Mayhem & Margaritas

15 Summer Outdoor Must-Haves for A totally Awesome Childcare and preschool Program

These 15 outdoor must-have items are exactly what you need for a totally awesome childcare and preschool program this summer.

Summer is here again and it’s time to get the kids outside for an awesome childcare and preschool summer session.

One of the biggest challenges for any educator or provider is keeping the littles entertained and engaged for more than 5 minutes. Do you find yourself spending SO much time preparing the kids to go outside to play (shoes, sunscreen, hats, water bottles, clean diapers/trips to the bathroom) only to be outside for a hot minute before one child or another is complaining that they’re bored or too hot? Frustrating, right?

Maybe it’s because they are bored or too hot -they’re kids, that’s what they do! Perhaps it’s time to incorporate some new totally awesome childcare and preschool outdoor summer toys and games to stimulate their mind and body.

When the littles are happy and entertained, you are a happy educator, and your parents are happy clients. All of that adds up to your program flourishing, and that’s what your business goal should be!

IFS-Institute for Family Studies wrote an article, The Case Against Boredom that brilliantly argues the extremes of allowing a child to learn how to be bored vs constant entertainment and over-scheduling. Finding the balance is the key to success. When working with the youngest population, appropriately entertaining and teaching a child to grow their imagination is a necessity. The question is, what tools do we need to provide that stimulation for both independent play and structured group play.

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Investing in your program is a WIN-WIN! So let’s dive into 15 totally awesome childcare and preschool outdoor summer must-haves, and beat the boredom.

*Be sure to check with your local state licensing board for regulations or restrictions*


The GUS Climb-N-Crawl Caterpillar is a 7 foot long indoor or outdoor play structure. It allows for gross motor-skill development while using imagination to navigate the colorful caterpillar. Additional pieces can be purchased separately to expand the length of the caterpillar. This climber has been ranked in the top toy category for the last several years, and it’s clear why.


Step2 has a long standing reputation for quality childhood products. The Tropical Rainforest Water Table lives up to that promise. With 2 levels of water play and an expansive footprint allowing multiple children to play and engage together the rainforest water table is ideal for that totally awesome childcare or preschool summer that you are aiming to provide.


Made by Windrio this portable bubble machine pumps out a whopping 3000 bubbles a minute. It’s powered by a battery, or plug-in power adapter and operates on 3 different speed settings. Let the littles run, play, and chase bubbles while the bubble machine does all the slimy work for you!


There is something about the novelty of simplistic childhood games. Now you can incorporate these Carnival Games into your summer time fun with this 6 player set. This set of games allows for extensive sensory and motor skill development. Included is everything you need for potato sack bag races, egg and spoon races, legged relay race bands elastic tie rope for 3 legged races. Bring some of your childhood memories back with these games.


Welcome to the fun zone. Talk about a totally awesome childcare and preschool summer! Hours of fun with this imagination station. The 6 in 1 Backyard Waterpark is the cooling station children’s dreams are made of! They can use this as a traditional cool-down sprinkler fun park or let their imagination create a carwash to clean their ride-on toys and bikes. How fun!


Speaking of car washes and bikes, how about the nostalgia of the Original Big Wheel and now the Original Big Wheel Junior. There are less expensive pedal bikes on the market but the Big Wheel is the quality name you can trust. There is nothing more frustrating than investing money into your program only to have what you purchased fall apart in a short period of time. The Original Big Wheel is not a flimsy bike that is only going to last one season.


We all need a magical unicorn in our lives. Why not an oversized blow-up sprinkler Unicorn. No need to worry about draining a pool and disinfecting after each day when you are using a sprinkler to cool down. This unicorn comes with yard stakes to secure it to the ground so you don’t need to worry about it bouncing all over the yard.


Probably one of the things most enjoyed by the littles is dining alfresco. That’s why having a special place for eating outdoors is so important (not to mention the outdoor clean-up is a breeze-no vacuum required). Little Tikes Fold ‘n Store picnic table is the perfect fit. It can hold up to 200 pounds and fit 6 children comfortably.


This climber is certainly on the higher end of price but comes with knowing that you are going to get years and years of quality use. The Step2 Clubhouse Climber is a large unit built to last. Its generous size allows for multiple children to use it at once, which encourages teamwork, cooperation, and imagination. Money well spent for any program.


If obstacle course/balancing is something you want to incorporate into your motor skill curriculum these turtle shell stepping stones are a whimsical tool for just that. This set includes 3 large turtle shell stepping stones, 3 medium turtle shell stepping stones, 24 activity cards with turtle facts, a colorful spinner, instructions, and additional game suggestions. Super fun and unique addition to your program.


Do you have little nature lovers in your program or what to encourage learning about critters in their natural environment? Then be sure to add Bug Catcher Kits into your toolbox of learning. The kids will have the opportunity to catch and watch live critters up close, while you create hands-on science-based learning lessons.


This 50 pack of Scavenger Hunt Cards is a great addition to the bug-catching kit. Let your students spot up to 16 nature items in the great outdoors. This pack includes 50 durable game cards for the littles exploration.


For an unexpected twist in outdoor play, a tent is a sure win for fun. There is no need to overpay for this fun and adventurous item by purchasing a children’s play tent. A 2 person Camping Tent is perfect. It’s larger than a children’s play tent and more durable as well. It also provides a unique location to get out of the sun and beat the heat. Hmmmm…camping nap time, perhaps?


The ultimate in outdoor sensory play – the Mud Kitchen. Ok, I get it, this sounds like a recipe for disaster (pun intended) but mud kitchens are the hottest outdoor Montessori play item. Let the imaginations run wild while playing in the mud kitchen. The littles will love taking kitchen play outdoors, baking mud pies, and creating fun new outdoor recipes! 


Have you ever considered incorporating gardening into your outdoor play? Here’s a totally awesome childcare and preschool summer activity that will also enhance your curriculum. Raised Garden Beds are a fantastic solution for those who don’t have a large yard or just don’t want to dig up another area of your yard. Grow virtually anything – flowers for future gifts or craft projects, or vegetables to add to your lunch or snack menu. Let the kids take turns caring for the plants and watch them grow. Allowing children to raise vegetables themselves is a fantastic way to introduce new foods that a child once said “but I don’t like that” to.

Additional Items to help give you a totally awesome childcare and preschool summer session


Bring the fun of music outdoors. Let the kids get all the energy and sillies out with an outdoor dance party or just relax with some background music. The JBL Waterproof speaker is portable, rechargeable, and Bluetooth-ready.


Low Maintenance: Rubber backed with drainage holes, easy to clean, and dries quickly, so that even as the kids play or as the dogs explore. This pet grass has conveniently-placed holes for good drainage can be easily hosed off for a stress-free clean. Eco-friendly Artificial Grass Carpet is a great way to protect feet on hard outdoor surfaces from the summer heat or just make your playspace a little more inviting.


Noodle Water Blasters are a great addition to any water station you may set up this summer (a simple Rubbermaid tote filled with cold water that they can come back to refill their blasters in) but can come in handy when having the littles help with watering the plants in the garden or the raised garden beds that they are growing.

Have yourself a totally awesome childcare and preschool summer session! If you found this helpful, be sure to share it with other educators so they can also beat the boredom and grow their program!

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