Keeping homebound kids active and entertained on summer break is no small feat. So here’s one tool you can add to your arsenal if you haven’t already: the great outdoors.
Now that most local restrictions have eased up, 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. Below, find our favorite kids’ gear, toys and activities to keep little ones entertained and exploring.
Just like the grown-up version, even down to the waterproof membrane, so Junior can hop in puddles and slow-moving creeks (and wear ’em in shoulder season). The Merrell Moab FST Low is great for walking, hiking and playing. Its synthetic-and-mesh upper is durable, and pull tabs on the heel and tongue help littles yank it on without a personal assistant. $58
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).
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
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
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.
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?
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
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. This bar does an awfully good impression of candy, too, despite its being a full serving of fruits and veggies. A number of flavors offer nut-free, dairy-free, soy-free and gluten-free goodness with a medley of carbs and fiber. Best part? This Bar Saves Lives is a neat brand with a one-for-one model of sending food to children in need for every snack purchased, so you can feel good about the energy-packed snack you feed your kid on the trail. $1.25 for an individual bar; available in different flavors
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.
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 kiddos. $19.95
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
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
This thingamajig from Outside Inside weighs just 2 pounds, 8 ounces, which means it’s portable enough for trips to the park and short hikes. The eight included discs are a kid-friendly 5 inches—which also means unruly tosses won’t travel too far. $37.50
Fun idea: Have an old rope? Cut it into a few 3-foot pieces and teach your kids how to tie basic knots at each snack break. (Thick climbing rope is perfect for little ones to work on their fine motor skills.) Start with a basic overhand knot, then move to a figure eight or braiding.
A classic game of Mattel UNO can be a perfect outdoor activity on wind-free days once your kiddo knows their numbers and colors. If you’ve got little ones, opt for teams to start building number sense and strategic thinking. $10
A Buff like this one will protect against bugs and sun, thanks to its maximum UPF 50+ rating. The Junior is kid-size and available in a number of fun colors like bright teal, neon pink and a funky black-and-orange design. $26
Interested in more staff picks and kits? Find more collections here.