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Back in my geekily mispent youth, I remember building homemade Slip ‘n’ Slides with my friends to have some outdoor fun on hot summer days. We’d usually cut up a number of black garbage bags and try to overlap them to create a good run. Then turn a sprinkler or two on them, and get busy.
These days, mass-produced Slip ‘n’ Slide–type things are available at any big-box store for around $30. They’re big, bright, and even imaginative. Heck, you can drop a couple hundred bucks and get giant inflatable water slides that will fill up your whole yard.
What I’ve found over a few years with my kids and their friends is that the quality of construction usually makes these slides a one- or two-use product. And while I said they were imaginative, they’re usually not that big, since they’re designed for a mass market of people who won’t all have the yard space for a larger slide. So I started to wonder if there wasn’t something that could be done at home, in the DIY spirit of using garbage bags like I did as a kid, but a bit more durable and, you know, BIGGER. And what I came up with is easy to build, hugely fun to play with, durable, and simple to take apart and store for significant reuse.
This project involves building the basic concept of the slip ‘n’ slide (SNS) using durable over-the-counter materials. All you need is a $30 roll of heavy plastic, ten $2 pool noodles, a $10 sprinkler hose, and a couple rolls of peel-and-stick Velcro (about $7 a roll).
So what is an SNS at its core? It’s simply a long expanse of material that gets slippery when wet. It should have some kind of guides or berms on the sides to keep sliders from slipping off while traveling down its length. And it needs a water source.
- To start, take your roll of heavy sheet plastic and lay it out on your yard or other assembly site. We tried some 6-mil plastic sheeting, 6 feet wide by 50 feet long for our sample slide, since it gave a nice width of sliding surface, and the length fit across our front yard. But, depending on your location, you may want a smaller or bigger (yeah!) slide. Figure out which side is the top (it’s a completely arbitrary decision since both sides are the same, but you have to pick one and stick with it), and place it facedown.
- Lay the noodles around the perimeter of your plastic. You can leave a foot or so between each noodle. The standard length of a pool noodle is about 5 feet, so for our 50-foot long slide, we used eight noodles per side with about a foot of spacing, give or take, and then one noodle at either end.
- Next, starting at one end, take a noodle and lay it on the plastic a few inches in from the outside edge. Pull the plastic over the noodle as if you’re going to wrap it up, and get enough overlap so about an inch of the plastic from the edge touches the plastic on the other side of the noodle toward the middle. This is where you’ll be sticking the Velcro.
- Attach a 2-inch strip of the Velcro to the plastic at each end and in the middle of each noodle so that the plastic wraps over and under the noodle and is attached back to itself. Do this for all the noodles until you have a berm all the way around the perimeter of your slide.
- Once you’re done, you have the underside of your slide. Flip it over, and you should have what looks a little like a very long, very narrow emergency slide from an airliner. Or a really cool waterslide.
- Last thing we need is the water source. If you’re keeping it simple, just make sure you have a little slope and start running a hose at the top of the slide at the higher end (where you’ll start your slides from). Or if you have one or more lawn sprinklers, use those. For a little more money, pick up a 50-foot sprinkler hose and (if you also got the extra roll of Velcro) affix it to the side of the slide down one of the berms. Use your regular hose to feed water into it and you’ve got a perfect shower down your slide.
Important tip for a flat yard: The best placement for an SNS is on a gentle downhill slope that peters out at the end to flat, but not all of us are lucky enough to have the perfect sliding real estate. If you’re building your SNS on a flat expanse of lawn, an added feature could be of use. Get a piece of rope about 6 or 8 feet long. Tie each end to a short piece of wooden dowel or a plastic handle like the ones that come with car window squeegees or toilet plungers. Make sure you have good knots, and perhaps wrap it all up in duct tape as well. You now have a towline. Position your child to sit at the starter end of the slide, either in a crisscross applesauce position or on his or her front or back, and have someone as big or bigger pull him while running down the slide. Once the initial friction is overcome, it’s not very hard to build up a bit of speed down the slide. Just make sure to have them let go before the end of the slide.
Now just wait for a warm day, collect the neighborhood kids, and become the best house on the block! Oh, and in case you hadn’t noticed, with all that Velcro, this thing is really easy to disassemble and fold away for another day.
This project appears in Geek Dad: Awesomely Geeky Projects and Activities for Dads and Kids to Share, from Gotham, available at most bookstores.