Throughout October, Kidscreen will take a peek at each of this year’s 12 nominees for the Toy Hall of Fame. Located within the Strong Museum in Rochester, NY, the Toy Hall of Fame has the most comprehensive collection of toys, dolls and video games in the world. Among its inductees are Lincoln Logs, checkers and Mr. Potato Head. Today, we look at one more toy that could join the list: the Slip ‘n Slide.
In the summer of 1960, an upholsterer named Robert Carrier came home to find his son and a friend sliding down painted concrete made smooth by a garden hose-powered stream of water. When the family moved, and his son wanted to do the same thing on the back patio, dad wanted to make something safer. Carrier got a 50-foot roll of Naugahyde, a waterproof artificial leather, and stitched a tube along one end to attach the hose and wet the entire surface. The next year—after taking his patent to Wham-O (famous for the Frisbee and Hula Hoop)—the resulting Slip ‘n Slide sold more than 300,000 units within the first six months of its 1961 release. Fifty years later, the famous summer toy has sold more than 30 million units and forged licensing deals with the likes of Disney and NASCAR.
“You get your bathing suit out, spread the Slip ‘n Slide out on the lawn and go sprawling across it at great speed with what is essentially a shower curtain with a hose attached,” says Christopher Bensch, chief curator of the Strong Museum. “It’s a pretty basic concept, but it has the capacity to turn your back yard into a little thrill ride.”
The toy’s seasonal nature made it a common sight in North American yards for the warm summer months. Kids no longer needed to go the water park, as the Slip ‘n Slide offered plenty of water play at home. One of the biggest problems, however, was convincing parents not to join in. “Even the early versions have strong warnings: Adults, this is not for you. You are too big, too fragile. You’re going to fall too hard,’” says Bensch. “You’ve got to be a kid to enjoy the pleasures of a Slip ‘n Slide.”
The three main criteria for induction into the hall of fame are (1) longevity, (2) recognition or icon status, and (3) encourage learning, creativity and discovery. This year’s other 11 nominees are: American Girl dolls, bubbles, Fisher Price Little People, Hess toy trucks, Little Green Army Men, My Little Pony, Operation, paper airplane, pots and pans, Rubik’s Cube and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The two inductees for 2014 will be announced on November 6.