Summer is THE time for BBQs and it is a great way to entertain: easy cooking, spills and dirt are outside, and there is no worry about seating, as a patch of grass will do.

Yet, the biggest obstacle can be how to keep everyone entertained after the hotdogs are eaten and the hamburgers are consumed. Kids can especially get antsy, and usually don’t understand why Mom and Dad want to linger over a cold beer or glass of pinot grigio.

So here are some top toy picks to have at your BBQ this summer. Everything is priced under $50 and can be used for a variety of parties from an End of School get-together, a Fourth of July barbecue or a Labor Day Cookout.

  1. Glak or Floam: Gak ($7) is can keep kids entertained for hours. They can stretch it, squish it, bounce it, or twist it, and then store it in the airtight container for reuse with six colors to choose from. As it can be hard to get out of carpet inside the house, this is a perfect outdoor play item. Floam ($7) is another fun, reusable molding compound. After you’re done, squish Floam back into the container and use it again. Many colors to choose from too. The only issue with Gak and Floam is the adults will want to play with it too.
  2. Chalk: Whether it is a flagstone deck or an asphalt driveway, give a bucket of chalk to the kids and let them create masterpieces. Or try this Chalk Factory Set from Rose Art with chalk shaped like ice cream and lollipops.  For extra fun, encourage the kids to create their best drawing and guests at the party can pick a winner. A fun prize can be some dollar store finds that all the kids can receive for participating.
  3. Frisbee: Whether it is a 99 cent find or something like Flash Flyer from Day Dream Toy ($20) with LED lights can create rainbow streaks of light in the dark, kids (and adults) can have fun and expend some energy making the car ride home a quiet one.
  4. Tent: Not only does it keep the younger kids out of the sun, but a tent can spark a lot of imaginative play. It can be a fort, a ship, or a hideout. You can buy a popup tent in any outdoor store or check out any of the Pacific Play Tents that have a lot of styles, configurations and fun for the little ones, at a variety of price points.
  5. Bug Catcher: The Bug Bungalow ($30) by Manhattan Toy is a fun way for kids from 2-12 to catch and explorea variety of creatures. The mesh screen set with a plastic swivel door comes with a magnifier, so kids can get an up-close view. Between the searching and the observation, this can keep kids entertained for hours.
  6. Sandbox or Water Table: If there are going to be toddlers at the party, keep them entertained with the Little Tikes Big Digger Sandbox ($50). It’s a self-contained sandbox with an excavator, dump truck, sand cup, sand sifter, shovel, and a rake. So no need to buy any extra items. If you want to spend a little more, put out a water table like this Tropical Island Resort from Step2 ($80). It has a pump-and-geyser carousel, a little slide for the play characters, little boats and more. It is the right height for even the wobbliest of new walkers to hang on to and play. Plus, it has a drain hole so it is easy to clean up when everyone goes home.
  7. Bubbles: Head to the dollar store and buy lots of bubbles and bubble wands. Or consider bubble makers that make lots of bubbles at the touch of a button, like the Super Miracle Bubble Turbine Set from Imperial Toy ($13). Older kids can make the bubbles and the little kids can chase after them.
  8. Water Blasters: What is a barbecue without a water fight! Little plastic water guns are a relic with the super-charge water guns on the market today. Shoot around corners with targeting scope and rotating barrels from the Banzai Twin Force Hydro Sweep by Toy Quest or soak your friends with the Flood Force Water Cannon from Swimways ($15). Don’t want to worry about getting wet? Then check out the Nerf-N-Strike Rayven CS-18 Blaster by Hasbro ($30).


Don’t forget to put out some sunscreen and bug repellant, because with all of these fun toys to play with, everyone won’t want to come in from the outside!

This post was written by Parent Advisory Board member: Charlene DeLoach

Follow Charlene on Twitter @CharChronicles