The Best Toys For Small Spaces, Both Indoors & Out
Summers are meant to be magical. The days should stretch like taffy, with endless opportunities for fun and creativity and joy. For your children, of course. And in years past, this was absolutely doable thanks to summer camps and play dates and public parks. But now, so many parents, especially those in tight quarters, are looking for toys and ideas for small spaces to help save summer.
There's a lot to love about raising a family in a city apartment or in a home with a small backyard or garden. But there's also a huge need to adapt in a global pandemic when your normal summer hot spots might be off limits. Without your city splash pad, your kid's favorite sleepaway camp, or your neighborhood playground, you have to bring the magic to your kid.
The 33 toys on this list are open-ended, well-made, and give your kids the chance to capture some of that summer joy they're so used to. There are fun spins on their favorite summer activities — like swimming and blowing bubbles — along with lots of super imaginative play like a doll house, a slackline, and a giant pack of electrical tape. Summer may look different, but fun always comes in a ton of forms.
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1. Balance Board
Simple toys are often the most engaging, and this balance board from Clover + Birch promises to bring tons of imagination. Not only is it perfect for your kid that won't. stop. moving, but it can also be used as a boat, a place to build blocks, or even a tea-party table. Let their imaginations go wild.
2. Gas N Go Mower
So maybe you don't have any grass to actually mow, but this little mower can really keep your toddlers occupied. It's a classic for a reason (everyone had one of these, right?), and even in a small space, it can get your kid moving and running laps as they tend to their "yard."
3. Splash Pad
We've had a splash pad for several years now, and it is always a hit. It's so much easier to store than a pool (also gets less gross), and gives kids the option to jump through the sprinklers, sit in the middle of the pad to play, or use the water spraying everywhere to fill buckets to dump on their siblings. (Just my house?) Even if your small space only has a spot of pavement in the backyard, this one can work just fine.
4. Slackline Kit
Romper's deputy editor Janet Manley says this is "the perfect apartment toy." You can take it out on walks and connect the slackline to trees so your kids can pretend to be hikers, trapeze artists, whatever their little heart desires as they walk the tight rope. It also bundles up easily so you can drop it in a bag to head to the park.
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5. Electrical Tape
If you've ever followed the ideas from Susie at Busy Toddler, you know the value of tape. Use this electrical tape to make lines on the floor your kids have to follow, use it to build tracks for cars on cardboard boxes, use it to mark off spaces for your kids to jump in and out of — the possibilities are literally endless.
6. Doorway Puppet Theater
There are few things better than pretend play and making up stories, and this sweet little puppet theater makes it so your kids can do both with limited space. Just hang the theater in a doorway and let your kids spend all afternoon putting on a show. They don't even have to use puppets for this — if they want to pop up and sing their own sings and tell their own stories, that works, too.
7. Movie Projector
This tiny little projector packs a serious punch. With games already loaded into the little Cinemood, along with an actual Netflix app, it's easier than ever to have a fun movie night on your wall or even outside in a tiny space. Use it while your kids are in the bath, put it on the ceiling while you all camp out in the living room, just go for it. The best is that you don't have to link up a bunch of ways to make it work — it's ready for you when you open it up.
8. Pulley Set
All I ever wanted in life was a giant tree house with a pulley so my parents could drop snacks into it and I would never have to leave my pile of pillows and books. I did end up having a tree house with a pulley, but my parents were not willing to play butler for me. Even in a small space, this little pulley set can add in a dose of adventure to your day. Let your kids use it on the stairs, add a ceiling hook and let them roll it up and down, or hang it from your porch.
9. Ball Table
Water and activity tables are always a hit because they're just the right size for your kiddo. This one's perfect for indoors because it includes a bunch of plastic balls so they can pretend they're at a construction site, rolling everything along.
10. Bubble Rocket
Bubbles are a win, even if it's those tiny little ones you found in your garage from a wedding eight years ago, but this bubble rocket really turns them magical. After you fill it with solution, pull the rip cord and let the rocket fly as a stream of bubbles goes flying behind it.
11. Flexible Fort Construction Kit
You can build entire forts and areas with this flexible kit, and your kids will (fingers crossed) spend hours creating and engineering. Throw blankets over their creations for the perfect cozy fort.
12. Ice Cream Cart
It's amazing how much this little toy can keep your kids occupied. The cart introduces colors, numbers, and counting, and you can't wrong with any toy that lets you magically scoop up an ice cream cone.
13. Junior Slide
14. Push Around Buggy
My toddler received this for Christmas when she was just 15 months old, and it quickly became her favorite toy. Sometimes she just sits in it, not wanting to go anywhere, and sometimes we put literal miles on it around the neighborhood.
15. Foam Corner Climber
Your kids are going to climb, so instead of worrying about the furniture, throw these giant foam pieces into the corner and let them go wild.
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The best part about this trampoline is that it really is easy to store. Just close down the handlebar and you can slide it into a closet, behind a piece of furniture, or even in a garage. And like the slide, do you know how long a child will hold onto this bar and bounce? Literal ages.
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17. Woodland Tree Block Set
Whether you have a tiny fairy garden or just a kid that loves miniatures, this sweet little wooden block set is a must-have. It's so cute and open-ended, leading to plenty of imaginative play.
18. Pikler Climbing Triangle
Let your kids climb, let them dangle, let them slide. This bright, happy pikler triangle is a great climbing frame for your kids to let out some energy, and to get creative.
19. Indoor Baby Swing
Swings are always a win, and you can even have one indoors. This is a cute fabric swing you can hang inside your home so your babe can have enjoy a few pushes and the rocking motion. Just make sure to install it correctly and safely.
The rockerboard is a lot like a pikler triangle — it can be used in so many different ways. Flip it over as a little rocking seat, use it for dolls and stuffed animals, turn it into some kind of transportation — your kids will have tons of ideas.
21. Popsicle Sidewalk Chalk
Chalk is forever a staple, and you don't need much space to make magic happen. This cute set comes in the shape of popsicles, and I love how the color changes as you use the pieces.
22. Folding Gym Mat
Do you remember flipping over the arm of the couch onto your back and your mom screaming that you'd break your neck? Cool, me too. Let your kids get the flips and rolls out with a gym mat on the floor. Bonus: My kid uses a yoga mat as a "beach towel" for pretend, and the gym mat offers plenty of opportunities for imaginative play. Maybe it's the island in a sea of carpet lava?
23. Adventure Climber
I love this adventure climber so much because it was created with actual indoor door frames in mind. This entire thing can move through doorways while still totally assembled, so it's a great piece to have if you're limited on space.
24. LED Skipping Ball
Ever since I saw this toy, I've had the Skip-It commercial jingle in my head. Get real nostalgic on your walks and outdoor time with this bad boy.
25. Mud Kitchen
A mud kitchen! In my day, we just ruined our mother's best tupperware with mud and called it a day. Now you can build an entire little mud kitchen with the smallest amount of space so your kids can dump dirt, leaves, rocks, and more into their own little concoctions.
Look, you just can't go wrong with a well-made heirloom-quality doll house. Your kids will put everything in it and use all sorts of items as the "people," so it's a pretty open-ended toy. The front of this doll house also opens like a door, so you can close it up and store it to the side when they're done playing.
27. Garden Wheelbarrow
You don't need a real garden to introduce your kids to the wonders of planting and flowers. This cute wooden garden wheelbarrow set has everything they need to pretend like they're digging in their own organic garden to supply the local brewery with kale.
28. Purple Superhero Set
A costume bin is a must-have, and this sweet superhero set is made to last. I love that it doesn't get too specific on the hero part so your kid is free to make up their own powers, plot, and origin story.
29. Constellation Cards
For your budding astronaut, grab a pack of these mini constellation cards and study them while you go on a nighttime walk or look through the window. Your kid can use them to try and spot real constellations in the sky.
30. 3D Play Carpet
Do you remember those old carpets that had streets and little businesses on them? My brother could spend hours pushing his cars along that carpet, but this one just feels like a serious upgrade. This carpet is of a beach house scene and is 3D, so your kids can set their toys and other objects "in" to the house for some serious play.
31. Astronaut Helmet
My 5-year-old would wear this astronaut helmet all day if we let her. It fits comfortably on her head (with foam padding where the helmet meets her shoulders), and has buttons on the outside so that she can "talk" to Mission Control. The visor is also easy to come up and down, so she loves walking all over the house pretending like she's coming in contact with aliens.
32. Rocking Pegasus
A rocking pegasus. What more is there to say? This is pure magic, and the best part is that it's small enough to move around the house for all your little one's herculean (see what I did there) adventures.
A playsilk holds so much possibility for a child, and this giant rainbow one especially does. They can use it for costume play, use it as a canopy, to carry things around, to tie toys together — truly, an endless array of ideas.