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Best Water Toys for the Outdoors

Water balloon slingshots for the win.

We love water toys. Few activities with kids are more fun after a long winter inside than playing in the backyard. Whether hitting a ball, building a fort, or getting sprayed by a ginormous dinosaur sprinkler, there’s something to be said for an afternoon of exhausting outdoor play. And while there’s certainly no shortage of fun backyard toys for kids, some of the most engaging involve throwing.

Projectile play is fun for many reasons: One, it’s fun to launch stuff at your kids. Two, projectile play not only hones a child’s hand-eye coordination and spatial awareness, but also gives them a crash course in gravity and other principles of physics.  To help you enjoy the fun, here are some of the best water-based toys for some wet fun in the sun.

This aerodynamic slingshot shoots water balloons up to 100 feet. You've been warned.

Pros: We honestly cannot think of anything more fun than aiming water balloons at one another, except if you doing it super-fast. This water balloon slingshot sends your cargo 100 feet. The balloons are biodegradable and recyclable.

Cons: They’re water balloons. They can hurt. And some parents say the slingshot is junky.

Accuse us of the golden sheen of nostalgia, but we miss those carefree days of summertime when the biggest concern was the presence of rocks under the Slip ‘N Slide. The original portable waterpark has not only survived but is bigger than ever with the Wham-O Hydroplane water slide.

ProsHow simple a concept. How easy a setup. How long its fun lasts. Spread the Hydroplane Triple XL out to its 18-foot length, connect the hose, and you’re ready to go. Kids race down its length in three lanes to see who lands in its ending pool first, all while water sprays on them from three sides. The recommended boogie boards are also included.

ConsAnything that includes two repair kits offers a hint at potential pitfalls. Never especially robust, you’ll need to ensure there aren’t any rocks, sticks, or other objects that can either hurt your child or the slide’s plastic are cleared away prior to use. Otherwise, use stops while you, a pit crew of one, attempt a field-of-play repair.

The original Super Soaker was a 1990s revolution in aquatic armament. No longer were you limited to the feeble strength of your fingers; you now used a full-body movement to build up enough pressure in its tank to send a stream through a brick wall. The SUPERSOAKER SOA harkens back to the halcyon days of all-out hydro-heavy warfare—and in a quantity to start your own armory.

ProsTwo big pump-style blasters and two smaller pistols allow you to project some serious water pressure at your enemy and/or child. With a concept simple enough for young children, they offer a ton of benign fun around large bodies of water.

ConsOne of the hallmarks of the original Super Soaker 50 was a large reservoir to ensure you didn’t prematurely run out of water. The two-stroke blasters lack this basic feature, limiting your child’s range to the nearest water source. So much for peacetime at the pool.

The concept of turning on a sprinkler in the yard and running through it has been practiced by overheated youths for generations. The Tidal Storm spinning sprinkler maxes out this discipline, sending water in all directions while ensuring that your kids have a blast.

ProsConnect the unit to any standard garden hose and the Hydro Swirl shoots a column of water from its center while six neon tubes wave outside with secondary streams. It’s chaos. The kids will love it.

ConsWhile this takes the sprinkler concept to the next level, do you need a better version of a piece you already have? That’s an individual choice. We do, however, like its robust plastic, which is much safer for kids than the metal used in yard-specific units.

Play areas are great for young children, providing a variety of stimuli. The Intex Dinoland inflatable play center adds an aquatic component, making it perfect for your child’s first summertime water experience.

ProsWhile there’s plenty to do, including a dino arch with spray nozzle, slide, and ball game, we like how easy it is to move around the unit itself, ensuring that you’re never too far to rescue a young child that suddenly gets in trouble. The pool at the bottom of the slide, while holding up to 74 gallons of water, has only six-inch walls, preventing depth from becoming a danger.

ConsThere’s a lot riding on this unit’s ability to hold air, making it especially prone to leaks. For ultimate reliability, a hard-sided unit supplemented with a plastic slide might be best. However, the all-in-one nature of this package is super convenient—just take care to avoid sharp objects.

Summer is funner when you’ve got a friend to play with, and the Goliath hydro zoom ball is designed for besties to have a blast. We think of this as a wetter version of hot potato.

ProsStash a filled water balloon inside, have two children grab the respective handles, and their own arm movements send the payload back and forth. It’s all fun and games until time runs out and someone gets a balloon’s worth of water down his or her front. This makes a great game on its own, but it’s even more fun during parties and holidays.

ConsWhile the concept of competition is great for some, this is a two-player game, potentially leaving others out. As such, it might be a good idea to purchase a few to ensure that head-to-head action includes everyone.

Launching things into low orbit is as much a part of summer as cicadas. With close supervision, your child can have a blast sending up standard two-liter plastic bottles while also learning valuable lessons in physics.

ProsGrab that bike pump from the garage and a two-liter bottle from the recycling bin, find a safe area, and get to pumping. During this time, you can explain to your son or daughter how forcing more air into the bottle builds pressure. The water inside, once released via a 15-foot pull cord, rushes out, rocketing the bottle up to 100 feet in the air, where it floats gently down to the ground. It’s a ton of fun and a non-violent explosion of water.

ConsAs you might expect, this requires close adult supervision for any child under 14, so it’s import to explain the potential risks and keep it out of reach when you’re not around. For this reason, some may not feel comfortable with it in the home.

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