally friendly theme – including a water butt that collects rainwater, a flower bed you can plant flowers in, a working sink, a solar-powered light, recycling bins, a doorbell and a sky light.
Why we love it: We like the solar-powered light and fact that the children can fill up their watering can from water collected in their playhouse water butt. We were also blown away to find you can sow grass on the roof! Our child testers were entranced by the gardening accessories, the postbox, the doorbell and, most thrillingly, the sink that pumps real water.
Available from: Argos and Pramworld
Age: 18 months+
What it is: A child-sized outdoor picnic table with a removable lid in the centre that opens to reveal 2 liners inside that you can fill with water and sand.
Why we love it: This is a nice, sturdy table (if a little tricky to assemble) and it’s the perfect size for small children (who often struggle with the seat/table height on adult picnic benches). All of our child testers loved having a table with a ‘secret compartment’ full of messy-play possibilities.
Available from: Amazon and Asda
What it is: An 259cm x 146cm x 76cm inflatable playground with a paddling pool, sprinkler, slide and ball pit. Takes 5 minutes to inflate and comes with a repair kit. Has a capacity of 109 litres. Includes a small number of balls. Hosepipe required to operate sprinkler.
Why we love it: It’s everything a child could desire on a hot sunny day in the garden! You know that once this is inflated and filled, they won’t be inside again for hours. Absolute bargain price, too.
Available from: Amazon and Chad Valley
We’ve got more award-winning toys here…