We enlisted the help of some of our favorite toy gurus to come up with this list of the best toys, gear and books for summertime fun.
At the beach
Kelty Cabana portable shelters are easy to transport, set up in mere minutes and will provide privacy and shelter from the wind and sun, extending your play time on the beach by hours. $85 to $125 (REI locations)
The Beach Builder Create-a-Castle comes with everything you need to build the sand castle of your dreams. $30 (Teaching Toys and Books, Tacoma)
Spielstabil sand toys, buckets and balls are made from ABS plastic and are PVC free. $2 to $30 (Urban Kids Play, Seattle)
German-made Kettrikes are comfortable and well made. Safety-conscious parents like the tricycles’ “parental control” options and a limited turn radius that reduces the danger of tipping. $110 to $209 (Urban Kids Play, Teaching Toys and Books)
We asked Tim McGovern, store manager for Gregg’s Cycle of Bellevue, for his wish list of family bikes. For beginner bikers (ages 2-5), he recommends the wooden Skuut ($99.99); for elementary age, the Trek MT 220 ($279.99). His pick for tweens and teens ready to move on to a better bike is the Specialized Hardrock Sport ($389.99). For moms and dads who want to ride along with their kids, McGovern suggests the Trek 7.2 FX ($429.99). And he likes the Burley Encore Trailer, which allows you to tow two children comfortably and safely and provides room in the back for cargo ($449.99). (Gregg’s Cycle)
Fun with the sun
Use the Sunlight Print Kit to create detailed images using light-sensitive paper, water and sunlight. An 80-page booklet teaches budding young photographers how to create impressions from found objects such as leaves or coins, or use the included templates to make more fanciful images. $22 (Teaching Toys and Books)
Kids ages 8 and older can use the Solaro kit by Thames and Kosmos to create enough solar energy to power seven models of vehicles and devices. Cars, robots, helicopters and blimps are just a few of the fun models included. Learn how solar cells work to turn sunlight into electricity with two solar cells (included). $50 (Teaching Toys and Books)
Get them their own tools! Try kid-size high-quality metal garden tools and buckets. $5 to $12 (Clover Toys, Ballard)
Just grip, pull back and watch SkyBlaster Shuttle soar. The Rhino Toys’ SkyBlaster whistles when it flies and can soar to 120 feet and higher! The launcher is built right in, so you’ll never lose it. $8 (Urban Kids Play)
Endless fascination awaits your toddler at the water play table by Wader. $54 (Clover Toys, Ballard)
Your mini-engineers will enjoy the wood block-and-tackle pulley by Haba. Kids can pull buckets up and down for dumping sand or water, or for bringing supplies up to the tree house. $50 (Clover Toys)
Bothell-based Majic Bubble Wand offers giant bubble wands in a set with a pan. Kids will play with these for hours. Find them online at www.bubblewand.com or by calling 425-486-4884.
Remember any of these?
Two words: Hula hoops. $6 (Clover Toys)
Sidewalk Chalk by Alex. $8 (Urban Kids Play)
Guillow’s Balsa Wood Planes. These fliers go together in minutes yet provide many hours of backyard fun. $5 and less (Teaching Toys and Books)
Kid-size croquet set. $45 (Clover Toys)
Stilts by Haba. $68 (Urban Kids Play)
Just Jump It jump ropes. Made out of climbing rope, these ropes do not bind or get wound up because they have a movable core. $7 to $15 (Teaching Toys and Books)
Giant fabric parachutes from Pacific Play Tents. Toss a ball up and down in the middle for a great outdoor game with a bunch of kids. $22 (Clover Toys)
Bruder trucks. Bruder makes scale model replicas of real vehicles you see at work all over world. $20 to $70 (Teaching Toys and Books)
BeamO Flying Hoop. This gigantic soft disk can be thrown like a Frisbee. $26 (Clover Toys)
When summer has lost its sizzle and your kids complain of being bored, the following books will provide ideas for outdoor activities, including crafts, games and experiments.
Nature’s Playground: Activities, Crafts and Games to Encourage Children to Get Outdoors by Fiona Danks and Jo Schofield. $16.95
Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots: Gardening Together with Children by Sharon Lovejoy. $13.95
Go Outside: Over 130 Activities for Outdoor Adventures by Bainbridge Island author Nancy Blakey. $14.95 (Lilypad Books, Issaquah)
Kathleen F. Miller is a Sammamish-based freelance writer and mother of two.
Our toy gurus
5335 Ballard Ave. N.W.
Seattle, WA 98107
105 Bellevue Way N.E.
Bellevue, WA 98004
317 N.W. Gilman Blvd., #40
Issaquah, WA 98006
Teaching Toys & Books
2624 N. Proctor St.
Tacoma, WA 98407
Urban Kids Play
1805 Queen Anne Ave. N.
Seattle, WA 98109