Nobody’s denying the convenience of plugging your kids (or someone else’s) into a digital baby sitter – like a TV or an iPad – and going about your business. But when one day your 7-year old points up at the sun and says, “What’s that?”, you know you have a problem.
Kids used to be bursting with excitement to get outside. Every morning was like a prison break, and if you didn’t have a fenced-in yard it was like letting a dog free in the woods. They were just gone. Now, most kids head outside with a look like they’re being shipped into exile.
We hate to condone bribery, but sometimes it’s the only way. So here are 14 fantastic ideas for how to break free from the pandemic of pale, glassy-eyed zombie children. These outdoor toys will get them out of the house and make them human again. Just like the good old days.
Drones have gotten easier to use, and many of the smaller models now come with features like one-button return, automatic hover mode when you let go of the joystick, and automated landing and takeoff, making them way more appropriate for kids. They’ll get carried away for hours playing with one of these, and since they’re easier to use, there’s much less chance you’ll be buying another one soon.Amazon.com
Junior Ninja Obstacle Course
A future commando, ninja, or GI Jane will love this 50-foot obstacle course. Just string the nylon slackline between two trees or posts, attach the climbing rope and 8 hanging obstacles, and away they go. Once they master this, they’ll be ready to take on anything – maybe even cleaning their room.Hammacher.com
Scooters are one of the classic toys that have stood the test of time, and they’ve even grown with their users. Nowadays you’ll see grown men and women riding them to work in cities, and nobody even laughs. You can choose between two-wheel (speed) and three-wheel (stability) versions, so no matter what level of coordination, balance, and hell-raising your kids are at, you’ll find one that fits them perfectly.Amazon.com
A slackline is like a low-level tightrope. It’s one of the best ways to develop coordination, balance, and full-body control, which will turn any zombie kid into a mini badass in no time flat. Full on slacklining is very challenging, but this kit comes with a training line to hold onto while you develop the necessary skills. Advanced slackliners do some pretty amazing tricks, so this is scalable from absolute beginner to world-class showman. Plan on the whole family getting addicted to this.Amazon.com
Unlike a slackline, this one takes no time to master. It’s pure adrenaline: just grab ahold and go. With an extra long 80’ cable and an attachable seat to provide support and keep you in place (i.e., not falling on your rear end), this zipline is the ultimate in both fun and safety.Amazon.com
Bike Helmet They’ll Want to Wear
Turn the least cool thing they have to wear into something everyone is going to want to put on Instagram (in a good way). Nutcase makes some of the hottest bike helmets available for adults and kids. After all, just because you don’t want a concussion doesn’t mean you have to look like a dork.nutcasehelmets.com
Give a budding clown the gift of a head start. These walking stilts are perfect for a beginner, as they’re adjustable from 7”-12”, so it’s a great way to get off the ground for the first time. Once they’ve mastered these, they’ve earned the right to scoff at all of the “groundwalker” kids.Amazon.com
Even if most toys these days are high-tech, sometimes a kid just wants to get down and dirty. Here is a real miniaturized version of the construction backhoes that can tear up anything in their way. Just climb inside, fire it up, and start moving some earth. Just keep an eye on them so the house doesn’t disappear.Hammacher.com
Walkie Talkie Set
Sure, cell phone technology has surpassed walkie talkies by a mile, but don’t overlook this old staple of outdoor mischief making. Walkie talkies are still the gold standard for backyard tactical maneuvers of all kinds. Give them the tools they need to get things done behind your back.Amazon.com
Outdoor play is so much more fun when you can be totally reckless. Regard for your own physical wellbeing typically prevents this. With a bumper bubble (or even better, a couple of them), this concern goes out the window completely. Add a little havoc, mayhem, and bounciness to play time, and skip the broken bones.Amazon.com
A real rocket these days costs a pretty penny. They’re also way more complicated than any kid wants to deal with, and we hear they’re kind of dangerous too. A stomp rocket, on the other hand, is totally affordable and nothing but fun. Just run, take a flying leap, and land on the stomp pad to shoot the mini rocket up to 100 feet in the air. This one even glows in the dark so your neighbors will have another story to tell you about the UFOs.Amazon.com
Smartphone Controlled Paper Airplane
The paper airplane just got a much needed update. This is no “Holy crap it went ten feet!” paper airplane. With a fully controllable rudder and propeller system, this thing is meant to cruise like a real miniature jet. The controls are simple enough for anyone to use: just tilt your phone to control the airplane’s path through the sky. And it’s made from ultra-durable material, so it’s ready for the crash landing as well. An easy to use, rugged, and super fun toy.Amazon.com
Once they’ve gotten the hang of sledding, it might be time to graduate to one of these. A snowskate is like a more compact, less complicated snowboard. In fact it’s a great introduction to snowboarding that can be used at a sledding park or on the bunny hill at a ski resort. This one is small enough for kids but sturdy enough for adults, so everyone gets a turn.Amazon.com
Giant Bubble Wand
This is the industrial sized version of the little bubble blowers every kid used to have that drove everyone crazy. This one makes bubbles big enough to fit your horse inside, and it comes with an instruction manual full of tricks that the little bubble blower kids never dreamed of. Because sometimes bigger really is way better.Amazon.com