Splashing around in the backyard pool is a great way to cool off in the summer. But a pair of goggles and a few spare coins doesn't seem to cut it when it comes to entertainment in the pool anymore.
Just walk into any pool supply store and you will see the vast array of aquatic toys to choose from for all ages.
The evolution of water toys has drastically changed over the years. Inexpensive, lightweight inflatable rings and floats are still popular and fly off store shelves once the temperatures rise, but it's the new designs that keep kids desiring the latest and greatest toys.
Realistic, battery-operated sea creatures, such as fish, turtles, sharks and jelly fish, create a lifelike appearance and turn the pool into a pseudo aquarium. Water-resistant, remote-control objects and submersible controllers give swimmers an interactive experience to pass the time.
The Water Soaker, a floating, sphere-shaped object, draws an endless supply of water from the pool and can shoot a stream of water up to 20 feet. Beware, if the theme to "Jaws" gets your skin crawling, you may want to stay clear of the hammerhead and cyborg sharks that slither through the water and dive deep below the surface.
For the sports-minded family, water volleyball, basketball and polo nets come in sturdy, easy-to-assemble units, or can be permanently mounted into the decking. Baskets and poles with adjustable heights allow for changes in elevation as the kids grow.
Blow-up floats and rafts now come in a variety of shapes and sizes with slides, ladders and multilounging areas, including mesh netting to allow cool pool water to infiltrate the sitting areas. The large, three-dimensional, castle-like structures require more than a good set of lungs to inflate. A manual or electric air blower will fill these multiple air-bladder rafts to capacity in no time.
One of the world's leading developers in aquatic toys is SwimWays. The company has more than 25 years of experience creating outdoor recreational and leisure playthings for today's high-tech and well-informed kids.
Before SwimWays can issue its stamp of approval, toys must be tested for durability to withstand outdoor hazards, heat, ultraviolet rays and treated water. Each water toy must meet buoyancy needs, especially important with battery-operated toys that contain self-leveling units to achieve correct water position.
Too hot for golf at the local course? Check out the latest waterproof floating greens that allow you to practice chip shots from the deck or lawn. But be careful to mind the water hazard.
And what seems to be one of the hottest nonelectronic items for those with a great sense of balance and dexterity is the Subskate. An underwater, sturdy, high-dense foam skateboard, it is designed for ages 5 and up.
For subsurface fun, there is a whole collection of toys that sink to the floor of the pool, including swim-thru hoops with elaborate designs of underwater treasures, reefs and sunken ships. Colorful, cartoon diving rings and sticks provide personality to the swimming aids and numbered objects give a competitive element to underwater activity.
Introducing an average of 20 new water toys a year, SwimWays looks to consumers to help inspire its designers. The company even encourages at-home inventors to submit their concepts for consideration at www.swimways.com. Who knows, you or your child may have the next "Wow!" water toy idea.
Joe Vassallo is the president of Paragon Pools, as well as a member of the Association of Pool and Spa Professionals, a certified building professional and a representative of the APSP National Builders Council, Region XI. Send questions or suggestions for column ideas regarding pools and spas to him at email@example.com or 251-0500.