Growing up in South Texas, my childhood summers were spent searching for ways to escape the blistering heat.
Being a child of the 80s and parents who (thankfully) limited my time in front of the TV and Nintendo, I frequently found myself outside in the scorching summer sun deriving new applications for the garden hose.
Then, on one of those hot days, Dad came home with a brightly colored box. It was an authentic, brand new Wham-O Slip ‘N Slide! Suddenly, all of my water-hose dreams had come true!
From that day on, when the summer cranked up the heat, we cranked up the backyard fun … and the water bill.
Or we would have … but, to my devastating chagrin, it fell apart on day two. Fortunately, Dad was the innovative sort and, after a short trip to the local hardware store, came make with the fixin’s for a more robust homemade version.
I say we take a page out of Dad’s book: It’s time to get our DIY on!
Sure, you can run out and buy some variation of the original Slip ‘N Slide; however, the retail versions are often too short, not very durable, and are WAY over-priced.
Let’s make something that will last all summer … or longer!
- Splash ‘n’ Crash Slip ‘n’ Slide
- Slip ‘n’ Slide FAQs
- For My Fellow Nerds – A Little Slip and Slide History
- Our Time Has Slipped and Slid Away
Splash ‘n’ Crash Slip ‘n’ Slide
- 2 packages of Zuru’s Bunch O’ Balloons (the more the better)
- 1 roll of industrial plastic sheeting (4-6 mil plastic drop cloths, painter’s tarp, or plastic tarp)
- Waterproof tape (or duct tape)
- 13 pool noodles
- Tear-free baby shampoo
- Hot glue gun with glue
- Extension cord
- Regular garden hose and lawn sprinkler (or sprinkler hose)
Find a grassy area in your yard and clear it of sticks and rocks. Prepare the plastic sheeting by stretching it out a minimum of 30 feet long and opening up the material at least 6 feet across. Trim to these dimensions.
Pro Tip: These dimensions will result in a slide 25′ long and 5′ wide. For wider and longer slides, adjust as desired.
Place the first 2 pool noodles along both sides of the length of the plastic sheeting 2.5 feet from the top of the slide.
Position an additional 5 noodles end-to-end along both sides of the length of the plastic sheeting. Ensure there is 1 foot of plastic left at the end of the slide not flanked by pool noodles.
Using the hot glue gun, apply a bead of glue 1 foot at a time along the top of the pool noodles and fold the edge of the plastic sheeting over and around the noodles as you go to ensure a good bond. Do this along the lengths of both sides.
Return to the first pool noodle with the glue gun. Apply a second bead of glue 1 foot at a time giving the pool noodle a half turn to fully wrap the noodle with the plastic.
Reinforce the bond by applying waterproof tape or duct tape to seal the seam where the plastic meets itself along the length of the slide. This will form a small “wall” along both sides of the slide that will contain the water balloons.
Using the 13th and final pool noodle and the 1 foot of extra plastic at the end of the slide, create an end cap by wrapping the plastic around the noodle and gluing it into place.
Flip the whole slide over so that the seams face the ground.
Pro Tip: Use landscape staples as anchor pins to secure the slide in place if it moves around too much. Drive the staples through the noodles, not the bottom of the slide.
Set up a lawn sprinkler nearby so that it provides a consistent water source and drizzle 10-12 oz. of baby shampoo over the whole thing. This will provide a friction-free sliding experience.
Pro Tip: You can run a sprinkler hose down each side of the slide as opposed to using a sprinkler to ensure more uniform coverage.
Fill 200+ water balloons and pour them onto the slide.
Recruit volunteers to be the first crash-test dummies!
Now, pull up a chair and a thoughtfully-stocked ice chest and watch your parenting prowess keep your kids entertained all afternoon and for days to come!
Slip ‘n’ Slide FAQs
What Plastic is Best for a Slip ‘n’ Slide?
The thicker the better. Nothing kills the slip ‘n’ slide vibe like having sharp pieces of grass and small sticks poke through thinner plastic giving you a good pinstriping when sliding at full speed.
We recommend 4-6 mil low-density heavy-duty polyurethane such as the type that we linked to in the supply list above.
Pro Tip: To prevent your slide from getting too hot in the summer sun, use white or clear plastic.
How Can I Make My Slip and Slide Slippery?
If you want to juice up your new homemade slip and slide, soap is key. Use a tear-free shampoo such as baby shampoo, baby soap, or bubble bath.
This won’t burn if it gets into the slider’s eyes and won’t damage your lawn like baby oil, olive oil, vegetable oil, petroleum jelly, or other common lubricants can.
Pro Tip: Using body wash, body soap, regular shampoo, or dish liquid soap to make your slide more slippery is potentially dangerous if it gets into someone’s eyes. Dish soap is particularly difficult to flush out … and it burns! Check the label and ensure it is a tear-free formula.
For those thinking about using any kind of oil: remember that oil does not rinse with water.
While it will surely make your slide more slippery, your kids will be coated with it after a few trips down your slide, it will almost permanently be one with their bathing suits, and it may harm your grass. Just a thought.
Finally, consider the space you have at the end of the slide. This extra slipperiness may result in sliders launching way past the end of the slide. Check your L.Z. (landing zone).
How Can I Make My DIY Slip and Slide More Fun?
If you want more than your basic slipping and sliding, here are a few ways to upgrade the experience:
- Provide some inflatable pool toys to slide on
- Set up plastic bowling pins at the end to crash into
- Arm the kids with water guns to shoot the slider as they glide down the slide
- Make the slide a part of an obstacle course
- Make two slip n’ slides and have races
Will a Slip ‘n’ Slide Damage My Lawn?
Anything left covering your grass for more than a day is going to suffocate the grass, causing it to turn yellow and, eventually brown. Plastic slip and slides in particular can heat up from the summer sun when water isn’t running over them and will actually cook the grass.
Also, the ground will become soft as the water soaks in and can become trampled from the repetitive pitter-patter of little feet enjoying it.
To avoid these hazards, relocate your slip ‘n’ slide after each use. When not in use, fold it up and store it somewhere off of the grass.
How Can I Keep My Slide From Moving Around?
If your slide tends to shift or crumple up when it’s being played on, the easiest way to secure it is with some landscape staples (landscape pins, garden staples).
Landscape staples are rounded on top so they don’t present a hazard when secured in place and make excellent anchor pins.
Tent stakes could work as well provided that the heads don’t stick up and present a hazard.
We recommend driving the staples through the pool noodles at the top and bottom of the slide and in 4-5 more places along the edges.
Do NOT place them in the main body of the slip and slide.
Is a Slip ‘n’ Slide Safe for Kids to Play On?
Supervision is always the key to safety when children are playing with water, especially if very young kids are in the mix.
Explain to older kids the importance of being careful around the little ones and the rules around slip and slides:
- One slider at a time
- Don’t stand or walk on the slide
- Don’t throw toys or other hard objects on the slide
- If someone seems to be hurt, check on them and inform an adult
Also, be sure to remove any potential collision hazards at the end of the slide in case a launch flies past that last pool noodle.
For My Fellow Nerds – A Little Slip and Slide History
It was the summer of 1960 in Lakewood, California. Robert Carrier, arrived home from work to find his kids soaking their painted driveway with the yard hose and body-sliding from the garage towards the street.
Not wanting to spoil their fun (or develop some serious Road Rash) he received a revolutionary epiphany.
Carrier worked as an upholsterer for a boat manufacturer and had access to the smooth, waterproof Naugahyde used to cover the seats in marine vehicles.
After procuring a 50-foot scrap of the stuff, he brought it home and went to work.
Over time, Carrier developed his idea from just laying the material over the driveway to stitching the edges to form irrigation tubes to which the hose could be attached.
With a quick turn of the spigot, water could flow along the tubes and leak through gaps in the stitching, lubricating the vinyl-coated surface.
Add children and you have the makings of a new sport: body-planing!
Ultimately, Carrier patented his idea and it was picked up by Wham-O, a toy manufacturing company founded in 1948 and credited with inventing the Frisbee, Hula Hoop, and Super Ball.
As is typical of big-name manufacturers, Wham-O bought the patent and traded out Carrier’s high-quality Naugahyde with a much thinner, lower-quality vinyl and shortened the length from 50 feet to 25.
This is the version my Dad brought home in 1985. Categorically, not as awesome.
Not only did the shortened length of the slide leave you in the muddy grass at the end if you launch yourself with a running start, but within a few uses, sticks, rocks, and stiff blades of dried grass poked through the cheap vinyl applying an irritating pin-striping to the unsuspecting slider.
Fast forward to the present day, many companies have tried to grab a slice of the slip and slide pie by pushing out horrifically cheap versions that essentially disintegrate with just a few uses.
Talk about a summer bummer.
I think we can do better.
Our Time Has Slipped and Slid Away
So there it is! The makings of your own slip and slide and one that will last all summer long!
Making your own slip and slide is a great way to get the kids unplugged, outside, and active during the summer. It’s a guaranteed good time for the whole family!
There are a few things to keep in mind if you make a slip and slide, though.
First, make sure you have a smooth, flat surface to work with. Otherwise, your slide will be bumpy and not very fun.
Second, use a hose and a sprinkler to keep it good and wet when sliding. This will help you stay slippery and prevent any accidents.
Third, use a shampoo that won’t burn if it gets in your eyes if you want to crank up the slippery.
Finally, be sure to supervise kids while they’re using the slide, and make sure everyone knows how to be safe.
And have the neighbors over! Fire up the grill! A day of slippin’ and slidin’ is always better with friends and good food!
Now, get out there!