It doesn’t matter whether they live in the city or in the country, by the sea or on a houseboat, we all know that children benefit from time spent outside.

But, unless yours were born with a dreamy, Swallows and Amazons disposition, you may occasionally need to come up with clever ways to get them out there.

Here, we round up the sites that offer the toys that’ll lure your children away from the iPad and into the fresh air – at least for a bit.


Nobody could claim that a trampoline is a thing of beauty. It is, however, the single best item you can buy to get your children into the garden; rarely does even rain or snow dampen a child’s desire to bounce. If you think all trampolines are created equal, though, think again. They vary, but Plum’s Space Zone design is as sleek and unobtrusive (relatively speaking, obviously) as we’ve seen. Also worth noting is their strangely attractive wooden football goal. From sand pits to swing sets, this award-winning active play specialist gets it right time and again.


The people behind this quirky online shop have the sort of imagination that most parents long for about a third of the way into the holidays. We find all of it hard to resist but highlights include gorgeous insect catchers in pastel colours, miniature garden hand tools, a play castle made out of hand-woven hazel, a smart red child’s wheelbarrow and – possibly best of all – a wicker hedgehog house. You will love this thoughtfully curated and original source of classic toys and lifestyle goodies from around the world.

National Trust

Your children may not thank you for a guided tour around a National Trust property –but they will for some booty from its online shop. Expect beautiful croquet, boules and skittle sets, charming kites and cool Frisbees. But the Truly Lovely Den Kit is this site’s standout winner. Packed into a lovely, old-school cotton haversack are a waterproof tarpaulin, a tough groundsheet, a mallet, some jute rope, a fleece blanket, six steel tent bags and a full set of instructions. The enchanting kit is designed to be taken anywhere and to last forever. Every household needs one.

Natural History Museum

This site is a treasure trove of canny pieces that will amuse little people outside. Don’t miss their best-selling portable outdoor adventure microscope, which magnifies everything from the lines on a leaf to the spots on a ladybird. We also fancy the neon magnifying glasses, pocket microscope and night-vision torch. All sales support the Natural History Museum, too. That’s what we call a win-win.

Backyard Safari (Amazon)

The only bad thing about this brilliant American brand is that it doesn’t have its own website. But, luckily for us, Amazon sells a vast variety of its inspired toys. The company’s aim is to provide the “products to find, observe and capture the critters who share our world”. We can vouch for Backyard Safari’s fantastic walkie-talkies, whose two-mile range provides hours of fun; the Bug Podz, a 34-piece habitat construction set, which has been responsible for countless hours of insect search and rescue; and the field binoculars, which are the only ones we’ve found that children can actually see through.

September 2017