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Turn backyard party into summer playland

Entertain the kids — and adults — with the latest games and toys. TODAY Contributor Stephanie Oppenheim from toyportfolio.com shares the top picks.
/ Source: TODAY

When summer rolls in, it's not uncommon to find yourself with a planned or spontaneous party in the backyard. Add to the fun with some classic and new games that can be enjoyed by the inner child in all of us. TODAY Contributor Stephanie Oppenheim from toyportfolio.com shares the top picks for this summer.

Twister Scram (Milton Bradley, $14.95) Twister Scram is not really Twister in the traditional sense, but lots of fun to play for the four and up crowd. Here the play is more like “musical chairs.” It comes with 20 round, colored mats and a spinner. When the caller spins and announces the color, everyone runs to be the first to jump on the corresponding colored mat. The challenge: You use one less mat than you have players. Designed for 3-5 players. Rounds are quick, so there are lots of opportunities to win.

Also fun and more in keeping with the original game is Twister Take Out ($14.95). Here the original mat folds up into a take-along bag and the spinner comes on top of a Frisbee-styled disk (take the spinner part off when you want to play with the disk). This version will appeal to tweens and teens (8 & up).

There's something so pleasing about blowing bubbles no matter what your age. You can give all of your guests a No Spill Bubble Tumbler (Little Kids, $2.99 & up).

One of our favorite products of the year so far is the Big Bubble Kit from Extreme Bubbles ($19.95). The bubble “wand” is two long wooden handles connected by soft rope. Dip the wand into the bucket with the handles closed. Take the wand out of the solution and open the handles slowly and voila! — extremely large bubbles that will impress even the most “I'm so over bubbles” teenager.

Create your own magic this summer. The idea is to give the Magic Show Kit (Cadaco, $34.99) to the kids at the beginning of the get-together and let them learn the tricks and later perform them for the whole family. Kids will enjoy being central to the day's entertainment and it will give them an activity to work on together. You can also pick up the Magic Show Photo Op from Pottery Barn and have everyone take their picture — either use an instant camera or send images digitally after the party. Makes a nice souvenir of the event.

For Wet Head (Imagination Games, $19.99), one player straps on the special hat. The top of the hat has a water chamber that is filled ahead of time. Each player then takes a turn pulling out one of the red plungers. Watch out! One of the plungers will release the water. It's a good wet game for a hot summer's day.

Bocce set (Restoration Hardware, $119): What I love about this game is that it can be played by both grandchildren and grandparents. It's a good team game.

5-in-1 Super Sports Inflatable Bouncer (Little Tikes, $299.99) is the latest from Little Tikes that's just right for a crowd. Gym measures 10' x 10' x 7'. Comes with two hoops, but if you have a large group of kids, we'd put the balls away and let them enjoy the bouncing and sliding part of this toy. Comes with heavy-duty blower and storage bag (3 & up).