Which means it’s time to break out the garden hose.
On its own, the hose can deliver a good bit of refreshing fun — especially if you’re the one doing the hosing. But with a few extra materials and the help of my kids, we’ve got some tips on making the most of backyards, water and hot summer days.
Water balloon fights are quintessential summer fun — unless you’re the one stuck filling all the water balloons. Or the sister getting picked on. Or the person stuck cleaning up the tiny latex fragments scattered throughout the yard. All reason enough to give sponge splash balls a try.
After emptying the sponge supply at the hardware store, we cut each sponge lengthwise into four pieces, created a square three pieces high and wide and tied them tightly at the middle with twine. After that, just toss them in a bucket filled with water and start throwing.
Kids’ Pick: Sponge splash balls beat water balloons, hands down, though my kids were too busy running, shrieking and laughing to say so. On a hot day, these will do the trick — whether the goal is to play, cool off or pester sisters. Unlike balloons that can slap a bit before they burst, or fail to burst at all, these sponges reliably deliver cold water without impact. Plus, they’re easy to dip back in the bucket and reuse, or catch and lob back at the sender.
Even though many have converted to automatic, in-ground systems, a hose and sprinkler are still good, old-school backyard fun. We found two varieties to love: a do-it-yourself pop-bottle sprinkler and a basic, store-bought impact sprinkler that moves a stream of water around in a circle.
The pop bottle sprinkler is an inventive use of resources, likely first used by a redneck. Simply poke small holes in a 2-liter bottle and duct tape it to the garden hose. Once the hose is on, it puts out a pretty good spray, though it’ll only last as long as the duct tape holds. It’s easy to tape back on, though. As a sprinkler it works well and off the ground it functions as a ball-on-a-chain bludgeon of water fights — if your kids are unruly and opportunistic like mine.
Kids’ Pick: If your kids like a pile of spray to run through, go with the pop bottle. My kids, however, got a pretty good kick out of the impact sprinkler because they could chase it, run from it, hop over it and at $6 it wasn’t a big cost over the bottle of pop.
Slip ’N’ slide
Our regional topography is well suited for the backyard water play standard: a Slip ’N Slide. They’re cheap to buy and easy enough to make, so we tested both a $4 clearance number and a do-it-yourself version using plastic sheeting.
The store-bought slide lasted all of 30 seconds when a misplaced foot popped a hole in the cavity that was supposed to fill up and provide a steady stream of water to the plastic. Sure, you can just use a hose to water down the plastic, but at 16 feet long, it’s a short ride.
The do-it-yourself version involved plastic sheeting (10 feet by 25 feet), PVC pipe and joints and hose adapters, along with a few pool noodles for a total cost of $40. I built a 3-foot-tall “water delivery system” with the PVC pipe that took all of 10 minutes. Then I laid out the plastic sheeting, doubled it over to create a 5-by-25-feet slide and wrapped pool noodles into the edges to keep the water directed downward. Velcro pieces on the plastic held the noodles in place. The first foot of the slide I wrapped around a long wooden dowel to distribute tension for holding the slide in place. Stakes held the dowel in place. Fashioning the entire slide took about 20 minutes.
Kids’ pick: The homemade slide was unanimously the favorite, which is a rare occurrence with three kids. It had the advantage of lasting until the grass was sufficiently soggy and although it was a bit more spendy than its clearance cousin, it’s easy to disassemble and put away for future use. Plus, it doesn’t come with any safety guidelines, which means you can do whatever you want.
Extra Parent Tip
Don’t forget to hose down your kids before they enter the house. You can tell them it’s so they don’t track mud, grass clippings, etc., into the house, but the truth is, it’s a nice payback for all the whining and fighting you’ve endured until now.
Schmidt can be contacted at email@example.com or at (208) 305-4578.