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10 of the best outdoor garden toys

We pick the best toys for playing in the garden from playground equipment to fun family games, starting from £12

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Even before the pandemic left families confined to their homes, parents knew the value of a great outdoor toy. Be it some kind of ride-on vehicle, a water game or just a bat and ball, outdoor toys are a good investment as they get children out in the fresh air, burning off pent-up energy and doing some kind of physical activity.

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There is a huge range of toys and equipment out there to suit a range of budgets. You can go the whole hog and kit your garden out with playground equipment and paddling pools, or look for something more portable that will also keep them entertained at the beach or in the park.

For outdoor mucky fun, take a look at our list of best mud kitchens.

Best outdoor garden toys for kids at a glance

  • Best ride-on toy: Wheelybug ride-ons, £67.50
  • Best toddler trike: Scuttlebug XL, £35
  • Best bat and ball game: Swingball Classic, £39
  • Best toy for learning a new skill: Geologic Soft Archery Set 100, £39.99
  • Best outdoor family game: Molkky, £31.58
  • Best for budding gardeners: Chad Valley Wheelbarrow Set, £12
  • Best swing: Jumpking UFO Swing, £189
  • Best for sustainability: Dr Zigs My First Giant Bubble Kit, £22
  • Best for on a budget: Melissa & Doug Multi-Coloured Skyrunner Delta Kite, £13.99
  • Best for hot weather: Summer Escapes Octagonal Family Pool, £50

Here’s our pick of the best outdoor garden toys for kids:

1. Wheelybug ride-ons, £67.50

– Best ride-on

Age: 12 months to 3 years | Size: H31cm x W23.5cm x L39cm

The wooden Wheelybugs are one of the easiest to use and well-made ride-on toys on the market, so are deservedly popular. Toddlers sit on a cushioned, bug-themed seat behind springy antennas and scoot forwards by pushing and gliding.

They can muster up a good speed quickly and – thanks to the multi-directional wheels – don’t need to have a clue about steering, they just use their feet. One-year-olds (including mine) can perfect drifting around corners before they have even mastered walking. These ride-ons offer a more thrilling ride than the rather slow and clunky pedal coupe cars available for older preschoolers, plus they look a lot more attractive.

Bear in mind however that, because the castor wheels are small, they do require a smooth surface. Drives covered in loose stones and lawns are not ideal but patios and decking are perfect.

Available from: Amazon, John Lewis and JoJo Maman Bebe

2. Scuttlebug XL, £35

– Best toddler trike

Age: 2 to 4 | Size: H49cm x W43cm x L72cm

This foot-to-floor trike can easily be adjusted to 3 different seat heights with no tools required and folds down when not in use, making it easier to store or transport.

As it comes ready to ride straight out the box MFM tester Donna said it made the “ideal gift to unwrap on Christmas Day”. She added, “My boy immediately wanted to play on the bug so we rode it over to the park and he got the hang of it straight away. We’ve had the bug for a week now and he’s enjoyed playing with it every day. I definitely feel that it represents good value for money.”

She did think, though, that it may be too small for her son to still be using when he was 4, so it’s worth keeping in mind if your child is at the upper age limit or on the taller side.

Available from: Amazon and Argos

3. Swingball Classic,  £39

– Best bat and ball game

Age: 3 + | Size: H160cm

We love a classic game of Swingball – it’s a winning example of a bat and ball game that is fast, intensely fought and doesn’t require running off to get the ball. The idea is to bat the ball past your opponent enough times to make the string it is attached to reach either the top or bottom of its coil on a pole.

This set includes 2 bats and a real tennis ball, so you have everything you need. There is a more expensive “all-surface” version that can be used on both lawns and hard surfaces but if you know that you will be playing on grass, the lawn-only version has a spike at the base which makes the pole secure. This is important as Swingball brings out the competitive streak in both kids and adults!

Available from: Amazon

4. Geologic Soft Archery Set 100, £39.99

– Best for learning a new skill

Age: 8+ | Size: H65cm x W65cm (target)

This soft but durable archery kit will be an instant hit with your kids, who will enjoy practising their skills and trying to hit the target.

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.

The bow is also suitable for both right and left-handed archers, which is a major bonus, plus the handle on it is designed to be ergonomic. Children will need to take turns as there is only 1 bow and 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.

Available from: Decathlon

5. Molkky, £31.58

– Best outdoor family game

Age: 6+

Get the whole family involved with this sophisticated Scandinavian lawn game where 12 wooden pins are knocked over using a throwing skittle, rather than a ball, and are numbered for extra counting fun.

The throwing skittle adds a novelty factor for children, plus sneaky parents can add a little maths into the game by challenging children to try and achieve a certain score each time or to come up with their own, number-based rules.

Officially, the first person to reach a score of 50 wins but any score above 50 reduces the player’s total back down to 25. The set comes packed in a smart wooden crate that means it works well as a gift and can be treasured for years to come.

Available from: Amazon

6. Chad Valley Wheelbarrow Set, £12

– Best for budding gardeners

Age: 3+

Budding gardeners will really enjoy following Mum or Dad around the plot, using their own little tools including a wheelbarrow, watering can, rake, plant pots and trowel. We love just how much is included in this set and the fact it’s reasonably priced.

The smaller items are easy to transport, so it’s simple to take to the grandparents for the day if you wish. It might not be quite as exciting or thrilling as some of the other things on this list, but we can guarantee it will keep your little one amused for a good length of time

Available from: Argos

7. Jumpking UFO Swing, £189

– Best swing

Age: 3+ | Size: H206cm x W200cm x L200cm and 48” seat

This uber-cool swing allows you to recreate some of the fun of the playground in your very own back garden. We love that it can move in all directions, rotating 360°. Our child testers loved leaning backwards and looking up at the sky while they moved.

The fact it can carry more than one child (up to a weight limit of 45kg) is also a major bonus. MFM tester Brogan, mum of 3, said: “My children were super excited to get on the swing together. They spent the entire morning on the swing and were amazed by the fact that they could swing in all different directions rather than just backwards and forwards.” She also found the fabric on the seat easy to wipe down after rainfall.

While it’s not exactly small, it’s minimalistic design means it won’t stand out in a compact garden.

Available from: Jumpking and Mano Mano

8. Dr Zigs My First Giant Bubble Kit, £22

– Best for sustainability

Age: 3+

Bubbles are a huge hit with kids of all ages, and youngsters will love using these giant wooden wands. We love the ethical credentials of this toy – the wands are made from sustainably sourced wood with 100% natural untreated cotton ropes, and the included concentrated bubble mix (makes 1-litre of mix in total) is a biodegradable formula which is phosphate, paraben and palm oil-free. It is also a carefully guarded secret but produces super bubbles.

The bubble kit is portable too, so great to take to the park or away on holiday. It may be one of our budget picks but bubble wands – done correctly – are a simple toy that provides guaranteed fun for all, turning your garden into a magical space filled with jumping and laughter.

Available from: Amazon

9. Melissa & Doug Multi-Colour Skyrunner Delta Kite, £13.99

– Best on a budget

Age: 3+ | Size: L85cm (not including tail) x W100cm

This brightly-coloured kite, made by much-loved toy makers Melissa & Doug, is designed to be used by novice fliers. Though it has a reasonably large 1-metre wingspan, it is still lightweight and easy for a child to manage.

With a little practice, my 4-year-old had no problems running and launching this arrow-shaped kite, which is light but sturdy. It was easy for her to fly, with a strong, 50m line and a small, easy to grip handle.

The pointed head makes for some thrilling dips and loops when the wind takes it, and the heavy-duty nylon material feels tough enough to prevent rips – certainly ours has stood the test of time. The kite’s googly eyes, which peer down at you from the sky, add a nice, fun touch too. A breezy day is, of course, a prerequisite.

Available from: Amazon

10. Summer Escapes Octagonal Family Pool, £50

– Best for hot weather

Age: 6+ | Size: H56cm x W279cm x L279cm

This large (1,318-litres) paddling pool blows up in 15 minutes (with an electric pumo) to an octagonal shape that is easily big enough for 2 adults and 3 kids to sit together, making it a good option for families. It will fit a couple of fun inflatables too, so is altogether ideal for hosting that (paddling) pool party your garden is crying out for.

Its 3 rings inflate independently, so a puncture in one of them doesn’t necessarily result in a flooded garden. There’s also a repair kit included, so punctures can be easily repaired.

Available from: Argos

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About the author

Natalie Wadley is a freelance journalist who has been writing and editing news and features for a number of national newspapers and magazines for more than a decade. She lives in the South West and is a mother to 2 young girls, aged 5 and 1.

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