Editor’s note: This post was updated on June 4, 2021.
Summer is a great time to get outside and engage in healthy and active play with the whole family.
Whether you’re soaking up fresh air on an invigorating hike with a newborn, your baby is crawling and cruising (and keeping you on your toes!), or your toddler is experiencing their first ride around the neighbourhood on a new balance bike, there’s fun to be had at every age and stage.
Are you looking to add some new toys to your playroom or backyard to inspire active play? Here are some great options to encourage sensory play and brain development, spark creativity, and develop your child’s physical literacy.
Let playtime begin!
For busy babies
(Ages infants+, $21.99 each)
It’s good for babies to get outside and feel the grass tickle their skin or watch the leaves flutter in the trees, but it’s also important to protect their sensitive skin from too much sun. Make sure Baby’s safe from sunburns with this all-natural, biodegradable, and organic SPF 40 sunscreen, which is safe for use on infants. Buy these and more organic and natural products at Green Beaver.
(Ages 18 months+, $34.99)
Kids as young as 18 months can enjoy this easy-to-understand movement-based game. Roll the large, soft, colourful die, and pick a card of the same colour. Each of the 48 cards has a fun, simple activity to act out (“Count five fingers” or “Wave your arms”). Then, roll again! A great first game that encourages creativity, learning, active play, and gross motor skills. Find it at Dilly Dally Kids.
(Ages 18 months – 5 years, $159)
This bestselling balance bike has a low starting seat height, making it a great first set of wheels for children as young as 18 months. Parents will appreciate the no-tool height adjustment for seat and handlebars, the maintenance-free tires (no flats!), and its easy assembly. Neighbourhood strolls will become a whole lot more fun while kids ride alongside and develop their balance, steering, coordination, and gross motor skills.
Read the full description and check it out in action at Balance Bikes Canada.
Toys for outdoor play
(Ages 3+, $79.99)
Perfect for encouraging a love of the outdoors and exploration, the Forest Trail Kit has everything kiddos will need for discovering the natural world. Children can develop their cognitive and motor skills while using the magnifying glass, owl compass, whistle, and three fun cards—all contained in a lined wolf character canvas shoulder bag. The waterproof groundsheet is illustrated with forest floor treasures and measures a generous 142 cm x 142 cm. Use it as a picnic blanket, a groundsheet, or to build an indoor or outdoor fort. Find it at Tender Leaf Toys.
(Ages 3+, $38.99)
Hand-painted with eco-friendly paint, these colourful natural silk wings from Sarah’s Silks will have your little one soaring through the garden, dancing across the living room, and fluttering around the neighbourhood. Be a fairy, a hummingbird, or a dragonfly! These wings will inspire imaginative play and creative movement. Find it at Dilly Dally Kids.
(Ages 3+, $12.90)
We’ve had this tool set for over 10 years, and not a single one has broken. That’s after 10 years of abuse and digging and prying up rocks! This set of six tools is strong (obviously), lightweight, and won’t rust. Sized for kids, the 8″-9″ long tools can be used at the beach, in a sandbox, or for indoor or outdoor gardening. My kids loved having “their own” set of trowels and weeder, and we’ve brought these along on nature hikes and camping. They’ve even been used as hammers. (Though I probably shouldn’t recommend that!) Find this awesome set at Lee Valley.
(Ages 4+, $14.99)
When you’re doing a lot of sidewalk and driveway drawing, you need a BIG box of chalk. This box contains 64 washable sidewalk chalk sticks in vibrant colours (including eight special-effect colours!) so your artists can draw their own obstacle course, an inspirational message, or classic games like hopscotch and tic-tac-toe. Find it at Crayola.
(Ages 4+, $29.95)
Throw, catch, and bounce with the two 12” disks and an OgoSoft ball—great for indoor or outdoor play. Because it’s made with foam and spandex, it’s also waterproof and can be used in a pool or at the beach! The disks resemble mini hand trampolines and are perfect for bouncing balls, or even water balloons, back and forth up to 150 feet. The disks can also be used as frisbees. This game set develops hand-eye coordination, timing, throwing, gross and fine motor skills, and the ability to track moving objects in the air.
Find it at Kol Kid.
Toys for active indoor fun
(Ages 3+, $54.25)
The Playzone-Fit Double Maze Board can be used with your feet or hands and develops body awareness, motor skills, concentration, and hand-eye coordination. The two-sided maze board comes with three balls to maneuver, and an optional bottom attachment for kids wanting a greater challenge. Playzone-fit is part of the b4Adventure family of brands. b4Adventure is committed to making a variety of products that encourage kids of all ages to stay active, get outdoors, and have fun while doing it! Find it on the Playzone-fit website.
(Ages 3+, $42.59)
The nearly five-foot-long Giddy Buggy Tunnel invites active kids to bear crawl, wiggle, and shimmy through its bright interior. Use it inside or out to promote open-ended and creative play that also develops movement skills like agility, and coordination of legs and arms. The tunnel sets up quickly and folds flat for easy storage. Melissa & Doug is a partner of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and you can find these and other products that champion the benefits of open-ended play on its website.
Toys for quiet play
(Ages 3+, $94)
How cute is this!? The Farm Life Playscape includes a set of farm animals, a pop-up barn, reversible sequin pond, a teeny weather station, and more. It’s lightweight, folds up for easy travel, promotes creativity, and develops the fine motor skills that comes with sensory play. Handmade in Canada by moms. Find it at TinyFeats.
(Ages 3+, $80)
These gorgeous handmade blocks are available as a set of 32 or 50 and are carefully cut, sanded down, and painted with a paint low in VOC and are GREENGUARD Gold Certified. The paint’s superior stain-resistant formula is scrubbable and easy to clean. Besides being super fun, block play helps children’s fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination, and develops creativity, problem-solving, and spatial reasoning. These oh-so-pretty block sets are handmade in Bolton, Ont., and available from Build-a-block Co. You can also shop for mud kitchens at its sister shop Kreative Kitchenz. Build-a-Block’s owner has taught kindergarten students for the past six years, and the kids’ interests and engagement have been the inspiration behind both businesses.
Is there a fun and active product that your kids love? Let us know in the comments below!