Arts & Life Section
Monday, May 7, 2001
Just add water, bubbles for simple summer fun
Plain Dealer Reporter
Your kids are
quick to tune you out when you nag. "It's a beautiful day,
why don't you go outside?" But parents, be heartened: Some
smart toy designers were listening.
And the result
is a new crop of toys, just in time for summer, that challenge kids
to turn off the TV, get out of the house and participate in some
pure, physical fun.
are needed, little assembly is required. Just add bubbles, balloons,
splashing water and let kid power take over.
toys encourage interactive recreation instead of solo play. They're
even reasonably priced, just as simple toys that aren't powered
by computer chips should be.
The Bubble Loon
is literally kid-powered: It recycles the air youngsters blow into
balloons to make rapid-fire bubbles.
Dare we parents
get carried away, dreaming that our summer electric bill will go
down if we buy these? It might, but then again, your water bill
could zoom way up if you spring for Wham-O's Water Blast Hockey
($19.99), the clear-cut favorite of Superior Elementary School fifth-graders
in East Cleveland, who tested the new toys last week.
and evaluation sheets at the ready, they all gravitated to the hockey
game, where class mates were getting soaked in a battle to push
the puck into their opponent's goal with a water gun.
The two guns
- actually the preferred term is hydroblasters - attach to a garden
hose. The toy is for ages 5 and up.
keep me cool in the summer. We could spray each other," said
squirt each other and drink it," added Todd Smith.
See? Good old-fashioned
products on toy-store shelves are from San Francisco-based Wham-O,
which has sparkled up its old classics with some sort of new feature.
The new Surf Rider Slip'N Slide ($39.99), which measures 25 feet,
is the longest Slip'N Slide ever made. The slide, for ages 5 to
12, includes a body board on which kids sail down through jet spray
and a wave tunnel.
summer offerings include a Frisbee with a glow-in-the-dark Moonlighter
version ($4.99) so kids can keep playing after the sun goes down,
and the world's first electronic Hula Hoop. The E-Shoop ($12.99)
keeps count electronically of how long and how fast you can "shoop."
It was the only
toy tested that required a battery - and it was the only one to
malfunction. The digital display kept freezing up. To get it working
again would have required a trip to the store to get a camera battery.
Elementary student Shavon Graves said she thought adding a battery
to a Hula Hoop was a smart idea.
fun. We like to keep score a lot," she said. The shoop-counter
can help a Hula Hooper withstand the heat of the competition. "When
you lose count, you have to start over and it's really hard,"
Many a parent
has thrown away money on inexpensive "semiautomatic" bubble-makers
that break with shocking swiftness. But the Bubble Loon ($5.99)
fascinates kids by using the air they blow into balloons to churn
out hundreds of bubbles. The design is sturdy and simple enough
to survive a summer; just be sure to stock up on bubble solution
or learn to make your own. The Bubble Loon by Children's Development,
Inc., is for ages 3 and up; balloons are a choking hazard for children
under age 3.