The West has already had one bout with oppressive heat this year, and the East is about to get its share, too — and yet, driving north to cooler climes is not always an option for family relief, especially considering the cost of gasoline these days.
So here’s the ultimate family-fun solution for summer heat: water toys. Since 75 percent of the U.S. population lives within a few miles of water (think New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Seattle, Chicago and Miami), the toys below offer a great way for your family to have hours of fun, in some cases for less than $10, without ever getting in the car. Now stay cool.
Airhead’s Aquazooka Water Cannon If you have water, you have ignition — the AquaZooka water cannon gives you the opportunity to fire an accurate, narrow stream of water up to 60 feet. It’s a truly simple design — a long, foam-covered plastic tube with a sliding handle.
The tube comes in four lengths and uses the basic properties of a vacuum: Just dip the tip of the tube into a lake, pool or stream, pull back on the handle (which draws water into the cannon’s barrel), then push the handle forward — and cool, refreshing streams of water are sent directly at your pals. The best thing about it — “reloading” is only a matter of putting the tube back in the water. Fun, fast, inexpensive. From $8; airhead.com
Hasbro Super Soaker Bottle ShotSince Hasbro introduced the Super Soaker, pool parties have never been the same. But just like in the car industry, the Super Soaker began to show some of the complexity and bloat that made people rethink their buying decisions a little — some of them got to be as much as $50, not including water filters, backpack reservoirs and the like. But Hasbro, like Detroit, is downsizing, and to its benefit: I think the Super Soaker Bottle Shot is the industry’s high-water mark for Super Soakers — a hand-held water cannon that uses ANY screw-in bottle on the end of it for an “ammunition” reservoir.
In other words, you can get anything from a little half-pint bottle to a huge, two-liter soda bottle, fill it with water, and simply screw it into the back of the Bottle Shot. Pump the handle, and send water where you want it, up to 20 feet away. My daughter recommends pointing it at your annoying your little brother. My son recommends pointing at your annoying big sister. It’s your choice. $8; hasbro.com
Leaps and Bounds’ Slash ’n’ Play Colossal Pool While many are familiar with the traditional (and basic) kiddie pool, the Splash ’n’ Play is cool because it has variety. In other words, little kids sitting in a wading pool are happy for about 20 minutes, and then they want something else. The Colossal Pool has variety, and tons of activities to keep kids involved.
For example, there are four activity stations, including a basketball hoop and sprinkler, which keep kids cool all summer. Plus a low, gentle slide keeps things interesting for little kids. Holds nine inches of water. Make sure you have an air pump or a bicycle pump. $60; leapsandbounds.com
Paul Hochman is the gear and technology editor for the TODAY Show and a Fast Company magazine contributor. He covered the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Athens and Torino, Italy, for TODAY. He was also a three-year letter winner on the Dartmouth ski team and has a black belt in karate. Paul’s blog can be found at: