By Ty Schmidt
Last summer, my barely six-month-old son and I enjoyed fun in the sun that consisted primarily of what mom’s would call blanket time. All we really needed was a blanket and maybe a toy or two stay engaged. That’s all changed now. Now that I have a toddler on my hands, curiosity abounds and I feel like everything he chooses to explore becomes a battle.
No! Don’t pull the flowers out of the planters! No! Don’t slurp from the bird bath! No! The grill is hot!
With so many things off limits, I’ve had the itch lately to investigate some things I can finally say “yes” to his imaginative little self. It hasn’t taken long for me to discover moms’ top picks for backyard toys, but the bottom line price tag if one were to turn their backyard into a toddler paradise is a bit painful. (Especially when you remember the average attention span of a small child is about as long as this sentence).
But when it comes to choosing a select few toys that meet the mommy grade, here are a few to consider saying “yes” to:
The Cube Climber
When it comes to backyard staples, the cube climber (in all its various forms) is a bit like the gateway drug to all things playtime. With features that encourage the adventure-minded child to explore and climb, these climbers have a lot to offer for the money. There are options to fit any price range, though one that includes both a slide and climbing components will run a minimum of around $100 depending on the store.
Via Toys R Us
The Water Table
When I first heard of the water table concept, it seemed superfluous to me. Then my toddler started splashing around in the sludgy bird bath water and it all made sense. There is something about the mystery of water that draws toddlers in like a moth to a flame. Embrace their natural curiosity by investing in a water table, and there will be hours of (bird bath free) water entertainment unfolding before you know it. And if the idea of spending almost $40 on a contraption that essentially holds water at toddler level is not appealing to you, consider using an inexpensive toddler pool (available for around $10) atop a bench or other sturdy piece of outdoor furniture.
The Cozy Coupe
A hit with boys and girls, the red car known as the cozy coupe is the Mercedes of toddler-hood. Fights have been known to break out at birthday parties where there is only one of these cars to be shared among the crowd. They can be purchased new for an average of about $45, but they are built to last so they also make great hand-me-downs between family and friends.
Via Little Tikes
It’s like the water table, but much (much) more messy. Toddlers love to play with and learn different textures, so a sandbox is more than likely going hold their attention at least as long as the latest episode of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. For around $75 new, these sandboxes will provide hours of fun, followed by what might be more cleanup that anyone would like. But it’s worth it, right?
The double-duty standbys
If you have a climber with a slide and have invested in a water and sand table, these items may seem unnecessary. Yet at a combined cost around $40, a standalone slide and small pool could become your most valued backyard treasures. Though either item will be well loved on its own, combine the two together to create a toddler-friendly water park.
Though blanket time may be a distant memory, fun in the sun doesn’t have to be expensive. The best thing about many outdoor toys is they are built to withstand the elements, which means they may also make the rounds between friends and family over time. But if you’re going to buy new, remember you’re not just saying yes to playtime. You’re saying yes to fun.
For more ideas and inspiration, head to Modernize.com.