10 Outdoor Toys You Don't Need to Buy New

kids bikeWhen your kids "go outside to play," what are they playing with? Whether it's a bike or baseball mitt, all this outdoor equipment costs money -- often much more than indoor stuff.

So in case you're suffering sticker shock eyeballing items you kids are begging you for, rest assured there's no need to buy all of them new. Garage sales and Craiglist are bursting at the seams with used outdoor toys and equipment that can save you a bundle. Here are 10 to consider buying used, as well as some safety precautions to consider.


Image via FamVeld/shutterstock

  • Bikes & Trikes


    "If you can pick up a decent used bike or tricycle for a good price, go for it!" says family safety expert Meghan Khaitan. After all, she points out, "kids are constantly growing so you'll need to upgrade your child's bike every year or two. So if you can find a bike that is in great condition, consider yourself lucky. The family selling the bike is most likely in the same situation."

    Since bikes can lead to serious accidents, make sure to give it a good once-over before you buy. "Check the seat, brakes, tires, chain, kickstand, and handlebars to look for damage or malfunctioning parts," says Khaitan. And the one thing you won't want to buy used is the helmet: Even if it looks like it's in good condition, structural damage may be hiding beneath the surface ... and the one thing you don't want to cut corners on is what is protecting your child's head!

  • Kiddie Pools


    If your child loves splashing around in a kiddie pool, there's no need to get one new. "Hard plastic kiddie pools don't biodegrade, so they can remain in good condition for a surprisingly long time," says Shelly Lipton, founder of Second Chance Toys, a site where parents can donate or receive used toys. Just power-wash it with disinfectant, rinse thoroughly, then dive right in!

    That said, Lipton recommends against buying used kiddie pools of the floppy, inflatable variety. "Blow-up plastic isn't easy to clean or disinfect," he says. "Plus the walls can get rickety, which means they could collapse and trap a child under water." So, stick with the hard plastic kind -- they may be more of a pain to store but are worth the added peace of mind.

  • Sports Equipment


    Whether your tykes love playing T-ball, baseball, badminton, or any other sport, used sports equipment is a great idea. For one, it can be very expensive to buy new. Plus, "a lot sports equipment is actually better used," points out Lipton. "Baseball gloves, for instance, are better after they've been worn in."

    Some other items worth considering from Jessie Gill, a registered nurse and founder of 
Flustered Mom: "I've purchased everything online: cleats, bats, gloves, and 
catchers' gear. As long as the helmets for baseball are not visibly damaged on the outside and inside, 
and it fits, it's okay to use.

" Certain items like skates can be sharpened, and football and hockey pads can be fitted (ask the team coach for help). But yet again, any sports with potential for major head trauma -- like hockey and football -- the helmet should be new. That noggin needs protection and old helmets may have deteriorated over time.

  • Swing Sets


    New swing sets can set you back hundreds of dollars, so it's understandable if you want to buy a used one instead -- so much so there's a whole website devoted to hooking up buyers and sellers called Used Swing Sets. Yet since swings are large and will be bearing a fair amount of weight, it's best to really kick the tires on them, so to speak, and make sure the frame isn't rickety! Generally metal swing frames will last longer than wood, which can rot and weaken. And transporting this item to a new locale can present its own problems.

    "Since these items are large and cumbersome, it’s likely that in transporting them, their parts will shift and move," says Joan Lawrence, safety expert at the Toy Industry Association. "So inspect the item again on re-installation to check for loose or lost hardware." In addition to tightening all screws and bolts, check the S-hooks that are commonly used to attach the swing seat to the chains -- only even small openings can catch on kids' clothes and pose a strangulation hazard. Any hooks with openings where you can slide through a credit card should be tightened or replaced.

    More from The Stir: The 10 Playground Hazards Most Dangerous to Kids

  • Climbing Structures


    Like swing sets, climbing structures are expensive new, so used models may look mighty attractive. But since they'll have to bear the weight of kids clambering all over them, better make sure they're solid -- and up to snuff in terms of the latest safety standards.

    For instance: All openings should be smaller than 3.5 inches or larger than 9 inches so that kids don't get their heads caught in them. Raised platforms more than 30 inches from the ground should have guardrails to keep kids from tumbling off. And since metal slides can get hot in the sun and cause burns, they should be avoided entirely, or placed in a shady area.

    "All products should be checked to see if they still comply with safety standards, are expired, or have been recalled," says Katie Smith, director of Safe Kids California, which features a recalls page so parents can check whether any children's product they're eyeing is no longer considered safe.

  • Inline Skates


    Inline skates are great to buy used not only because they're expensive, but because the heavy hardware, if damaged -- for instance, if the wheels or breaks are worn down -- can be fixed for a pittance. "When purchasing used, the boot portion of the skate is what you want to look at; other parts are often replaceable for quality brand skates," says Gill. "A skate shop can evaluate them and replace specific parts if needed."

  • Bike Trailer


    "Bike trailers are great to pick up used because they're expensive to purchase new, and many people who buy one only use it for a short time," says Khaitan. "Just make sure you check the trailer and confirm that there is no damage or missing seat belts."

  • Play Houses


    Play houses or kitchens are great to buy used because they don't have to bear a child's weight -- "so structural integrity is less of an issue," says Lipton. Just make sure to check for mold and wash thoroughly to give your kids a new happy home!

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  • Wagons


    Kid wagons may seem harmless enough, but if you're buying one used, make sure they're designed and meant for kids -- rather than, say, adults shopping in a pumpkin patch -- since this will impact how safe it is for your kids to ride in. "Avoid custom products unless you can verify they're built for kids," says Gill. Generally plastic models are good for kids; wood not so much. "Avoid any products that have rust, exposed nails or screws, an unsanded wood that could splinter," says Gill. "Be sure the wheels, axles, and handle are well attached to the body of the wagon."

  • Sleds


    A sled is the perfect outdoor item to buy used: Since they're simply built without many moving parts, they tend to last forever! "With wooden toboggans, the steering mechansim can be even better when they're broken in," says Lipton. "And plastic saucers weather the elements well." So as long as there are no cracks or structural problems, you can slide right outta there with a deal!

    More from The Stir: 10 Most Dangerous Baby Products

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