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13 best outdoor toys and garden games kids and families will love

From slides to water guns, make the most of summer with the best games and activities for the garden

Katie Gregory
Wednesday 31 May 2023 16:14 BST
<p>We weeded out anything that was going to be a one-hit-wonder and gave extra points for products that were built to last</p>

We weeded out anything that was going to be a one-hit-wonder and gave extra points for products that were built to last

Our Top Picks

Whether you’re looking for a way to encourage the kids outside, or you’re after something to entertain a crowd at a garden party, there’s a long list of toys and games to get everyone active in the great outdoors.

For the hottest summer days, water play is always a good option – but you don’t necessarily need oodles of space and a giant paddling pool. Water guns are great fun and use minimal water, and gel blasters – which fire water-based pellets – give you the freedom to heads to the nearest park.

Ride-on toys, meanwhile, are a great way for younger children to develop coordination, and toys that encourage catching and throwing are always a win too. Likewise, more advanced sports equipment will be a hit with older children and adults, and our shortlist includes a space-saving basketball net and an archery set you can take anywhere.

At grown-up gatherings and garden soirees, family games that can be enjoyed by all ages are a good option – and we’ve included two options that will keep all generations occupied while you’re busy with the BBQ.

Beyond the fun factor, the only real caveat when it comes to choosing outdoor toys and games is durability. Look for something that can stand up to plenty of rough and tumble as well as every sort of weather. This is the Great British summer, after all.

How we tested

We let our tester loose on a whole range of outdoor toys and games and asked them to shortlist the ones that provided the most fun. We weeded out anything that was going to be a one-hit-wonder and gave extra points for products that were built to last or designed with sustainable materials. Lastly, we factored in cost versus durability to find our top outdoor toys and games.

The best outdoor toys and garden games for 2023 are:

  • Best outdoor toy overall – The Den Kit Company forest den kit: £65, Thedenkitco.com
  • Best outdoor toy for water play – Zuru bunch o balloons tropical party water slide wipeout: £16, Asda.com
  • Best garden game for gatherings – Bex Kubb original: £49.99, Johnlewis.com
  • Best garden slide – Smoby 6.5ft funny slide: £119.99, Smythstoys.com

The Den Kit Company forest den kit

best outdoor toys and garden games The Den Kit Co forest den kit
  • Best: Overall
  • Ages: Recommended for children of six years plus
  • Type: Den building

The Den Kit Company is an expert at encouraging little people outdoors with a range of build-your-own dens that pack neatly away into a bag. It has recently relaunched one of its designs – the forest den kit – in a water-resistant backpack, which means not even the British weather can stop the fun.

Inside the camo-coloured bag there’s everything kids need to create their own shelter. That includes a waterproof tarpaulin, two ground sheets, tent pegs, jute rope, camo netting and a wooden mallet to bosh it all together with. There are some prettier design options – the cottage garden den kit (£45, Thedenkitco.com) comes with candy-coloured bunting – but we like the rugged, outdoorsy feel of the forest den kit, which also comes with extras like face paints and an enamel mug. Most of all though, we like the fact there are no single-use plastics, no batteries required, and no need for adults to interfere.

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Little Tikes cozy coupe

best outdoor toys and garden games Little Tikes cozy coupe
  • Best: For tiny tots
  • Ages: From 18 months old
  • Type: Ride-on toy

The original cozy coupe car was released in 1979, designed by former Chrysler designer, Jim Mariol. Since then, this compact red and yellow model designed for children has become a design classic and one of the best-selling cars in the world – despite its distinct lack of an engine.

New for this year, Little Tikes has introduced an updated version of the iconic children’s ride-on – and it’s even more nifty than before. We particularly like the removable floor, which means kids can still use their own feet to move around as before – but you can also pop the floor in to tuck their feet away, and use the handle that’s been added to the back to push or pull them around. The wheels have been given a major upgrade too – now on casters, they spin a full 360 degrees and make light work of corners. It takes a little while to build and doesn’t pack away unless you’re willing to dismantle it every time, but once it’s up it’s an incredibly sturdy and waterproof little motor that you can keep hold of for the grandkids.

  1. £54 from Very.co.uk
Prices may vary
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Gel Blaster surge

best outdoor toys and garden games Firestorm Games gel blaster surge
  • Best: For sibling battles
  • Ages: Recommended for 14+ years old
  • Type: Gel-water gun

If there was one product our testers couldn’t wait to get out of the box, it was the gel blaster surge – and it didn’t disappoint. This automatic gun fires water-based gel pellets that don’t leave any mess, as they burst on impact and quickly evaporate.

The gun is rechargeable and comes with a USB-C charging cable, so there’s no need to stock up on batteries. We found the charge lasted well – over three hours in testing – and took less than an hour to charge up again. The compartment at the top holds about 800 gellets, so you’ll need to hydrate more of them two hours in advance if you’re planning an epic battle. It’s not cheap, and of course you’ll need two if you want to shoot an opponent, but this is brilliant fun and feels built to last.

While it’s not available for delivery until 24 June, you can pre-order to make sure it arrives in time for when school’s out.

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Bex Kubb original

Bex kubbs original.png
  • Best: For garden gatherings
  • Ages: From eight years old
  • Type: Group game / party game

Kubb is a traditional Scandinavian game that’s said to have been a big hit with the Vikings, so it’s sometimes called Viking chess. The aim of the game is to knock down wooden kubbs by throwing batons at them and ultimately taking the king. What’s really nice about this game is it’s played in teams and it’s just as fun for kids as it is for grown-ups.

This wooden kubb set from Swedish brand Bex is beautifully finished, heavy enough to be stable on grass, and feels like it will last a lifetime. The bag it comes with is quite small and doesn’t close, so we found some of the blocks often fell out while it was stored away but that was our only quibble. This is otherwise a quality game that’s easy to pick up – all you need is a fair bit of space.

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Zuru bunch o balloons tropical party water slide wipeout

best outdoor toys and garden games Zuru bunch o balloons tropical party water slide wipeout
  • Best: For water play
  • Ages: Five to 12 years old
  • Type: Water slide

Hot day? Long garden? This balloon-filled slip-and-slide went down a treat on a sunny afternoon. You’ll need a hose to fill the rounded end with water, and then attach to the other end of the slide in order to start the sprinklers. It took us a while to find the right hose connector – so make sure you do this before you’re ready to play – but the rest was pretty simple.

Size-wise this is a single-lane slide that measures 4.8m, so it works well for younger children up to pre-teens. The balloons were brilliantly easy to fill – just attach the stem to a hose and you’ve got a hundred water balloons in a couple of seconds – and they were surprisingly sturdy, too. Picking them out of the grass afterwards was a bit of a chore, but it was worth it for the look on our testers’ faces.

  1. £16 from Asda.com
Prices may vary
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Jaques London giant tumble tower

Jaques London giant tumble tower.png
  • Best: Garden Jenga
  • Ages: Four years plus
  • Type: Tumble tower

This giant tumble tower is hand-crafted from pine and feels top quality. It’s big enough to play in the garden but not so big you can’t sling it in the car for a family trip. All the blocks pack neatly into a smart canvas carry bag and each one is embossed with the Jaques of London stamp. The game itself is as simple as it gets – remove the blocks until the tower crashes down, crushing your opponent (not literally) in the process. Great for a garden party with no complicated rules or small pieces to lose, this one would make a lovely gift.

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Geologic soft archery set 100

best outdoor toys and garden games Geologic soft archery set 100
  • Best: For family fun
  • Ages: Not specified
  • Type: Bow and arrow

One of Decathlon’s best-selling bits of sports equipment, the Geologic soft archery set 100 is a pleasantly portable bit of kit. It comes with a bow, two suction cup arrows, and one target – which doubles as a storage box for all the bits.

The bow can be used by both left-handed and right-handed players and is designed to work from between five and ten metres from the target. You do need a bit of strength to pull the arrow back in the bow, which is fairly big for little hands – our eight-year-old tester just about managed. It takes a bit of practice, but once you’ve got the hang of it this is great fun for adults and kids, and the slimline design means it doesn’t take up too much space when it’s packed away. It’s a decent price, too.

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Zuru X-shot water fast-fill skins pump action water blaster

best outdoor toys and garden games Zuru x-shot water fast-fill skins pump action water blaster
  • Best: For water fights
  • Ages: Five plus years
  • Type: Water gun

Water fight on the cards? We tested a couple of water guns, but the X-shot skins water blaster won by a mile. The secret is the super-speedy fill-up mechanism, which means you essentially flip the back of the gun open, dunk it in water to fill, and flip it shut again in the space of a couple of seconds – no faffing about necessary.

The gun holds 700ml of water, so you get a decent amount of play before you’re back at the sink for a top-up, and there are no leaks when it’s full. The pump action gives you a decent 9m range, too, but it’s the quick refilling action that earned this one a place in the shortlist.

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Super Wubble bubble ball

best outdoor toys and garden games Super Wubble bubble ball
  • Best: For entertaining toddlers
  • Ages: Three years plus
  • Type: Ball

There’s something weirdly fascinating about the Super Wubble. Part bubble, part ball, it inflates up to 80cm tall and manages to be simultaneously squishy, stretchy and bouncy. It’s also surprisingly strong for something so soft – and while ours stood up to some fairly rough outdoor play, there’s a repair patch provided if you do come up against a rogue thorn.

You can buy the Super Wubble in pink or blue, and some options come with a pump – although ours didn’t, so we used a standard bike pump. It’s not the kind of outdoor toy that’s going to last forever, but it’s great fun and surprisingly durable – and for the price, makes a fun kids’ gift.

  1. £12 from Argos.co.uk
Prices may vary
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Koosh comet

best outdoor toys and garden games Koosh comet
  • Best: For park fun
  • Ages: Six years plus
  • Type: Catch

Koosh balls have been around since the 1980s, and our younger testers instantly recognised them as sensory toys from school. Made from lots of stringy rubber strands tied together like a pom pom, they’re easier than a ball for little fingers to catch, and the name comes from the sound they make when caught.

Of all the Koosh toys we tested, our favourite was the Comet – which is essentially a Koosh ball with a fabric tail. Use it to swing the ball around your head, let go, and watch it soar. The colourful tail makes it easier to see in the air and to catch – not to mention easier to find in the grass. If you’re playing by the rules there are points awarded for which bit of the Koosh you manage to catch, but our testers were just happy to fling it around.

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Tarmak SB700 wall-mounted basketball hoop

best outdoor toys and garden games Tarmak SB700 wall-mounted basketball hoop
  • Best: For small gardens
  • Ages: All ages
  • Type: Basketball hoop

Tarmak’s wall-mounted basketball hoop is a great option if you’ve got sporty kids but limited outdoor space. It fixes to a wall, so it doesn’t take up any floor space, and they can get active shooting hoops in the absence of a large garden to run around.

The set includes a polycarbonate backboard that measures 116cm across and gives a decent amount of rebound, as well as a rim and net. It’s a sturdy and substantial set that screws directly into the wall, but you can pair it with a compatible wall mount – bought separately – if you want to be able to adjust the height. That way both kids and adults can play, and it’ll grow along with your child.

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Sambro Marvel spidey space hopper

best outdoor toys and garden games Sambro Marvel spidey space hopper
  • Best: Pocket money toy
  • Ages: Three years plus
  • Type: Skippy ball

This Spidey space hopper ticks the box for a pocket money toy that will go down a treat with tots. It’s about 20cm high when inflated, so it’s aimed at ages three and up so is ideal for little legs. It was quick to inflate and nice and robust, and deflates to next to nothing when they’re bored of it. The grab-handle at the top also makes it easy for young children to bounce around relatively unscathed, but we’d recommend starting on grass for a softer landing. At £6 it’s a steal for hours of fun in the garden, and a bargain birthday party gift.

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Smoby 6.5ft funny slide

best outdoor toys and garden games Smoby 6.5ft funny slide
  • Best: Garden slide
  • Ages: Two years plus
  • Type: Slide

While Smoby’s 6.5ft funny slide is suitable for kids aged two and up, it kept our eight and ten-year-old testers entertained for hours. At 2m it’s a bit longer than your average toddler slide, and the wavy shape adds another element of fun. But it’s the hose connection that sets it apart – particularly on a hot summer day.

Once you’ve attached your hose via a small hole underneath the slide, three huge water jets spray out of the top – a welcome surprise to us, as we expected the water to trickle down gently but instead managed to water half the garden in the process. It’s also incredibly easy to build – all you need is a bit of space, some level ground, and a screwdriver for three small screws underneath. Use it with or without the hose on, or team it with a paddling pool for hours of watery garden fun.

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The verdict: Outdoor toys and garden games

Our top spot went to The Den Kit Comapny’s forest den kit – this carefully curated set has everything kids need to create their own shelter, and our testers were hugely proud not to need grown-ups to help. The updated Little Tikes cozy coupe was a close second for younger kids, and Jaques London’s giant tumble tower is one of those garden games that will never go out of fashion.

In need of some entertainment for rainy days too? These are the best indoor slides kids will love to glide off

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