Thursday, August 30, 2012

Water Balloons: Waste of Money or Fun Summer Activity?

The kids I babysit were coming over today, so my mind quickly did the math. It went something like this:

Sunny Day + Extra Kids + Water Balloons = A Really Good Idea!

Clearly, my math skills have deteriorated over the years.

The kids arrived bright and early, swim trunks in backpacks, ready for WATER BALLOONS.

In case you don't know, those two words can bring Christmas morning excitement to a group of boys on a hot summer day.

It was a downer to get in the van to run errands first. We went to a preschool orientation, picked raspberries at my mother-in-law's garden and returned some overdue library books. Then, it was lunch time. The kids were so good through it all, but they were coveting those water balloons like Santa covets cookies.

Finally, everyone got changed and they all rushed out the door, packages of water balloons in hand. A few minutes later, they rushed back in. They couldn't attach the cheap little plastic nozzle to the hose. 

I go out and finagle it on because that's what us moms/babysitters do. We figure things out that need to be figured out.

Boy 1 starts filling a balloon. It won't stay on the nozzle. Boy 2 tries. Same deal. I get one on and fill it, but it's overfull and pops before I can remove it. Same thing happens twice more. The water gushes out of the hose too fast. Boy 3 figures out just the right setting to get the balloon filled and removed before disaster.

By now, they are all itching to get their hands on a filled water balloon. Their dancing around, picking up the flat balloons just to get the feel of them on their fingers and BEGGING to get the first one. It's decided that Boy 4, the youngest, will get the first. Now, they're all BEGGING to be second. Mind you, at this point, we haven't had a successfully filled balloon yet. 

But, finally, FINALLY, just when I was ready to scrap the whole thing, I've got one. It's full and, by some small miracle, I was able to tie it. It goes to Boy 4, who's so happy he decides it's as precious and fragile as a newly-laid egg. He won't throw it or burst it because then he won't have it anymore. 

The next several balloons don't go so well. Their thin skinned, kind of like me as I get more and more annoyed with these cheap, Dollar Store balloons. They spring leaks, the top rips off before I can tie them, they have visible rips in them right out of the package. Basically, they're crap.

We figure it out, the boys and I. With Boy 3 on the faucet handle, adjusting the pressure ever so slightly and Boys 1 and 2 filling balloons and me tying, we finally get around 45 filled and tied balloons.

A neighbor boy hears the excitement and enters the picture. We'll call him Boy 5.

So, we divvy up the balloons 3 ways. Boys 2 & 4 will be a team, Boys 1 & 5 will be a team and Boy 3 is on his own to throw balloons at targets because he doesn't want to get hit. They're all set and I'm ready to clean up the lunch dishes. I turn my back to go inside.

You know where this is going, right?

Boy 3 gets hit with a balloon.

The next thing I know, someone is having a tantrum, someone is crying, there's a skateboard flying through the air in revenge and the lawn looks like this:

Water Balloons: The Aftermath
Thankfully, the skateboard toss was harmless, though it added fuel to the fire. The end result was a time out for the skateboard tosser and a little quiet TV time for the rest of the gang until they'd wound down enough to be civil to each other again.

Was this a fun summer activity or a waste of money?

There were lessons learned, that's for sure.  I think kids need some of this unstructured play time to work things out on their own.  It doesn't always end well, but most of the time, most of an activity goes well. Today, they all worked together to get the balloons filled, they all showed kindness to give the little guy the first balloon and they all got their emotions under control afterwards.

Would I do it again?

Probably, but not right away.


  1. Memories of a fun childhood are soooo worth the investment.

  2. We LOVE water balloons! At last year's family reunion, someone (maybe it was me) brought them for all of the little kids. A few of the grown ups filled a storage container with ready to go balloons. Soon everyone was in on the action! I'm not sure who had more fun on that HOT July day, the little kids, or the big ones!

  3. Thanks, ladies! And, Lisa, that's a great idea for a family reunion!

  4. I love water balloons but not the mess they make. Try purchasing inexpensive sponges and tie a few together and cutting them. They become ball like. Then keep them in a bucket of cold water. Best thing is you just soak them again and they are ready to go. :) When they get uber nasty you can wash them or toss them.

  5. Sponges are a great idea, too!

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