I was what you might call an “indoor kid.” Usually, I preferred to spend most of my free time in my room with a book. When I did go outside, I typically brought a book with me, swinging in the backyard for hours.
As a teacher and parent, I believe strongly in the power of outdoor play. But contrary to popular belief — spending time outside doesn’t come naturally to all of us.
Because I didn’t grow up in a family that did outdoorsy things, I had to work hard to overcome self-doubt and a lack of confidence. I’ve read lots of library books, taken online courses, and joined more-experienced parents on kid-friendly hikes. I’ve participated in challenges like 1000 Hours Outside and followed experts on social media.
While I’m nowhere close to expert level, there are many things I have done (for the first time) as an adult that I am proud of:
- long family bike rides
- jumping off the high dive
- camping at national parks
- growing food in our garden
- catching a fish (and releasing it myself)
It’s taken years of baby steps to get comfortable with outside play. From the time the girls were little, we would head outdoors right after breakfast. I would lay out a blanket and bring out a handful of toys.
Now that they are older, we often bring out our schoolwork. The girls ride their bikes around the block while I walk, or they play while I pull weeds in the garden. I think they could spend all day outside, if I let them!
Because we share a yard with our neighbors, we store most of our outdoor toys inside the house/garage. (We have special permission to keep the swing up during the warmer months.) I feel like starting with a blank slate every time we go outside has pushed them to be more creative.
Sometimes, they bring out the chalk and make giant drawings on the driveway — which usually leads to some type of track for their bikes or scooters.
And other times, our youngest will grab the cones and create an obstacle course. They’ll ask me to time them as they make their way across the yard.
If you or one of your kiddos struggles to feel comfortable outside, check out this list of outdoor toys. Maybe something new will spark their interest.
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8 Best Outdoor Toys
This wagon was one of our first purchases as parents! And even though our kids are bigger now, it still comes out whenever friends with little kids come over. (It makes a great storage tub for their favorite toys, parked in the garage. They can just wheel it out and back in again when they are done.)
I wish they made water tables for big kids! Our water table made hot Texas summers bearable, especially when the girls were little, and I wasn’t comfortable taking them both to the pool on my own.
Best. decision. ever.
They prefer riding their bikes most of the time, but these are great for long walks and camping trips!
This was a beloved toy during the toddler/preschool years. All the adult has to do is pull the string, and the disk goes flying. Our little ones would burn off so much energy after dinner every night!
We always have chalk on hand. Always.
We originally bought these to work on soccer drills, but they have so many uses!
I keep thinking my kids will outgrow bubbles, but it hasn’t happened yet!