Having garden toys in your yard can encourage your children to spend more time playing outside, which has a number of health benefits.
According to one former director of child research at Fisher-Price, outdoor play helps kids develop stronger muscles and better overall physical fitness, improves coordination, and promotes self-confidence.
Here are some clever garden toy ideas that can encourage your kids to get more time outside while also having fun and learning.
1. Tire Climbing Structure
People are always getting rid of old tires when the tread has become worn and they are no longer suitable for safe driving. You can pick these up for free from sites like Freecyle or Craigslist, and you can use them to create a fun climbing structure for kids.
Just paint the tires fun colors with spray paint and then bolt them together in different configurations. Don’t stack the tires higher than is safe for your kids!
Even a structure a few tires’ high will be plenty of fun for younger kids.
2. Outdoor Easel
Creating art has dozens of benefits for kids, including promoting language development, decision-making skills, fine and gross motor skills, visual learning, creativity and inventiveness, according to a report from PBS.
So why not combine the benefits of art and playing outside by moving the art making to the great outdoors?
You can buy an outdoor easel, or you can create one by painting a piece of plywood with chalkboard paint. You can hang the plywood on a tripod or even on a fence or the side of a shed.
Tic-tac-toe is a classic game, but you aren’t limited to playing it inside. Get some interesting shaped rocks and paint them with x’s and o’s or even another design.
Then paint a grid on a tree stump or a piece of plywood. Kids can play anytime they want, rain or shine!
Preschoolers especially benefit from sandbox play. According to Toca Boca magazine, sandbox play helps kids learn through touch, encourages imaginative play and promotes social skills, among other benefits.
If you’re handy, you can build a sandbox from a few pieces of lumber. If not, you can buy a plastic sandbox and fill it with sand, shovels, buckets, trucks and other toys that help kids explore the area.
5. Kids Garden
Who says garden toys have to be independent of the garden? The garden itself can be the toy. Growing a garden with kids teaches them scientific concepts, promotes healthy eating, strengthens motor skills, teaches responsibility and math skills, and more.
Build a small garden bed that is just for your kids to tend. Start with easy-to-grow plants like lettuce and herbs, and watch your kids get excited about growing their own food!
6. Riding Ponies
You can make some great things out of inexpensive pool noodles. Instead of spending a mint on an old-fashioned wooden stick pony, just make one yourself out of a pool noodle.
Check out this easy tutorial for creating one with a little felt, string, and googly eyes that you can have finished during nap with time to spare. Your kids will love playing with them, and they’ll get plenty of healthy exercise in the process.
7. Giant Jenga
Jenga is a game that everyone in the family likes to play. You can move people outside by creating a giant Jenga game out of simple 2×4 pieces of lumber. Just cut the lumber into 11.5 inch pieces and sand the ends.
You’ll need to make three pieces for each level high that you want the game. So if you want a game that goes 10 levels high, you’ll need to cut 33 pieces.
Paint the ends different bright colors to make the game a little more fun.
8. Hula Hoop Croquet
Croquet is the perfect garden party game. You don’t have to get a fancy set for your kids to enjoy it. You can make your own set from a bunch of hula hoops and bouncy balls.
Just cut the hula hoops in half and push the ends into the ground to make the goals. Spray paint the balls if you like, or leave them as they are.
Your kids can make the goal by kicking the balls, rather than hitting them in with a mallet. They’ll get more exercise that way!
9. Sponge Water Bombs
On a hot day, throwing water bombs is a great way to have fun and stay cool. You can make your own water bombs out of cleaning sponges.
Just cut the sponges into even strips and tie several strips together at the center with fishing line. Fan out the strips like a pom pom.
Kids can drench these sponge bombs and throw them at each other without worrying about taking any eyes out. The sponges hold a lot of water, so they will create a big splash!
You can burn a lot of calories playing tetherball and build muscle and cardiovascular fitness. You can buy a simple tetherball set for your backyard, or you can even make one out of an old tire, a pole and a ball with a rope. Check out this tutorial to see how easy it is to make on your own.
Time to Have Some Your Fun In Your Garden
Spending more time outdoors is better for the whole family, but it is especially beneficial for kids since it encourages healthy habits at a young age.
Buying or making some of these clever garden toys will encourage your kids to spend more time outside, while also teaching them important skills such as fine and gross motor skills, creative thinking, socializing and problem-solving.
Make some of these great toys with your kids to get them more excited about using them, or find inexpensive ready-made options in the store or online. Whether you make the toys or buy them, your children will reap the same great benefits.