The fresh air and sunshine that Spring ushers in each year make heading outside with the kids to play, a fun way to spend an afternoon. Whether you ride bikes, swing on a swing set or play tag in the yard, the ways to enjoy the outdoors with kids are seemingly endless.
And yet, the inevitable “I’m bored!” rolls off kids’ tongues sometime in mid-Spring, when games of tag are old news and the swing set isn’t as fun as it used to be. But that’s okay! There are so many fun ways to engage with kids outside, and none of these activities needs to be hard on your wallet. With a quick trip to the dollar store and a little creativity, you will have the kids begging to head back outside to play in no time!
The Six Best Dollar Store Outdoor Toys for Kids
- Chalk- Don’t underestimate the possibilities a new tub of chalk can present.
- Help your kids draw a Hopscotch grid on the driveway and teach them the way you played it as a kid.
- If you have a long driveway, create a bike or scooter path. Draw long, curvy lines and have the kids take turns trying to navigate the lines on their bikes or scooters.
- Spend time together coloring a painter’s tape mural on your front steps or driveway. Place painter’s tape in a large square and then run strips back and forth at different angles, creating triangles of all shapes and sizes. Color each shape a different color and then pull off the painter’s tape. Voila! An Instagram-worthy art project in the driveway.
- Water Guns- Get ready to get wet!
- Grab the neighbor kids and hand a filled water gun to each kid. Let them run wild through the back or front yard. Have a large bucket filled with water easily accessible so kids can refill their water guns as necessary.
- Create water gun art! This works well on old, light-colored shirts. Fill several water guns with different colors of water dyed with food dye (yellow, red, green, blue). Then, have kids put on the old shirts and take turns “creating art” by spraying each other’s shirts with the colored water! Try this also on large pieces of butcher’s paper hung on the fence or even just on the driveway!
- Target practice. Set out plastic cups in a row (one row per kid) and have the kids race to see who can knock over the cups first by squirting them with water.
- A Rubber Ball- High-bouncing fun!
- Challenge your kids to a game of backyard soccer! Don’t have a goal? Simply use four of anything- cups, ropes, chairs- to mark off two goals.
- Teach kids how to play PIG with a basketball hoop and ball. The first kid does a creative move and tries to shoot the ball through the hoop. If he makes it, every player has to make the same basket he just did. Any player who misses the shot gets a letter. If he doesn’t make the shot, the ball goes to the next player. The first person to spell PIG loses!
- Gather the neighborhood kids and play a game of kickball or dodgeball, if you have a couple of balls at home. Dare the kids not to have fun playing these games!
- A Flashlight.
- Wait until the sun sets and sit outside on blankets (snacks optional!) and tell spooky stories, highlighting the story teller’s face with the flashlight! Not too scary- nobody wants nightmares! Find some great stories here.
- Play flashlight tag! The person who is it has the flashlight, and if you shine the light on someone running around, that person becomes it!
- Go on a flashlight scavenger hunt. Outside can look different once the sun sets- challenge the kids to find objects such as rocks, leaves, bugs and more using just the flashlight to help them!
- Pool Noodles
- Host a joust! Draw a chalk circle on the cement (or mark a circle in the grass) and have each kid stand inside. Each kid receives a noodle and has to try to knock the other out of the circle. Winner takes all!
- Teach kids to limbo using the pool noodle as a limbo stick. How low can you go? Find out which kiddos are the most limber with this classic backyard game.
- Cut up a noodle and use it to help kids blow bubbles! The hole through the middle of the noodle makes it ideal for blowing bubbles, and a foam noodle slice is easier for smaller hands to hold than a tiny bubble wand.
- Badminton Rackets
- Smaller kids can use these rackets with beach balls and can try to keep the beach balls from hitting the ground only using Badminton rackets. Older kids can use a birdie, which can also be purchased the dollar store.
- Water balloon races! Fill up a bucket with water balloons and have kids take turn racing with water balloons on their Badminton rackets. See how many they can carry at once without the water balloons falling off and popping!
- Funny bubbles! Fill a large tub with dish soap and water and have kids take turns dipping their rackets in the bubble mixture and trying to turn their rackets into large bubble wands.
Get outside, fight off the “I’m bored” and have a great time on the cheap! Enjoy!
My name is John Haber. I’m a Pediatric Occupational Therapist and the founder of Nogginsland. I became a COTA in 2003, and then went back to school much later, receiving my Master’s Degree in OT from Mercy College in New York in 2016.
Over the years, I’ve worked with a variety of populations in different settings, from school districts, to developmental disability centers, to children’s hospitals.