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Cheap water games for hot days

Kids whining that it's too hot to go outside? Here's a recipe for relief: Just add water.

Jenny Rosenstrach, features editor of Cookie, a family lifestyle magazine, says parents can keep it simple and still make a splash when it comes to entertaining young kids.

"I have a 7-year-old and a 5-year-old, and we don't have a pool,'' Rosenstrach says. "We have a sprinkler. Kids need next to nothing to be entertained. Everyone who has kids knows all you need is a bucket of water and a cup and that will keep them entertained for an hour.''

When her kids have friends over, though, she'll step up her game and arrange more formal water activities, such as a rousing round of Dribble, Dribble, Drench. "It's Duck, Duck, Goose with water. When they say "drench,'' you really get drenched. It's very dramatic. Kids love it.''

Water fun doesn't have to mean buying expensive toys, either. There are lots of games that require little more than a bag of water balloons or simple household supplies like a bucket and empty plastic bottles. For instance, Rosenstrach says, you can make your own version of a Slip în' Slide with a plastic tarp and baby shampoo. Find a grassy area and remove any rocks. Lay the tarp down, pour about half a bottle of baby shampoo on, hose it down and let the kids go.

Here are more games for kids who are wild about water fun.

HOLE IN THE CAN RELAY

Empty and clean two cans, making sure there are no sharp edges where the lid was removed. (You can smooth the edge with a file, if necessary.) Using a nail and a hammer, punch several holes into the bottom and sides of each can. Divide kids into two teams. Have a large bucket of water at the start of the race and two equal-sized smaller containers such as plastic milk bottles with the tops cut off at the finish line. Kids fill the holey cans with water, race to the finish line and empty what remains into the receiving container, then race back and hand the can to the next child in line. The first team to fill their receiving container wins. (From www.funattic.com).

WATER HOSE LIMBO

Rosenstrach says this is her favorite game for the end of the night when you're entertaining kids, after they've had their ice cream and they're "going crazy.'' It's just the game of limbo using a water hose instead of a broomstick. Kids walk under the hose leaning back so they don't get wet, and each round the hose gets lower. "The losers get drenched and they want to be drenched,'' says Rosenstrach. "Plus, there's no arguing about whether you 'touched' like there is with a broomstick.''

WATER-BALLOON TOSS

Divide kids into two-person teams. One person from each side stands in one line and the other person stands in a facing line about 2 feet away. Each child in the first line gets a filled water balloon. The first line tosses their balloons to their teammate in the other line. The second line then tosses the balloons back. After each round of tossing, both lines take a large step back. Your team is out when your balloon breaks. The last team with an unbroken balloon wins.

COLD POTATO

This is a water-balloon version of the game Hot Potato. All you need is a few filled water balloons and a radio. Kids stand in a circle with one holding a water balloon. When the music begins, they start passing it around. If you break the balloon you're out. If no one breaks the balloon, when the music stops, the person holding the balloon is out. The last person in the circle wins.

SQUIRT-GUN TAG

One player gets a filled squirt gun. Other players run away and he tries to "tag'' them with water. When a player gets squirted, that player is out. The last person remaining becomes "it'' in the next round of play. The key to this game is using a small, not very powerful squirt gun, or else it's too easy to tag other players. You'll need to have a bucket of water on the play field for the person who is "it'' to refill the squirt gun.

FILL THE BOTTLE RELAY

Set up teams. On each team one person lies on the ground while holding a 20-ounce plastic pop bottle on his forehead. Teammates fill up a cup at a bucket then run to the person on the ground and pour the water into the pop bottle. Then they run back to the next person on the team. When the bottle is filled, the bottle person runs back to the finish line. First team to finish with a filled bottle wins. (From www.funattic.com).

SPRINKLER STATUES

Attach a sprinkler to the hose in the center of the yard, but don't turn it on. Instruct the kids to move around the yard, hopping, jumping, skipping, running, crawling. When the sprinkler comes on, they freeze in place till the sprinkler is shut off again. If they move while the sprinkler is on, they're out. "It's more fun than stopping because the music turned off,'' says Rosenstrach.

DRIBBLE, DRIBBLE, DRENCH

Have kids sit in a circle. The person who is "it'' has a bottle filled with water. She goes around the circle saying, "Dribble, dribble'' as she passes each person in the circle and pours a dab of water on him. When she says "Drench,'' she empties the bottle on that child, then that child gets up and chases her around the circle. If the child who is "it'' gets around the circle and seated in the empty spot before being tagged, the child who was chasing becomes "it.''

CHEAP WATER TOYS

We also shopped and found a few new toys that will add a dose of cold water to back-yard playtime.• HydroHoola: Snap together this Hula Hoop-type toy that you fill with water. You'll get splashed as you spin the hoop. $14.99

HydroYo:

This water-filled yo-yo also splashes as you spin it. $6.99



Splash Out:

Fill the plastic sphere with a water balloon and set a timer. Then players pass the sphere around like a game of hot potato. When the timer goes off, the balloon bursts, soaking the player holding it. $9.99



Sunflower Shower:

Stick it in the ground to create a sprinkler that's just the right height for preschoolers. Older kids like it, too. $14.99



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