Top Preschool Toys for Outdoor Play

What kid doesn't like to get outside and play? Especially in the preschool years, outdoor play is important because it promotes activity and fitness, two important elements of maintaining a healthy lifestyle for your little one. Outdoor play also helps your child fine-tune their gross motor skills, working an important group of large muscles found in legs, arms, and their trunk.

While certainly there is plenty for your child to do in the way of backyard games that don't require any additional equipment, sometimes outdoor play can be enhanced with specially-made outdoor toys like swing sets, playhouses, water tables, sandboxes, and others. Check out our top picks!​


four children playing outside in a playhouse
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Want to encourage your preschooler's budding imagination while giving them a chance to engage in active play? Consider buying a playhouse.

Usually made of plastic or wood and suitable to place in a yard or a playroom for indoor play, playhouses offer a base for ​a host of different play options, including "house," "school," "restaurant," and more.

Even without an organized game in place, playhouses promote socialization with other children like friends and siblings by helping kids learn how to take turns, how to share, and even conflict resolution.

Playhouses are available at a variety of different price points and sizes, choose one that is going to grow with your child and your family.

Swing Sets

A boy playing on a garden swing wearing a mask
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Create a play oasis in your backyard by investing in a swing set. A purchase that will give you a lot of bang for your buck, swing sets work for kids (and grown-ups too!) on a variety of ages and skill levels while doing a great job of keeping everyone active.

Swing sets have definitely evolved over the years, too. While simple sets are available with staples like a slide and swings, you can now find swing sets with rock walls, tunnel slides, climbing nets, and more. Many times, the equipment can be switched in and out so play can be varied from day-to-day.

Swing sets are made from a variety of materials such as wood, plastic, or metal and come in different shapes, sizes, and configurations. While it might be tempting to get a small set for your young child or children, consider looking at the next size up so it grows well with your child's skill level and your (potentially) growing family.

Sand and Water Tables

Playing with water wheel
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Yard not big enough for a pool? Tired of having the kids run through the sprinklers? Consider a water table.

Water tables (and combination sand/water tables) offer kids a chance to get wet without having to sit by the side of a pool, watching like a hawk.

Sand and water tables do a great job of encouraging kids to use their imaginations and engage in creative play while teaching important science and math principles like cause and effect and even some basic physics. Simply by pouring water or sand from one cup to another is a lesson in science and encourages logical thinking.

While there are some water and sand tables that are bigger than others, the sizes of the majority of these aren't huge—most fit nicely on a deck or in a yard. If you have a few children or a crowd gathers at your house often, consider buying a larger one just so everyone can get in on the fun.

Climbing Toys

little girl climbing on outdoor jungle gym
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If your preschooler is on the active side, climbing toys are a great way to help your little one get their energy out. While some climbers may prefer a simple toy they can climb up and down on, many toy climbers now have other elements such as slides, steering wheels, tunnels, and ropes so kids can engage in different types of play.

Available in a variety of heights, sizes, and materials, climbers are great for young kids of all ages. It's important, though, before purchasing a climber, that you pay attention to the manufacturer's guidelines for maximum height and weight as well as the number of children on the equipment.

General Outdoor Play Toys

two little girls jumping rope

Emely/Cultura / Getty Images

While many outdoor play toys are on the bigger side and require some sort of dedicated space to their use, there are lots of general outdoor play toys that need nothing more than a child to play with it and a place to store it when they are done.

From jump ropes to balls, from cones to bubbles, these simple toys do it all—from working their muscles to encouraging socialization, rule following, and imaginative play.

Best of all, outdoor toys on the smaller side are often less expensive than their bigger counterparts. They're also portable! Bring them to the park or over to a friend's house for on-the-go play.

4 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Niemistö D, Finni T, Haapala EA, Cantell M, Korhonen E, Sääkslahti A. Environmental Correlates of Motor Competence in Children-The Skilled Kids StudyInt J Environ Res Public Health. 2019;16(11):1989. doi:10.3390/ijerph16111989

  3. Yogman M, Garner A, Hutchinson J, et al. The Power of Play: A Pediatric Role in Enhancing Development in Young Children. Pediatrics. 2018;142(3):e20182058. doi:10.1542/peds.2018-2058

  4. National Association for the Education of Young Children. The Importance of Sand and Water Play. 2018.  

By Amanda Rock
Amanda Rock, mom of three, has spent more than a decade of her professional career writing and editing for parents and children.