Musings #22: Ten Things For Summer
I haven’t done a top ten in a while, so here is one people normally do back at the start of summer. It is not as if I have a track record of doing things properly, right? You don’t need any of this to enjoy your summer, but maybe it’ll get your creative ideas flowing. If you click on the links and buy something, a few bits of change get dropped in my Amazon affiliate account. Even if you follow the link and buy something totally unrelated like a television, multi-tool or box of raisins. Since January, I’ve made a $1.60! I also see a penny and pick it up off the street, but those are hard to come buy in this age of auto-pay.
- Pump Action Water Squirters/Blasters (Water Bazookas): You can’t beat the firing range or price at a buck at your local Dollar General. I have found, these last few years that cheap water pistols with the traditional triggers or Super-Soaker design no longer have any durability, and even expensive ones make you bite your nails waiting for a part to break with a loud cha-ching! Some of the new-fangled gadgets take batteries. I’ve got nothing against electronics, but kid power is free and batteries aren’t. These bazookas have great range for very little effort, but they do break if misused in a fake sword fight. I have yet to have even our cheap plastic ones one break just by using it to squirt water. Don’t forget to arm yourself if the kids decide to ask for trouble! If you want one that’s tougher with a nicer look try the AquaZooka. I would tell the kids not to aim directly for the eyes. However, most people are running away and a pair of swim goggles can protect the little ones from their merciless older siblings. Are you handy or crafty? You can make your own out of PVC pipe.
- Rashguards and SPF swimwear: If you spend a lot of times outdoors, swim gear with an SPF-50 rating will save everyone from having to vat dip themselves in sunblock. Shirts come in long sleeve, short sleeve, in looser t shirt styles or fitted. Shorts are common, but long leggings and a full body suit are also available and might be just the thing especially if you are fair or just want more skin coverage for protection. These articles of clothing also tend to dry faster than traditional swimwear and can be worn even if you don’t swim. My husband now burns only when he forgets to wear his rashguard. Just a tip to keep in mind. Rashguards tend to fit snug and some adult styles run small, so you may want to consider ordering one size up. As for children, I find that it is much more worth it to buy the shirts and shorts one or two sizes too big just to get more than one season out of them–they will initially fit loose and as they grow into size they will fit snug as they were designed. As a rule “girls” tend to be more fitted, and “boys” tend to be looser, so adjust your shopping accordingly.
- Portable Sun Tent/Shelter: I have horrible luck with beach umbrellas. It often turns out looking like a Mr. Bean episode. However, only on the windiest days have we had a problem with the sun tent trying to blow away; your mileage may vary. If you set it up with its back to the winds and have a couple of sand chairs in there, you’ll be quite comfortable and pretty well protected. They are light weight, fold to carry, and fairly easy for one person to put up. We had two, but alas our eight-year-old Rio Beach Cabana sheltered it’s last earlier this summer. On a happier note, I was pleased to see that there are newer models on the market that are a pop up design like our little kid tent so you don’t have to use poles. It is worth considering your options.
- Green Toys Sand Bucket: Made of recycled plastic and with a real rope handle, this thing is small but virtually indestructible. If you have one, your worry will be in someone walking off with it or having it float away, not that it will break. The bucket is small like your standard little kid bucket, and the price may seem high…but when was the last time you had a bucket last six or more years? Never? Our two Sand Play Sets are in their sixth summer.
- Rolling Beach Cart: I admit that I do not own this item, but I see them throughout summer and I do long for one. It is fine and fine and dandy to be a pack mule, but when you are alone with the kids needing to drag a cooler and other items with you for a marathon beach excursion, you will be glad for the wheels even if you pack ultra light. The price point is the stickler, however, if you are lucky you can catch a good clearance sale at the end of the season and maybe snatch up up for half price or less at your local stores.
- Back Float/Swim Bubble: I hesitate to put this item, but I have seen an upsurge of puddle jumpers and full swim vests everywhere and not a boat in sight–even in just ankle deep water. I almost never see swims aides for helping kids learn to swim. In some strict pools you can’t even bring a kickboard any more to use to teach kicking. Society has made us parents so paranoid about drowning that so many are feeling compelled to use floatation devices all the time. Drowning can happen to anyone, even strong swimmers. But, you can’t learn to swim properly or judge your limits with constant restricted arm movement or a false sense of your own natural buoyancy. I am an adult non-swimmer, but I do know how to float and I do understand the anxiety surrounding water. This, however, is not a life vest, but a swim aide to help with positioning and provides a little buoyancy for teaching purposes. Is it necessary? No. It is an option in the swim aide tool chest like kick floats. Unlike puddle jumpers (vertical position) or personal flotation vests (back position), the person wearing it has to work to swim, has full arm rotation, and can swim horizontally. The four floats can be removed one at a time to reduce buoyancy–something that you can’t do with other devices (some swim vests–horizontal position–can be adjusted). The issue you may find is that some places with lifeguards on duty (pools, ponds, or private beaches) may not allow swim aides like this– only puddle jumpers or specific vests– for no known reason they could give me. In addition, while the back float can certainly help a parent teach a child to swim (especially more than one at a time), in a place where there are few shallow water options it is NOT a life-saving device! Even this product can hinder swimming confidence and skill development if used too much or too long. Research their use first. Nothing can beat an intensive swim lesson program that runs consecutive days or daily visits waterside for getting kids swimming and learning water survival skills and how to help themselves. In my opinion, the puddle jumpers and swim vests (beyond intended use–and even then a back positioning life vest is miles better for safety on boats, docks, deep pools) do more harm than good in some cases if you want children to learn how to swim and be aware of water safety and their limits. My husband witnessed the other day a puddle-jumper child being dragged by the foot backwards in calf deep water by a sibling unable to right themselves and get their face out of the water before a parent intervened because they had no arm freedom. You’ve got to not let these devices artificially inflate water confidence.
- Folding Picnic Blanket: Sure, you can use what you have handy, but a quick drying, water resistant picnic blanket that folds up into a cushion definitely has advantages especially when your only seating option is a bench that feels like barnacles when you sit. Some styles just fold up to look like a purse, but ours zippers into a cushion. We got ours at Bed Bath and Beyond years ago, but I do still see them there.
- Kite: Everyone should fly a kite, not just Benjamin Franklin. The best part is you have the option of buying one or making one.
- Tether Ball: If you have limited space or have a ball ban for fear of balls rolling in the street, over the fence, or into the poison ivy, try this nearly forgotten game. Every kid should get to play ball after all, even in a yard the size of a postage stamp. Prices really vary widely, and some really great deals can be found at the end of the season. You can also build one yourself out of an old tire.
- Corn Hole/Bean Bag Toss: Another item you can opt to make instead of buy. It can be played indoors or out, and since the throwing items are bean bags, it has no chance of injury with beginners like horseshoes. Who came up with the idea of throwing heavy metal objects around a pole? Certainly not the accident prone! If you do buy, I would avoid the soft styles, they just don’t hold up as well as the plastic or wood. For homemade contraptions, good thick cardboard works as well as wood. Here is something handyman fancy and something very crafty simple.