Distract the Monsters

The Bubblator. Photo: Kristine Larsen

The Draw: Wacky purple-and-yellow contraption propels liquid soap onto a circular frame that makes giant bubbles.
Age Group: 3 and up.
Playground Commentary: Kids are entranced, but the Bubblator is hard to manipulate, so grown-ups become bubble-makers. One dad kept trying to see how big a bubble he could make and wouldn’t share.
Fun Quotient:

Tub Tunes Water Flutes and Drums
(Right Brain Playthings/Big Boing)
The Draw: Musical instruments change pitch when filled with water.
Age Group: Toddlers to preschool.
Playground Commentary: Not exactly sweet music, but good for encouraging kids into the pool. One managed to blow on all the flutes; cue hysterical laughter.
Fun Quotient:

Hover Disc.Photo: Kristine Larsen

The Draw: A three-foot-wide flying disc made of balloon Mylar and flexible wire.
Age Group: Preschoolers to age 10.
Playground Commentary: Takes a while to blow up, and all three we tested broke after about an hour. Still, the kids loved being able to toss the HoverDisc two stories high, then give chase.
Fun Quotient:

The Super Soaker Aquapack Devastator.Photo: Kristine Larsen

Super Soaker Aquapack Devastator
The Draw: Backpack tank fills a water gun that sprays 30 feet.
Age Group: 7 and up.
Playground Commentary: It’s hard to run with 100 ounces of water on your back, but kids are inspired to charge off on commando runs anyway. Screaming, shrieking fun ensues; our testers didn’t want to give it back.
Fun Quotient:

The Wave
(Street Surfing)
The Draw: An extreme skateboard whose wheels rotate 360 degrees.
Age Group: 10 and up.
Playground Commentary: Even if you watch the enclosed DVD directions, the Wave is nearly impossible for neophytes to master—though highly impressive if they do. A 21-year-old FAO Schwarz salesman said it took him about 45 minutes to figure it out.
Fun Quotient:

Tek TagPhoto: Kristine Larsen

Tek Tag
(Wild Planet)
The Draw: Tag with a high-tech armband.
Age Group: 6 and up.
Playground Commentary: Got our computer-crazed testers away from the screen. The best part: no arguments about who’s “It.” Everyone has to tag everyone.
Fun Quotient:

Fly Wheels
(Jakks Pacific)
The Draw: A rip cord sends a hard plastic tire soaring at 30 mph.
Age Group: 8 and up.
Playground Commentary: Dads love it—“This is a lethal weapon,” said one tester gleefully. For kids, there’s too much risk of black eyes, contusions, and bloody lips.
Fun Quotient:

Distract the Monsters