10 of the best outdoor toys and garden games for kids and families
Tested by kids and their parents, we've highlighted the most entertaining outdoor and garden toys from firing arrows and rockets to knocking down Scandi skittles and blowing the most humongous bubbles, starting from just £3.99
The value of a great outdoor toy cannot be overestimated. Whether it's some kind of ride-on vehicle, mini gardening equipment or just a simple bat and ball, outdoor toys are a good investment as they get children out in the fresh air, burning off pent-up energy and enjoying physical activity.
Ruth Lue-Quee, an educational consultant and founder of My Mummy Teacher, explains: “Outdoor play is one of the best ways to support your little one’s learning and development. Think about your own experiences of being outside – it’s a time to be free, escape, think, enjoy and take a break. For our children too, it’s a time for them to explore freedom, have adventures, express themselves and improve their physical and mental health and development.”
“Being outside allows children to tune in with themselves and with the world around them, which in turn supports their brain development as they explore with their senses. By playing outside children are free to run, jump and play, which develops their gross motor skills and helps to keep them fit.”
There is a huge range of toys and equipment out there to suit a range of budgets, with pocket-money gems and classic equipment that’s built to last. The best part is that all of these are portable toys that can also keep them entertained at the beach or in the park.
Best outdoor garden toys for kids at a glance
- Best for portability: Early Fun All Surface Swingball, £27
- Best for learning a new skill: Geologic Soft Archery Set 100, £39.99
- Best outdoor family game: Molkky, £34.89
- Best budget buy: Waboba Wingman, £5.99
- Best ride-on toy: Scuttlebug, £37
- Best for surprise value: Original Stomp Rocket, £17.49
- Best for creativity: Galt 20 Giant Chalks, £4
- Best for sustainability: Dr Zigs My First Giant Bubble Kit, £24.99
- Best for toddlers: Little Tikes Gas 'n' Go Mower, £26
- Best for versatility: Kub Original Tuff Tray with Stand, £59.99
What to consider when buying outdoor garden toys
The size of your garden or outdoor space – Be realistic. A supersize toy squeezed into a small-ish garden or patio/yard isn’t a good idea unless you’re willing to give up all your outdoor space for a single game or product such as a trampoline. Toys that can be easily moved and packed away can be a great option.
The range of your family – If you have more than one child, you'll be looking for toys that cross age barriers. We’ve suggested some toys that will appeal to children of different ages so siblings can play together - unfortunately we can't promise that they'll play together peacefully!
Value for money – Some well-made, quality garden toys can be very expensive but take into account the number of summers that they could be in use. Think about small parts that could easily break or get lost, which could reduce the lifetime of the toy – are there replacements you could buy?
The height of your fences – Balls, Frisbees, arrows – anything that can be thrown or fired can also be lost over your fence. Hopefully you're on good terms with your neighbours, but it’s also worth thinking about stocking up on extra supplies - and finding out in advance how much they'll cost you.
Best outdoor games and garden toys for kids and all the family
1. Early Fun All Surface Swingball, £27
– Best for portability
Age: 3+ | Size: L31 x W39x H125cm| Weight: 1.2kg | Assembly required: Yes, minimal
We love a game of Swingball – it’s a winning example of a bat and ball game that doesn’t require running off to get the ball – and this version is designed to be the perfect introduction to Swingball for younger children.
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It comes with a tangle-free spinner top, a foam ball to avoid any injuries and lighter bats designed to be held by smaller hands. The bats also have a larger face which helps younger players hit the ball every time, so no more tears of frustration while the ball sails past again.
The all-surface base is a clever design that can be filled with sand or water – so ideal for taking to the beach or on a camping trip. There are balancing feet to keep the base sturdy and, once your game is over, the base converts into a carrycase complete with handle.
Swingball is a fun way to develop hand-eye co-ordination and this version is no exception, but because of the lightweight bats and ball, it’s not suitable for older children who will probably find it too flimsy.
Pros: Portable, can be used on all kinds of ground, base converts into carrycase
Cons: Unsuitable for older children/siblings, some assembly required (although this only takes minutes)
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2. Geologic Soft Archery Set 100, £39.99
– Best for learning a new skill
Age: 8+ | Size: H65cm x W65cm (target) | Weight: 3.3kg | Assembly required: No
This soft but durable archery kit is suitable for both right and left-handed archers, plus the handle on it is designed to be ergonomic. Children will need to take turns as there is only 1 bow and target but you can buy extra arrows (£5.99 for 2) so the game won’t be over if someone accidentally fires one of the two arrows over the fence!
We love the fact the target itself can be used as a storage box for the bow and 2 suction cup arrows and that the whole kit is easily transportable – it would be perfect to take away on a family camping trip.
Although the set is aimed at children aged 8 and over, you can buy a bow aimed at slightly younger children (6+) to use on the target. Families can also vary the distance between archers and the target so that the game is still fun for different age ranges and abilities. Having said that, you will need a large space to play this game – a minimum of 5m (up to 10m) from the archer to the target is recommended.
Pros: Teaches hand-eye coordination, can be used on all kinds of ground, target converts into carrycase
Cons: Only 1 bow included, need large open space to play
Available at: Decathlon
3. Mölkky, £34.89
– Best outdoor family game
Age: 6+ | Size: H65cm x W65cm (when set up) | Weight: 4kg | Assembly required: No
The whole family can get involved in this Scandinavian lawn game where 12 wooden pins are knocked over, using a throwing skittle rather than a ball, and are numbered for an extra competitive element.
To win, you need to be the first person to reach a score of 50. But if you score above 50, your total gets knocked back down to 25.The throwing skittle adds a fun novelty factor and the number scoring is great for mental arithmetic. Plus the game lends itself to lots of variation where you can set targets based on your own number-based rules - great if you have family members with different abilities.
The set comes packed in a smart wooden crate so it works well as a gift and can be kept neatly for several years. However, you do need to take care when you use it. Don't play in the wet or on damp grass as the light wood can easily stain. Plus don't use it on hard surfaces, such as paving stones or concrete, as the soft wood can dent when thrown. It's also a great game to take on the beach as sand makes it easier to stand up the skittles plus it works well on longish soft grass (though not so well on short grass).
Pros: Easy to set up, portable, encourages maths skills, hard-wearing box
Cons: Not good for playing on hard surfaces or in damp/wet weather
Available at: Amazon
4. Waboba Wingman, £5.99
- Best budget buy
Age: 5+ | Size: H15 x W15 x D1cm |Weight: 0.6kg | Assembly required: No | Award: Bronze – MFM Toy Awards 2021 – Best outdoor toy
This eye-catching flying saucer is made from 100% food-grade silicone and is both foldable and light, so much kinder to children’s hands and faces – and your home’s glass windows – than traditional discs made from unyielding plastic.
Thanks to its pliable rubbery feel and partly because of its dinky size (it’s smaller than it seems in the pictures online), the Wingman is soft and easy to catch, even when flung hard, which makes playing much more pleasant. It’s engineered to fly in a straight line and doesn’t veer off course, so you won’t be left standing around while it zooms off towards your roof/fence/window.
"I watched my daughter and son play with one each in the park and they were full of smiles and got really excited if theirs went higher than the others," comments Angela, parent of child testers aged 7 and 4. "They spent a good half an hour playing with this toy which is great as my two get easily bored and move on."
Impressively, the Wingman can fly over 40 metres and is best used in large areas, but don’t worry if your garden or patio area isn’t that long – this toy is also suitable for indoor use and much smaller spaces. You can also fold it into your pocket so it's easy to take it to the park or beach, with the kids of course. There are loads of different, colourful designs and its likely your children will want different ones – and even more than one – so it’s good news that this toy is reasonably priced.
Pros: Great value, light, easy to catch, doesn’t hurt on impact
Cons: Best used in large spaces, small size means it’s harder for younger children to catch
5. Scuttlebug, £37
– Best ride-on toy
Age: 1 to 3 | Size: L57 x W32 x H39cm | Weight: 2.4kg | Assembly required: No
This foot-to-floor trike is perfectly designed for toddlers who want to go places fast. With one front wheel and two well spaced out back wheels, the Scuttlebug offers plenty of stability for toddlers, while its light weight means more confident pre-schoolers can safely pick up a decent amount of speed. It goes without saying that the cute bug design has universal appeal, and we love how quiet the ride is – no squeaky wheels around here.
The best part – as far as we parents are concerned – is how easily it folds down in just three steps when not in use, making it easy to store or transport.
Thanks to the small, soft grip handlebars, it’s also easy for little hands to steer and is a great introduction to riding on wheels. Next stop a balance bike (see our best tried and tested balance bikes).
The Scuttlebug is ready to go straight out of the box, no assembly required, so it’s perfect for children who are itching to zoom around the garden, patio or park. Emma, mum to our child tester Matilda aged 2½, says, “We have a pink Scuttlebug that Matilda loves. Personally, I think sturdiness and robustness are important for safety and I’m also s sucker for a pretty design!”
Some MFM Home Testers have commented that it may be too small for older or taller children, so it’s worth keeping in mind if your child is nearly 3 (the upper age limit) or on the taller side.
Pros: Very stable, multiple height options, folds for easy storage, suitable for indoor use
Cons: Unsuitable for taller children, struggles on very bumpy ground
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6. Stomp Rocket Original, £17.49
- Best for surprise value
Age: 9 years+ | Size: L30cm × H21cm × W9cm| Weight: 0.1kg | Assembly required: Minimal | Award: Silver – MFM Toy Awards 2021 – Best outdoor toy
It's hard to imagine how it's possible to send a rocket up to 400 feet in the air with simple foot power. No batteries, no motor, no firepower – just a well-positioned push of the foot shoots a Stomp rocket into the sky.
"The toy is absolutely fantastic," enthuses Lacey, mum of child tester Oscar, 9. "The whole family ranging from 8 to 80 enjoyed playing with this – we even got the neighbours joining in! None of us could believe how high it went. The giggles that came out of Oscar were lovely to hear. He said he gives it 11 out of 10.""
The Stomp Rocket has been a popular toy for nearly 25 years - and hasn't really changed much in that time. It's lightweight but doesn't come with a carry bag, so not the easiest to cart around. It is, however, very easy to set up – you simply clip in the 3 legs of the stand, plug in the pump, attach the rocket and... stomp.
There's no doubt that the bigger the stomper, the higher the rocket soars – so younger children may become a bit frustrated by not being able to hit the big heights. But there's also fun in battling to catch the rocket as it falls back down.
It's best to use on a flat rather than uneven surface and being so light it can get blown around by a strong wind. Also, watch where you're stomping – it's easy to lose a rocket or two over a fence or wall. The Original pack comes with 3 rockets but you may need to purchase more (you can get a refill pack of 3 for £4.99).
Pros: Great play potential, good value, no batteries required
Cons: Best used in a park rather than garden or backyard, rockets get easily lost and worn
Available at: Amazon
7. Galt 20 Giant Chalks, £4
- Best for creativity
Age: 3+ | Size: 10x13x11cm (tub size) | Weight: 0.5kg | Assembly required: No
There’s nothing like a tub of super-sized chalks and the prospect of drawing over the pavement or patio to encourage a child to play outside. These chunky chalks let children unleash their creative genius for hours as they don’t crumble easily and have plenty of pigment. There are 7 colours to choose from and they come in a tub with a carry handle, so are ideal for picking up and taking into the garden, paved area or to the local playground.
Inexpensive and easy to hold, chalks are also the perfect outdoor toy for children of different ages, as Gabrielle, mum to our child testers Amaya, 3, Rocco, 6 and Tyler, 9, (pictured above) has discovered. “My 3 children absolutely love these giant chalks and they are always a huge hit with other kids when we take the tub to the playground. I love seeing what they draw – pictures, mazes and even maths equations – and watching their imaginations run riot.”
Unlike paint, chalk brushes off easily from clothes and skin, and washes off in light rain, so there’s no need to worry about staining clothes.
Of course, chalk sticks are fairly fragile and if dropped on hard ground can splinter into small pieces, so you need to be careful not to leave very young children with them, which is why they’re not recommended for children under 3. “Though with careful supervision, under-3s could join in the creative fun – and they’ll almost certainly want to,” says mum Gabrielle.
Pros: Great value, creative, portable, wide age range
Cons: Fragile, can get messy (though easy to brush/wash off)
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8. Dr Zigs My First Giant Bubble Kit, £24.99
– Best for sustainability
Age: 3+ | Size: L25cm (bubble wand) |Weight: 2.3kg | Assembly required: No
We love the ethical credentials of these giant bubble wands from Welsh brand Dr Zigs. The wands are made from sustainably sourced wood with 100% natural untreated cotton ropes. The concentrated bubble mix (included) makes 1-litre of mix in total and is a vegan, biodegradable formula which is free from phosphates, parabens and palm oil.
The bubble mix is a carefully guarded secret but produces unfeasibly large and exciting bubbles!
Once you’ve used up your supply, you can buy a litre more for £11 – around half the price of the kit.
This kit is aimed at children under the age of 7 as the wands are 25cm long, although you can buy longer wands if your older children get the bubble making bug. Because of the size, this bubble kit is fully portable, so it's great to take to the park or away on holiday.
You do need to carefully supervise children using this toy as it’s easy for even older children to inadvertently tip out the bubble mixture. And younger ones will likely need ‘help’ creating the bubbles. Oh, and just be aware of where everyone is when playing as popped bubbles and dropped bubble mix will turn decking or patio into an ice rink.
Pros: Ethically produced in the UK, portable, vegan-friendly, suitable for all ages, suitable for all terrains
Cons: Bubble mixture expensive to replenish, younger children will need help
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9. Little Tikes Gas 'n' Go Mower, £26
– Best for toddlers
Age: 18 months+ | Size: L29 x W53 x H52cm |Weight: 1.4kg | Assembly required: Minimal
This mini mower is like a magnet to toddlers. The realistic (but not too noisy) mechanical sounds are entrancing, as is the clicking key and adjustable throttle - and no batteries are required! There’s even a mini petrol can, that can be used to fill up the engine with fuel via the (tethered) tank cap.
Perfect for toddlers who are getting the hang of walking – they'll be rewarded for their pushing efforts by the sight of colourful beads jumping up and down in the mower lid. Just be aware that as it’s such a lightweight toy it’s not ideal for babies and toddlers to use to pull themselves up with, as it’s likely to tip over.
If you can get them to stand still long enough, toddlers will love to tug on the pull cord which activates the sound, turn the ignition key and push the lever at the top of the mower. However, the volume cannot be turned down or off, which may get a tad annoying the 445th time you hear the motor.
Pros: Robust, interactive features, encourages role play, can be used indoors
Cons: Volume not adjustable, relatively expensive compared to other mini mowers (but it's good quality)
Available at: Argos
10. Kub Original Tuff Tray and Stand, £59.99
– Best for versatility
Age: 3+ | Size: L70 x W70 x H45-65cm | Weight: 2kg | Assembly required: Minimal
Beloved by nursery practitioners, childminders and other childcare staff the world over, tuff trays, or tuff spots as they are sometimes known, are actually repurposed heavy-duty plastic builder mixing trays typically in an octagonal shape. Thanks to a large, flat surface and fairly deep sides, they are ideal for containing play materials such as sand, water, glitter, playdough, paint and small-world toys that would otherwise be scattered or spilt far and wide.
The play possibilities are endless – from bubble-making to experimenting with dried food to creating slime – and the potential to unleash your child’s imagination is, frankly, staggering. It’s just as good for encouraging group play and turn-taking, especially when filled with sand and small-world construction toys. Watch your kids and their friends build an empire – or construct their dream home.
“The tuff tray is our go-to on sunny days,” says Sarah, mum to our child tester, Wilf, 3. “We’ve set up farmyards, treasure islands and dinosaur lands, using sand, water and toys. Wilf gets stuck in straight away and it always seems to hold his attention well.”
Although tuff trays can be used on the floor, children of all ages seem to prefer to stand alongside them, which is why this one comes with a height-adjustable stand that goes from 45cm up to 65cm, with a mid-way point at 55cm, to accommodate growing children. It needs no tools to set up or adjust and can be easily folded when the tray isn’t being used or the kids want to use it on the floor.
We love that the tray is made here in the UK from recycled plastic, is easy to wipe clean and available in three colours – black, blue and green. Plus, it’s large enough for 4 children to play side-by-side, and small enough to be carried through a door, which is handy when rain threatens but play must go on!
Our only (small) gripe is that this set doesn’t come with a cover or any materials, such as sand, to get you started. Though for an extra tenner, you can upgrade to a set with a cover.
Pros: Multiple children can use at once, easy to clean, grows with your child
Cons: Needs additional toys/elements to play, big to store
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How we tested:
When choosing and testing these outdoor toys we considered size, price, assembly, portability, age suitability, durability, how easy it is to store and, of course, play value.
Out 10 of the Best lists are compiled by qualified and experienced parenting journalists. They rely on a number of sources, including our testing during the MadeForMums awards and feedback from our home testing panel and Top Testers Club.
Each year, 1000s of products are put through their paces by hundreds of parents across the country on behalf of MadeForMums, to ensure we’re bringing you honest and true reviews and recommendations.
Our list is not an ordered ranking from 1-10, but instead a carefully selected group of tried-and-tested products, each of which we believe is best for a different situation or requirement. We don’t just tell you what is best, we aim to help you discover what is best for your family.
About the author
Gabrielle Nathan is a freelance journalist with 20 years’ experience in lifestyle and consumer journalism. She’s mum to three children aged 9, 6 and 3 and has been on the hunt for the perfect outdoor toys to keep the whole family entertained.
Gabrielle Nathan has been a journalist for 20 years, writing lifestyle features for publications including Red, Women’s Health, Wildflower and Condé Nast Traveller. She has been writing about parenting since 2012, the year she became a mum.
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