Do you have any outdoor kids or adventuresome families on your shopping list this year? Or maybe, you’re an outdoor family and are looking for practical gifts to help get you and your kids outside. This guide full of outdoor gifts for kids is the perfect starting point for this year’s gift giving season!
Below, you’ll find favourite outdoors toys and outdoor gear perfect for families who like to get outside. For your convenience, click on the images or follow the links to see where you can purchase these items on line.
All the things below are toys and gear that we’ve use when we’re outside exploring, playing, or just hanging out.
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The best gifts and gear to help families get outside
Kids can’t help but love a little red wagon! Wagons are great for family walks around the neighborhood, going to zoos, outdoor events, the farmer’s market, and backyard play time. Parents will love how handy it is when they’re out with other families and the little ones can take turns in the wagon instead of everyone bringing their own strollers.
Some higher quality wagons may even have ski attachments for snow, sun shades, and attachable umbrellas.
If this wagon will be used on rough terrain (and if it’s for an outdoorsy family, that’ll be the case!), get a wagon with wider wheels. These will be better for off-roading on packed dirt, gravel, or even packed snow. Avoid plastic wheels. Not only are the plastic wheels bumpier, but they tend to also be a lot louder on pavement.
Now that our kids are older and don’t ride in the wagon, we still use it for hauling our garbage to the dumpster down the road, selling Girl Guide Cookies around town, and carrying our water toys and picnic gear from the parking lot to the beach.
My boy recently used our wagon to haul our kayaks 3 blocks to the creek, which he then proceeded to kayak down!
Have you seen these balance bikes? They’re so small and cute! After some practice toddlers learn to zip along making family walks quicker and more enjoyable for everyone!
Tip: Bring along the wagon too so when the littles gets tired of biking, both the toddler and the bike can take a ride in the wagon.
Our toddlers all used balance bikes from about 18 months of age until they started riding a regular pedal bike. Because they had the skills from these little bikes, they didn’t use training wheels and were biking like the big kids by 4 years old.
As a family, we use our bikes a lot. The kids bike to school. We bike around town to get places instead of driving. The kids toot around town and explore the trails with their friends.
However, I’m not really in a position to suggest a good bike here. There’s a lot to consider when choosing a bike for kids: sizing, tires, where the bikes will be ridden, how much you want to spend, style preferences and much much more.
I will say this though, all of our bikes have been second hand purchases. Especially for kids who will be rough on bikes, we’d rather buy a good quality second hand bike for the same price of buying a new lower quality bike.
Nor are we buying top of the line bikes. We aim for a middle quality mountain bike for our kids.
Some of the factors that we’ve looked for when buying bikes for the kids are:
- The bike is light enough that little kids can lift it easily from the road up onto the curb.
- For kids first learning to bike, we preferred the pedal brakes
- Once the kids mastered the pedal brakes, we looked for bikes with hand brakes
- It can be very challenging for kids to change gears so consider how gears shift and what will be easiest for your child
Come winter time, our pull-behind toboggan was used all the time! As long as the sidewalks weren’t bare (and here in Canada, they are frequently snow packed), the kids loved to go for a ride around the block in the sled.
The wooden sleds for babies and toddlers are super cute, but we found they weren’t as long-lived as this type of sled. Also, our wooden wagon often tipped over when going on bumpy trails or up and down curbs and such. So, while it looked trendier and made cuter photographs, we found it to be less functional.
Mom tip: make sure the pull-rope is long enough that you can comfortably pull the sled behind you without it hitting your feet. Also, a handle on the end of the rope will be much more comfortable on your hands than plain rope.
We’ve used our for Trick-or-treating, for hikes through the forest, for going to the store, for carrying skates and gear to the frozen lake, and for hauling food up the road for family get togethers.
Also, many a dolly or stuffed animal (or a bunch of dollies and stuffed animals) have also been on many a sled ride along the trails!
When kids get older they’ll prefer a ‘cooler’ sled for tobogganing with. The saucer (round plastic sled) was my favorite as a kid, but quality saucers are sometimes harder to find these days.
Instead, it seems many tobogganers are using these inflatable tubes on the snow hills. Maybe they’re softer on the tailbone when you hit the bumps!
The Picnic Blanket
We use our outdoor blanket ALL THE TIME. In fact, I even have one tucked into the bag on my bike so we’ve always got one on hand for unexpected sits around town.
We use our blanket mostly for sitting, eating, reading, and watching… at the beach, at the playground, the park, in the canoe, on the truck’s tail gate… you get the idea. We don’t bring one hiking though (because I hate carrying unnecessary weight).
In my opinion, the perfect outdoor blanket is soft on one side, won’t let the moisture from the ground seep through to your bum, and is easily folded, carried, and cleaned.
Mom tip: an outdoor blanket with a woven or knit-like fabric will collect twigs, dried grass, and such… and it will be super hard to brush anything off of it. Instead, look for low pile fleece or slippery fabrics.
A super cheap option are those grey felt/wool type moving blankets. However, if the ground is wet the moisture will eventually come through.
We were recently gifted this KAMUI Outdoor Blanket and it’s already come in handy on a few of our outdoor adventures. I particularly like this one because one side is waterproof. On a recent canoe trip the kids started to get cold when it started to rain. I had the kids use the blanket bottom-side out to keep them dry and warm… and it worked wonderfully!
The most used outdoor toys we’ve ever owned
Regular old Shovels and Buckets
If you’re heading to the beach, playing in the backyard, or the local park, a bucket and shovel will always be entertaining. Toddlers will dig in anything! And a bucket is so handy for carrying toys, treats, and treasures.
Gifting tip: If a bucket seems like a boring gift, consider filling it with other goodies before wrapping it up!
If you’re handy and into re-purposing, you could probably make some buckets yourself. Large milk jugs, cut open at he top, yogurt tubs with rope attached, cat litter or ice cream pails also make wonderful buckets for toddlers. And, to be honest, our repurposed pails as buckets are the only ones that have actually lasted through the years of kid abuse.
Mom tip: If you want a pail that will last more than one season of play, look at pails intended for gardening and house chores instead of a kids cheap plastic bucket. Or consider a metal kid’s bucket or one with a reinforced handle attachment. And, try to find a shovel with a metal handle or a sand scoop instead of the standard small kid’s shovel. Those break too easily.
This was by far our most used outdoor door! I found our water table at a garage sale when our first was a toddler. It has sat on our porch for 9 years since! It seems kids under 5 used this the most. However, even the older kids will still play if I throw something fun in there like kitchen tools or something from the house.
I’d suggest a basic table… all those attachments and mechanics that some tables come with look pretty fun, but I’d worry how long before they break (or get lost). Ours is a basic water basin on legs at toddler height. However, a lid might be nice to keep dirt and dust out of the table otherwise it will need more frequent cleaning.
But, cleaning it is pretty easy and the kids usually like to help wash it out with some scrub brushes and dish soap every now and then.
Mom tip: the tables that combine water and sand are simply an invitation to make mud. Or, if your water table is in the yard it will inevitably get dirt dumped into it.
The swing set
Yes, this isn’t a standard gift and you’d probably want to check with the parents before buying kids a swing set. But, seriously, if I’m considering hours of use, the swing set is definitely a winner for our family!
Our swing set was made simply from 4×4’s and metal bracing. Once our children outgrow the swings I think I’ll look into buying a large saucer swing or lounger swing to hang from it and see if they’ll use it for swinging and reading or day-dreaming into their teen years.
Frisbees, kites, soccer balls, and skipping ropes
These are low cost toys that help families get out and get active. They’re great around home, for camping, or for bringing on family picnics or trips to the park. Hours of fun for only a few dollars.H
Backyard Outdoor Equipment
Have you ever tried one of these? They’re a lot harder than it looks! But, slack lines are tonnes of fun for both kids and adults.
If you have a large backyard with mature trees, you could probably set up a slack line.
If you purchase a slack line kit make sure it comes with tree trunk protectors. An extra rope to string across as a guide rope will be very helpful for beginners. But, if the set doesn’t come with one you can use any rope
We bought a slackline a few summers ago for our camping trips and it has provided endless hours of play, competitions, balancing, and bouncing! (Sure, we also had some bumps and memorable falls, but all in the name of playing and trying something new!)
Cool tip: check out these attachments you can add to slacklines to create obstacle courses and ultimate challenges. They’re pretty neat! I haven’t tried them, so I’m not so sure how they work, but they sure look fun!
Climbing structures and trampolines
Yes, these gifts are a little too big to wrap up, but, in terms of quality outdoor gear to get kids playing in the backyard, stuff to jump, swing, and climb is usually a hit.
Mom tip: The bigger the structure and the more gizmos and attachments a structure has, does not necessarily mean more fun.
Gifts to get kids exploring and learning outdoors
Nature Study Gifts
For families that like to learn and explore, binoculars and trail guides are both practical and super useful. If you’re worried about kids using binoculars gently, there are shock resistant binoculars specifically made for children.
My preschoolers absolutely love these kid-friendly binoculars that we have. I thought they’d be too big for the kids to enjoy, but that was not the case! And, since I’m not worried about their condition, I keep them in the toy bucket which means my daughter picks them out and plays with them much more frequently than if I had to remember to pull them out for her to use them once in a while… and they’re actually decent binoculars too!
A fun themed gift could include a little nature journal, some binoculars, and a beautiful nature guide, like this one, Nature Anatomy or some location specific field guides to birds, bugs, or flowers.
I’m not going to pretend to know anything about telescopes, because I don’t. But I do know that star gazing can be a lot of fun and a great reason to get outside after dark.
Technically, you don’t need anything special to enjoy the starry sky, but a star guide and telescope could help prolong the activity and get kids a little more interested and involved. There are also great apps to help identify stars and constellations available for free.
Stocking Stuffers for outdoor kids
If you’re in need of some smaller gift ideas, here’s a list of things our family uses outside on a regular basis. These would make perfect stocking stuffers for outdoor kids.
- chapsticks and travel-sized bug spray and sunscreens
- pocket packs of tissues
- gum and goodies (to keep those feet moving on the trail)
- Hot Hands, hand warmers for long days out in the snow
- small stretchy gloves
- fabric headbands to keep ears warm and windy hair out of our faces
- bandaids with cute pictures on them (because smiles make tears disappear faster)
- glow sticks for fun outside at night
- bubbles – lots and lots of bubbles
- sidewalk chalk
- telescoping roasting sticks
- Folding pocket guides from flowers to bugs or knots
- head lamps
The experience gift
And, maybe even the best gift of all… to give activities, experiences, time spent together, and memories. Here are a few suggestions:
- Gift a package of outdoor scavenger hunts for your or another family to enjoy together (you can download and print these scavenger hunts for free)
- memberships or family passes to zoos and wildlife reserves
- state / provincial and national park passes
- a promise to bring them out camping, hiking, bird watching, kite-flying, or skating (you get the idea)
- gift certificates to local experiences (think about outdoor tourist attractions for your location – a swamp tour, river rafting, guided snow shoeing, horseback riding, caving, snorkeling, sailboat lesson, ice climbing… the list is endless)
- club fees for an outdoor club like scouts or junior rangers
- Entry fees to a summer outdoor camp like horseback riding, canoeing, nature science camps and so on.
Getting outside can be easy and tones of fun. You don’t need fancy gadgets and gear, or special toys and activities, but they don’t hurt either!
Personally, I like to give gifts that I know are practical and will get used. These outdoor gifts for kids are all things that our family has used and enjoy using regularly.
Hopefully this will give you some ideas of gifts for your own outdoor kids or families on your holiday list.
Other Gift Guides you might be interested in:
- 43 outdoorsy gifts that girls will love!
- Eco-friendly and reusable gifts for mom
- Enamel mugs, the perfect camping mug for every camper