Peering jealously over the fence at the neighbor’s nice big pool became a thing of the past with the Slip ‘n Slide. When the summer weather was scorching hot and the beach was an inconvenient distance away, kids found cool relief along a runway made of plastic. Hooked up to the garden hose, the runway magically transformed into the wettest, most slippery surface ever devised by man.
Wham-O gave a grateful world the Slip ‘n Slide in 1961. The basic design was the same as it is today: A lengthy piece of sturdy plastic is unrolled on the lawn—whatever you do, kids, don’t try this on bare concrete—and water from the garden hose wets it until the thin layer of water allows all and sundry to slide from one end of the slide to the other. It’s called hydroplaning and your parents probably warned you about it when you first started driving. Insufficient amounts of water could cause spectacular friction burns—ouch.
Slip ‘n Slide became standard summer equipment for houses with lawns and if you begged your dad hard enough, he might rig the sprinklers to create a watery archway for you and your friends’ pleasure. All that water transformed the lawn into a soggy mudscape that, naturally, was even more fun than the slide. Drought? High water bills? What?
A few backyard accidents in the early 90s cast a shadow on all this fluid fun. Slip ‘n Slide was withdrawn from the market because of lawsuits alleging serious harm had befallen adults who decided to slip and slide along with the kiddies. Such was the magnetic draw of this toy that grown men felt compelled to belly flop on a thin piece of plastic. As a result, safety features like “guard rails” (inflated tubes running down the length of the slide) and multiple tiny jets that keep the slide as slippery as possible are now standard. Some Slip ‘n Slide models even come with a little inflatable pool at the end for those not really into the whole muddy lawn experience.
If you have fond memories of racing down a Slip ‘N Slide on a hot summer day, or if you just begged for one but never had your wish fulfilled, we welcome your memories of this beloved water toy in our comments section.