Outdoor toy storage and rotation, the key to more backyard fun!

Do you need some tips on outdoor toy storage? Does your backyard sometimes look like a junk yard?  Balls, ropes, toys, and random stuff hide the grass.  And yet, the kids still complain there’s nothing to do outside?

I’ve been there.  I hated it.  And if you’re like me you like to look out onto the yard and see kids enjoying themselves.  You want to see the green grass and the lovely flowers, not a yard littered with discarded shoes, upended buckets of balls, and toys untouched for days! 

So, just like toy rotation for indoor toys, why not try toy rotation for your outdoor toys?  We did.  And, voila!  Once the yard was clean and only a few items were available, it seems they’d spend hours enjoying their ‘new’ activities.

Metal buckets full of outdoor kids toys, text reads outdoor toy organization

Sorting and organizing your outdoor toy storage:

Implementing outdoor toy rotation will be as easy or hard as you make it.  But first you’ll need to get organized….  You’ll need some containers, some storage space, and a good chunk of time.

First, find some toy buckets

You can use anything big enough to hold your toys.  I recommend sturdy plastic, wood, or metal containers.  Kids tend to use the containers themselves to play with so anything breakable might get broken.  Keep in mind the containers will also be exposed to sun and rain.  Rubbermaid tubs work well, have lids, can be stacked, and are easy to carry.  Metal pails, large buckets, gardening totes, and wooden crates work well too.

Mom Tip: If these are going to be left outside and get rained on, you’ll want to make sure the storage containers have drainage holes

Figure out where you’ll keep the toy storage containers

Consider whether you want your children to have access to some or all of the toy buckets at any time.  For our family, I have various toy buckets, some of which the kids can pull out on their own when they like and some which only I can get out and switch for them.

You’ll also need to find storage space for these containers.  The garage, garden shed, and basement are all likely choices.  If you are like me, out of sight means out of mind.  If you want this system to work, put the buckets somewhere easily visible and accessible – making rotation as simple as possible.

If the containers are solid you may even want to label what’s inside them for easier identification.

Mom Tip: If you’re ambitious you could print out photos of the toys / items in each bucket and tape these to the outside so kids who can’t read yet can easily see what their play options are.

Fill your outdoor toy buckets

This is the fun part, if you ask me… (but then I enjoy organizing and sorting).

Start by gathering all the outdoor toys into one spot.  I mean Everything!

Once you have all the toys in one spot, sort similar toys into groups: throwing toys, sand toys, bubbles, chalk, sports, and so forth.  Now is a good time to get rid of everything that is broken. 

You may also want to use this time to consider which toys are worth hanging onto? 

  • Do the kids still enjoy it? 
  • Is it appropriate for the age of your kids? 
  • Is it safe? 
  • Is it duplicated?  
  • Does the toy encourage movement, learning, or imaginative play? 

These decisions are where outdoor toy rotation can get complicated – depending on how many toys you have.

Now, start organizing into your tubs, buckets, and containers. Below you’ll see a huge list of activity bucket and outdoor play ideas.

metal outdoor toy storage pails full of outdoor toys and activities
A few of our outdoor toy storage pails

At our house, we have a few small buckets always available to the kids.  One has sidewalk chalk, one has water table toys, and one has random balls, Frisbees, and skipping ropes.  A few of the rotated toy buckets contain wooden boards, bocce ball and badminton, and bubble blowing.

Now, start rotating your outdoor toys!

You should now have a manageable outdoor toy storage and sorting system.  Decide which the kids enjoy playing with all the time and which would be best in the rotation.  Don’t forget to actually rotate through the buckets you’ve put away or all that work was for nothing.

When kids need some extra motivation to get outside, go pull out a new bucket.  Make it exciting.  Let them ‘discover’ the bucket.  Younger kids will enjoy if you scatter items or a bucket for them to discover on their own.   Or invite the kids to choose which bucket will be brought out. 

Either way, this new strategy of outdoor toy rotation brings many hours of enjoyable outdoor play and helps keep your backyard from looking like a discarded toy junk yard.

Get these free printable outdoor activity jar ideas

Outdoor Activity Themed Bucket Ideas:

Sidewalk art: chalk and washable paint

Natural Loose Parts Play: twigs and sticks, pinecones, rocks, seashells, feathers, wood rounds

Construction: pieces of scrap lumber, sticks, string or rope, dowels, hammer and nails

Imagination play: toy cars and trucks, animal figurines, wooden building blocks or plastic Mega Blocks

Water Tub/Table/Pool: measuring cups, empty plastic jars and bottles, spoons, watering cans, sponges (If you don’t have a water table, a large tub or a large bowl will work fine)

Water Play: squirt guns, water balloons, sprinkler, slip n’ slide, pails, sponges

Gardening: trowels, shovels, gloves, watering can, toy lawn mowers

Nerf Guns: soft bulleted toy guns, kid’s safety goggles, targets

Bike Wash: Sponges, bucket, brushes, rags (kids can wash their bikes, trikes, and outdoor toys)

preschooler washing his car in the backyard with a water hose

Bug Hunting: magnifying glass, butterfly net, empty jars, insect identification book

Bubble Play: bubble solution, an assortment of bubble wands (try making a large string bubble wand or cut the bottom off a small water bottle, put a sock on it, then blow through the bottle).  Your young kids will love this bubble machine.

Outdoor toy rotation can solve both your messy yard and the problem of bored kids

Fort Building: Ropes, tarps or sheets, clothespins, tent pegs, long sticks or pieces of lumber

Sand or Mud play: shovels, pails, cars, figurines, old tin baking dishes and cooking utensils

Other Outdoor games/activities to put into rotation:

Random games and such that kids can play with:

Sports equipment that kids can play with:

  • Badminton rackets and birdies
  • Tennis rackets and balls
  • Golf clubs and golf balls
  • Soccer, Football, Volleyball, Basketball, and Rugby balls
  • Baseball mitts, balls, and bats
  • Hockey sticks, nets, pucks or balls

Hopefully this has given you some ideas for not only organizing your outdoor toys, but also for including a bit of toy rotation into your kid’s play!

outdoor toys in blue metal bins, text reads tackle boredom with toy rotation
water guns and sidewalk chalk in metal buckets, text reads how to organize outdoor toys
Water guns, bubbles, chalk, skipping ropes and tucked into outdoor toy storage bins, text reads tame the messy yard with outdoor toy storage


outdoor toy storage bins full of kids toys, text reads how to do outdoor toy storage and rotation



3 thoughts on “Outdoor toy storage and rotation, the key to more backyard fun!”

  1. The themed outdoor buckets are a really great idea. My kids would love so many of these, especially the bike wash station and the natural loose parts play. My kids favourite things outside at the moment are the bike pump and the hose – they are fascinated by them both.

    1. Hi Clare, yes, the themed outdoor activity buckets have been a hit for my younger kids. I like the bike pump idea. I haven’t let my kids play with that, but I’m sure they’d love to practice working on their bikes. Great idea for another themed set! Thanks for sharing:)

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