The Perfect Kit: Going Outside with Kiddos

Gear your littles up for walks and outdoor playtime with our favorite hiking shoes, snacks and even a kite.


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Editor’s note: After a great deal of careful consideration, we temporarily closed our retail stores nationwide. For more information, review the FAQs regarding REI’s recent store closures. Please consult the CDC or your state health department for advice related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including information on symptoms, testing and how to protect yourself and others during social distancing. Follow local guidelines regarding travel, and check access to local, state and national parks before you visit. Remember that outdoor recreation has inherent risks; don’t attempt activities beyond your experience and skill level. Your actions may present risk not only to you, but the local community during these challenging times. 

Keeping homebound kids active and entertained is no small feat. So here’s one tool you can add to your arsenal if you haven’t already: the great outdoors.

So long as local orders allow, venture out your door for 30 minutes and see where you end up. Kids can find whole worlds in the cracks between sidewalks or in the grass in your backyard. (For tips on getting outside while social distancing, read this story. Consider adjusting your route or the time of day you’re heading out to adhere to social distancing guidelines.)

Below, find our favorite kids’ gear, toys and activities to keep little ones entertained and exploring.

KEEN Targhee Low Waterproof Hiking Shoes – Kids’

Just like the grown-up version, but without finnicky laces: The KEEN Targhee Low is great for walking, hiking and playing. Its leather-and-textile upper is durable, while a mesh liner keeps the Targhee Low breathable. $54.95; sizes 8K–7K


Fun idea: If you’ve got a little one who is lagging, give them challenges to the next point on the route. Easy games that kids of all ages can partake in include I-Spy, scavenger hunts (photos only, leave what you find), Red Light Green Light and Follow the Leader (where the leader walks in a silly way or like an animal of their choosing).

KEEN Newport H2 Sandals – Toddlers’

Have a younger kiddo on your hands? The KEEN Newport H2 comes in sizes 4T to 7T. More like a closed-toe hiking sandal, it slides on easily with bungee-style laces and a hook-and-loop closure. The Newport H2 dries quickly for splashing, but can be worn with socks on chillier outings. $49.95; sizes 4T–7T 

REI Co-op Tarn 12 Pack – Kids’

Hype up your youngster’s pack with patches, stickers or keychains, then let Junior load it up. The Tarn 12 from REI Co-op has all the features you’ll find in an adult pack, but is constructed for littler bodies. It includes a padded back panel and shoulder straps, a chest strap, a reservoir sleeve and five pockets. $39.95; one size

Fun idea: Fill the Tarn 12 with items like a magnifying glass, a book or an adventure notebook to play with outside. If you have a pedometer or fitness tracker, let your child hold onto it for your walk. Chances are high that they’ll get pumped to watch their steps increase as they go.

JBL Clip 3 Portable Speaker

Portable music is exciting. Attach this JBL speaker onto your backpack or your kiddo’s, and jam out as you go. You’ll get up to 10 hours of use on one charge. About the size of a smushed softball, the Clip 3 is small enough for little hands and durable enough for them, too: It’s waterproof and made of abrasion-resistant fabric, so it should last a few drops and splashes. $69.95

Fun idea: Every few blocks you cover, let your kid select a new song. For older kids, consider playing an audiobook or podcast through the speaker so they can listen as they walk. May we recommend Camp Monsters?

Prism Designs Pocket Flyer Kite

Prism Designs Pocket Flyer Kite

This packable kite from Prism Designs is easy to fly and even easier to fit into your child’s backpack. It pops out of its stuff sack into shape, then all your kid needs to do is attach the line and it’s ready for action. $25

Little Secrets Chocolate Pieces

Little Secrets Chocolate Pieces

A long walk or hike is no different than hanging at home with kids—which is to say, it’s always important to have snacks on hand. These chocolate treats from Little Secrets are simple to toss in your bag and dole out one at a time. They contain no artificial colors or flavors, and no corn syrup, either. $2 for one pouch; available in different flavors

Bobo’s Oat Bars Stuff’d Bar

For another on-the-go snack, check out the tasty vegan, gluten-free and GMO-free trail bars from Bobo’s Oat Bars. The Stuff’d Bars, which have a nut butter filling, are lip-smacking good, and the fiber and protein content should keep your little one satiated. Nice touch: The Stuff’d Bars aren’t super high in sugar. $3 for one bar; available in different flavors

Fun idea: When you’ve found a good snack break or lunch spot, try playing the What’s Missing? game. Pick a few small objects that you can hide under a bandana. Spread them out and let your kids take a few seconds to memorize. Then cover them with the bandana, slyly remove one and let everyone take guesses about which object is missing.

Minishades Classic Polarized Sunglasses

Minishades Classic Polarized Sunglasses

Kids don’t always love wearing sunglasses, but protecting their eyes is just as important as protecting their skin. These polarized sunnies from Minishades come in a variety of sizes to fit infants, tots, little kids and big kids, and offer 100 percent UV protection. Bonus: They’re impact-resistant, perfect for even the most accident-prone kids. $19.95

Chums Glassfloat Classic Floating Sunglass Retainer

Chums Glassfloat Classic Floating Sunglass Retainer

Like a leash for your kid’s shades, a retainer like this one from Chums helps ensure their eyewear stays in place and comes home with you. The Glassfloat Classic is made of soft polyester and has an adjustable slider for a snug fit on small faces. It also comes in a handful of colors. $9

Outside Inside Backpack Harmonica

Outside Inside Backpack Harmonica

Kids and instruments can be a bit raucous, but if you set the parameters that your Mozart can only play outside, music might become an effective motivation tool. This 10-hole, brass harmonica from Outside Inside easily fits in a pocket and comes in the “C” key. $17.95

Interested in more staff picks and kits? Find more collections here.

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