Spring is just around the corner, and if your kids are like mine they'll soon be venturing out into the garden again.
When the weather starts warming up I like to leave our backdoor open all day so they can come and go as they please; I see the garden as just another room for them to enjoy.
If I'm honest it's great news for me as they aren't under my feet all day 😜 BUT there's another more important reason I do this - so they can get all the benefits of outdoor play.
The toys they have outside are just as important as those they play with indoors, as garden toys will encourage kids to exercise, explore, create and get lots of lovely fresh air!
Maybe you're thinking about getting a new toy or two to make the most of the nice weather but you haven't got much space?
We have a teeny garden for the 5 of us, around 15 x 30 ft, so we are real fans of quality over quantity - toys have to earn their place!
With my eldest about to go into the teen years we've gone through quite a few garden toys in our time, but there are a handful that have been hits for all three kids.
Here are our favourites for having fun outside; they have all been tried and tested by my three children and their visitors.
A small slide is great as it doesn't require the same level of supervision as a large slide - once you're little one is a confident walker and climber, you don't need to hold their hand or worry about a nasty fall. This one folds so it's perfect for smaller gardens.
Bubble wands are great, but if you want to take things to the next level, try a bubble machine - they're surprisingly inexpensive and will bring hours of fun! We love this model as it's easy to fill and blows tonnes of bubbles.
If like us you don't really have the space for a full sand and water table, this is a great option. This large clear tub with sloping sides comfortably fits 2 or 3 children round for some sensory play, but is small enough to be packed away after use. Over the years we've put so many different things in ours - water, sand, grass clippings, clean compost, cut flowers, ice cubes...
We bought our mud kitchen from TP Toys during the covid outbreak, it's nice and compact so has stayed in the garden all year round and my 4 & 8 year old play with it constantly. Don't be put off by the name, it doesn't have to be used for mud, we tend to use it for water and loose parts (pinecones, pebbles etc). We have a range of stainless steel pots, pans, whisks etc which we have bought for pennies from charity shops and car boot sales.
Den kits are a great way to make the most of your garden space, they pack away really small and you can even bring them indoors in the winter months. If you fancy an outdoor adventure without travelling anywhere, make a little picnic, grab some books, and spend a little time in your den. This is the original den kit, but there are many cheaper alternatives out there.
Our lawnmower is a current favourite with my youngest (age 4). He loves to join my mowing the lawn. What I like about this one by Mookie is that it is compact, folds in half for storage and has moveable parts.
Chalks are perfect for outdoor creativity - they can be used on patios, fences, walls, tree trunks etc and it's washed off in the rain ready to start again. Add a bit of water when drawing and you get really vibrant colours! I like the giant versions as the regular kind tend to break into pieces really quickly.
Who needs paint when you have water! My kids love painting with water and it's one of the easiest activities to prep. Just fill a plastic bowl, give them a brush, and let them go wild on the fence or patio! On hot days it dries really quickly so they have a new canvas all over again.
Kids enjoy mimicking adults and love to use child-size versions of cleaning equipment. Helping you sweep and tidy will encourage your child to care for and look after their environment. A wooden broom is better than plastic as it is stronger and will last a long time kept outdoors.
If you can squeeze some plants into your garden, your child will love to help water them with their own watering can. Go for a metal one as it's more robust and plastic can easily perish if left outdoors over winter
We were gifted our bugnoculars by Learning Resources a few years ago, and they've been a favourite ever since. We like to pack them on day trips and camping holidays, but they're also a great way to take a closer look at all the minibeasts in your garden.