Family Fitness Toy Box

You don't need fancy or pricy toys to keep kids active--just these basics.

toddler girl in sandbox outside
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Encouraging kids to move more doesn't have to mean having a huge yard or playroom for them to play in, or signing them up for lots of sports teams and lessons, or buying super expensive playthings. Instead, stock your family fitness toy box with some of these simple essentials that will prompt imaginative, unstructured, active play.

Family Fitness Toy Box for Toddlers

  • Bubbles or balloons to float and chase (watch out for popped balloons; the fragments are a choking hazard)
  • A push toy, such as a doll stroller, mini shopping cart, or wheeled activity toy
  • Scoops, buckets, funnels, and pitchers to use with snow, sand, or dirt—these can be a set of sand toys or a collection of old kitchen items
  • Large, lightweight, soft balls or beanbags for throwing, catching, and kicking
  • Blocks (wooden, or large cardboard versions) for piling up and knocking down

Family Fitness Toy Box for Preschoolers

  • All of the above, plus age-appropriate sporting equipment—such as a scaled-down, sturdy basketball hoop or soccer nets
  • A balance bike or other little-kid ride-on toy, such as a mini scooter
  • Sidewalk chalk
  • Active indoor toys for rainy days
  • Rhythm instruments to play while marching and dancing
  • Playhouse or tent (improvise with a big cardboard box or an old bedsheet)
  • Sand or water table (again, you can create your own with a large plastic tote and some kitchen utensils)

Family Fitness Toy Box for School-Aged Kids

  • Balls, Frisbees, and/or beanbags to kick, throw, and catch
  • Bats, sticks, or racquets for playing softball, badminton, table tennis, or floor hockey—or newly invented volleying games
  • Targets for balls or other projectiles (think soccer/hockey goals or rebounders)
  • Sidewalk chalk for racing games and obstacle courses
  • Bicycle, scooter, skateboard, or in-line skates (whatever type of ride-on toy is your kid's favorite)
  • Jump rope and/or Hula hoop
  • An indoor basketball hoop (improvise with a waste basket, or try other homemade toys for indoor play)
  • Blasters, such as Nerf dart guns, big water squirters, or snowball launchers)

No space for a lot of stuff? Make regular visits to the park or an indoor play space like a community center or gym, where you'll find communal toys and equipment. And if you enroll your child in preschool, day care, or after-school care, check that the program offers plenty of opportunities for active play.

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