What's the best gear for playing outside? Please include a link to any product you recommend.
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I don't recommend anything that could be bought at the store. There just isn't any substitute for a kid's imagination, combined with a stick, a tree, and a pile or mud for my kids. Right now they are involved in setting up pretend stores at various points of the backyard. Their currency is pebbles and sea glass from the stream; their products are mud pots, woven grass mats, and sticks. They are having a ball, making a mess, and they are the envy of the neighbors. The neighbor kids have come in with their own currency (beads from Hobby Lobby) and hand made products. Between the kid economy, the swimming pool down the street, and the ongoing bike riding games, it's going to be a great summer on our street!
Low-tech is always best when it comes to outside play for small children:
Bubbles, chalk, a ball.
Skates are nice, and if you don't want to invest in a water/sand table, then any box/bucket that is water-tight can be used - just remember, that a child can drown even in a couple of inches of water and never leave it unattended.
A good imagination is also the best gear for playing anywhere! :)
For us it would be wellies (in rainy season) or flip flops and a great imagination. I would go even further that Lara's suggestion of low-tech and would suggest no-tech! The Tweenies and I are off into the garden now, each have a small spade and we are off to plant some bulbs and get the second batch of lettuce into the ground. It's so beautiful to create something in your garden and even if you live in an apartment you can be just as creative with a window box of balcony planter. Whether it be flowers or produce, the children get an immense amount of pride planting and with the twins it becomes a daily ritual before we hop into the car for school to see if the plants have grown. There is also something so wonderful about growing your own food, it just tastes a million times better than supermarket produce. Happy Easter and Happy Sowing!
Of course, Mama Bicycle. http://mamabicycle.blogspot.jp/ Biking is good.
Ah, I will also brought a kite at a river side. Thanks.
My go-to activities for outside play include bubbles - think variety with the size and shapes of your wands! I also love sidewalk chalk - in my 1st grade classroom we often go outside and write our spelling words on the basketball court with chalk. Jump ropes are great for gross motor development, plus you can make great rhyming/spelling chants. I still remember learning how to spell "school" from a jump rope chant when I was a kid! A shady sand/water table is lots of fun as well - just make sure it has a lid to keep cats and bugs out! A pushable trike is also a great idea - this way if your child tuckers out you can push him home rather than have to carry him and lug the trike! My own children and my students always love to look for bugs as well. Although we don't keep them as pets, we often catch a bug and put him in our Creature Peeper to take a closer look and explore for a few hours before we let it go! The magnifying glass makes it easy to check out the features of different insects!
If you've got a non-walker, I've found that this guy, the Tot Pod is amazing. It's a fold-up camping-chair-style exersaucer. Amazing! Portable, with links for toys, holder for drinks, and a mat for their feet! With all of the outside activities we do with the big kid, this is necessary!
A water table is the best investment of your money for outdoor summer play. My kids just love dumping water all over themselves and it cools them off so everyone wins.
Anything involving WATER will hold my kid's attention for hours... and I don't even have to pretend to enjoy playing with them! Slip n' Slides are the best... but when I'm desperate, a water hose and trash bags work great, too!
Pails and shovels!
Swim shoes from Children's Place or Old Navy for running in fountains during the Summer - they're cheap and perfect for a season of outdoor activity.
My daughter loves her scooter and we also will fly kites this Spring ~
Susan (mom to Lily, 3)
I love swimming pools! They burn off energy and keep kids entertained for hours. Just be sure to never leave kids alone in a pool of any size.