7 Ways to Backyard Fun: Try these outdoor toys, games and ideas for a summer with a different spin - The Buffalo News
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7 Ways to Backyard Fun: Try these outdoor toys, games and ideas for a summer with a different spin

Maybe it was seeing Nik Wallenda balance his way across the Falls two summers ago.

Maybe it’s the aftermath of a long winter spent indoors.

Whatever the reason, backyard fun is looking pretty good right now.

“It gets them out, and it gets them physically active,” said Amy Habib Rittling, an Amherst mom, of her four kids, who are enjoying a new trampoline, as well as a playset, in their yard this summer.

“I want to instill that in a young age,” she said.

The urge to be outside right now goes for kids – and for big people, too.

We’ve been throwing Frisbees and playing pickup baseball games, just like everybody.

But beyond those basics, what else can you do – or explore, or enjoy – in your own yard this summer?

We’ve hunted around and found some cool things to do and try during this hot weather season.

Here are just a few ideas.

And you’ll notice that the price ranges go from free to higher end.

Keep in mind, of course, that the most crucial equipment for the best sort of summertime fun is a strong imagination – and the free, unstructured time to let it work. (A few good books wouldn’t hurt, either.)

With that, turn to Page F5 for a few samples of things that promise loads of summertime enjoyment.

Lemonade stand

What kid doesn’t want to run a lemonade stand?

Not many, we’d say.

Which is why younger kids might love a ready-to-go lemonade shop. This play set, by Melissa & Doug, provides a full setup: a counter, fruit bins and a striped awning.

The set can be used to play grocery store, too, by turning over the sign, as shown below.

It’s available online from Melissa and Doug’s website, www.melissaanddoug.com, for $130. It’s also available from Target, and elsewhere toys are sold.


OK, here might be your Wallenda moment.

Slacklines are backyard challenges that are kind of like a tightrope, but not as far off the ground.

You try to walk across the line the same way Nik did, though. There is a second line you can string to provide a little extra help, as well.

Think you’ve got game when it comes to balance?

Retailers including Brookstone are offering 50-foot slackline kits from Brand 44 slacklines for ages 5 and up.

At www.brookstone.com, the kits were available, online only, when we checked recently, for $80.

A big box

No, we’re not kidding.

If you’ve got small kids – or even bigger ones – there’s nothing like an empty cardboard box to create lots of imaginative playtime fun.

Small boxes are cool. But even better is a large box from an appliance or TV or the like, which kids can disappear inside of, and turn into a house or store or cave. (Markers or crayons can be used to decorate the walls.)

So ask friends and family and see if somebody has one of these you can have.


The Vuly Thunder trampoline is a newer kind of trampoline, and it’s different. It has no springs.

At Alden Pools & Play, an owner said, the trampoline was just introduced at last year’s Erie County Fair.

“We’ve been selling quite a lot of them,” said Chuck Airey, an owner of the business.

Of their benefits, Airey said the new kind of trampolines are quieter than ones with springs. He said they are “very high-tech.”

Amy Habib Rittling, the mother of four who lives in Amherst, said that the Vuly trampoline that she and her husband Mark recently put in for their kids – ages 3 to 8 – has made for a lot of fun already.

“It’s different,” said Habib Rittling.

“It’s definitely different from your normal trampoline.”

The Vuly Thunder trampolines can be seen at Alden Pools & Play, located on Broadway in Alden.

Some of the Vuly Thunder models run in the range of $1,500 to $2,000, which includes a tent for the top that doubles as a play area, said Airey.

Hula hoops

OK, we know this one is sort of old school.

But there are lots of great hula hoops out there this summer, in eye-catching patterns – like polka dots – and neat colors.

At Target, Maui hula hoops – in “Wave” and “Cosmic” varieties – were $6 and $8.

Pool noodles

If you have a backyard pool, of whatever size, you might want to check out the Aqua Rider pool toys that come in the shape of animals. One is shown below.

These are styrofoam pool noodles, in cheery summer colors, with heads shaped like different sorts of creatures. Cute.

There were dolphins and other kinds of critters at a local Walmart on a recent weeknight, for $9.88.

Baseball fun

Everybody likes a chance to play Babe Ruth – or Derek Jeter – in the summer.

But practicing basic skills like catching might be more fun with a challenging twist.

The “Crazy Catch” device, by Sklz, rebounds baseballs in “random-bounce” ways, so kids can build their abilities to react and field all sorts of balls.

For $55, at Toys R Us.

email: cvogel@buffnews.com

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