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The Slip N’ Slide and Water Wiggle: The Injury-Inducing Water Toys Of The Past  

Take a scorching hot summer day, add in a few cooler-than-cool water toys, plus a few kids looking to beat the heat, and you have a recipe for childlike, innocent fun, right? Not so much.

Some of the best-selling kids toys of years past must have seemed like great ideas in the prototype phase, but once they made it to market it was discovered they could cause their fair share of injuries.

Here are a couple of playtime favorites that didn’t play so well in people’s backyards, and in some instances had dire consequences.


Slip n’ Slide

The Wham-O Manufacturing Company debuted their Slip n’ Slide in 1961. The Carson, California-based toy company, in business for about 70 years, is known for producing children’s toys that have become iconic playtime favorites. Wham-O’s claims to fame includes the classic Hula Hoop, the forever fave Frisbee, and the simply annoying Silly String. As simple and effortless and fun as these toys were, there were others that posed a danger (looking at you,  Super Elastic Bubble Plastic and your toxic chemicals that kids were encouraged to put their mouths on).

The Slip n’ Slide promised an easy retreat from blazing heat. It included a long, narrow sheet of thin and  slippery plastic, along with an inflatable tube that ran the length of the sheet. If you attached a garden hose to to the Slip n’ Slide, water would seep out of the tube and wet the plastic sheet, which served to increase the sheet’s slipperiness factor. Kids were encouraged to run to the Slip n’ Slide, drop to the ground, and propel themselves along the wet plastic with all the speed they could muster. Set the Slip n’ Side on a hillside, and you could pick up so much speed you would practically feel airborne. But as anyone who has slipped and fallen on ice knows, taking a header on something slippery really isn’t all that much fun.

The trouble began when older children, teens, and adults decided it would be a whole lot of wet and wild fun for them, too, just as it was for younger kids. But teens and adults are usually heavier and taller than younger kids, which meant they would slide much faster and go a heck of a lot farther than shorter, lighter kids.

Unfortunately, people who overshot the plastic sheet, especially when attempting to slide in headfirst, were often injured. Some of the injuries, while unpleasant, were minor, including chipped teeth, bloody noses, and cut chins. But other injuries were far more serious, such as broken bones and neck injuries. The worst cases included one teen and seven adults who suffered serious neck injuries that resulted in paralysis.

Surprisingly, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has not banned the Slip n’ Slide, and you can still buy one today. Wham-O was asked, however, to include a warning label on Slip n’ Slide packaging that states that the product was designed for children, and noting that adults could suffer paralyzing injuries if they used the toy in a manner for which it was not intended.


Wham-O’s Water Wiggle

A sprinkler-like toy, Wham-O’s Water Wiggle consisted of a seven-foot-long plastic hose connected to a typical garden hose. Water pressure built up in the aluminum water-jet nozzle that was covered with a small plastic bucket-like fixture painted with a cartoonish smiling face. When you turned the water on, the resulting water pressure would cause the bucket head to wildly whip around, almost like a creature possessed, as water sprayed out the bottom, supposedly to cool off children and adults that were close by.

It’s not surprising that most of the people who sustained injuries while using the     Water Wiggle were hit with the heavy aluminum nozzle as it whipped around uncontrollably. There was no predicting the trajectory the toy would take, and you basically had to stay out of its path to avoid being conked by the flailing bucket.

Sadly, using the Water Wiggle resulted in the deaths of a three-year-old child in 1975 and a four-year-old child in 1978. In each of the cases, the Water Wiggle nozzle became lodged in the child’s mouth, which caused large quantities of water to be forced down  their throats. Both children died from drowning. The makers of Water Wiggle most likely never thought that such a tragedy could occur when the concept for the toy was first presented.

In 1978, the CSPC recalled the Water Wiggle in light of reports of the two deaths as well as several injuries. Wham-O pulled the toy from the shelves, discontinued its manufacturing, and offered a full refund to any customers who had purchased the toy and were seeking to return it.