There have been times over the last 20 years ⏤ when Lord of the Rings was in theaters and Hunger Games at its pinnacle ⏤ that every kid in America wanted to be an archer. They looked up to Legolas. They stood with Katniss. They, uh, sort of liked Hawkeye They made bows out of branches and wore quivers as costumes. Archery was in. And if NXT Generation Toys ⏤ an Ohio-based toy company that makes high-performance foam-dart compound and crossbows for kids ⏤ has its way, it will be again soon.
Technically, NXT Gen’s line of bows are designed as much for young bow-hunters as for kids who just want to run around the yard flinging foam darts. The company is pro-hunting and pro-conservation ⏤ it donates a portion of some sales to the National Wild Turkey Federation ⏤ but it’s designated mission is decidedly larger in scope: To “motivate kids to play outside and get away from screens.” And to that end, they make three categories of awesome foam-dart weapons and targets:
Targeted to kids 8-years-old, NXT Gen sells three compound bows with names like the Nitro Blazer, Rapid Riser, and the Slingray. All three are center fire for both lefties and righties. Two shoot full suction-cup-tipped arrows, so it’s pretty much just like shooting a real bow and arrow, while one uses a cylinder launch tube to fire smaller, traditional-sized darts over 50 feet. There’s also a more compact Mini Maxx version.
For older kids (14+), there are two fully-functional tactical crossbows with attached sights that fire both foam and suction darts. They come in four colors: black, orange, woodland blaze, and pink-fire camo, and there’s also a similarly styled pistol crossbow for younger kids.
Inflatable Hunting Targets
Assuming you’re into hunting and/or want to give your kids something to aim at other than each other, there are four inflatable animal targets, including a deer, boar, 5-foot-tall bear, and shark for fun pool play. Assuming you’re not into hunting and would rather your kid train for the Summer Olympics instead, there’s also a traditional round bullseye. They also sell window cling targets ⏤ zombies, dinosaurs, and whatnot ⏤ for those rainy days stuck inside.
And finally, despite steering away from screentime for kids, the company is releasing its first augmented reality bow-hunting game this summer. Essentially, it’s a compound bow with a smartphone attachment. Snap the phone in, fire up the app, and draw the string back. When the animals or dragons appear on screen, aim and fire. Play outside and you also enjoy fresh air, not to mention still fulfill one half of the company’s mission. It’s slated to drop in June or July and will cost $40. Everything else is currently available on the company’s website.