Water Balloon Alternatives

Fight Pollution without being a massive bummer.

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Let’s talk water balloons, people. They’re a super fun staple of American summer childhood, but also happen to be a pollution problem. They’re made primarily out of latex which, while technically biodegradable, will take years to fully break down. (That’s not to mention whatever other chemicals and dyes go into their production, which may never biodegrade.) When they break into tiny pieces on impact, those tiny pieces that find their way into our environment and the stomachs of marine life. Perhaps some people do track where every water balloon they throw lands and ensure they pick the little bits of broken plastic up off the ground, but walking around in the summer you see these little brightly colored bits of trash scattered around like the turning leaves in November. Only when water balloons flow into our livers and oceans, they don’t decompose into nutrient-rich soil that supports the beautiful circle of life, but float around mimicking sea life and being eaten by fish, turtles, and birds—killing these animals and pollute the entire ecosystem from the bottom of the food chain up. So. Time to find some alternatives.

Yes, doing the right thing can make us into bummers sometimes. No TV, no candy, and now no water balloons? I don’t think “being a bummer” is a good enough reason to continue supporting the pollution of the earth our children will spend the rest of their lives cleaning up. Still, just because we’re not throwing trash into rivers with wild abandon doesn’t mean we can’t have fun! I’ve compiled a list of a few, more eco-friendly ideas for having water fights and cooling off this summer. If you’ve discovered anything else yourself, please share it in the comments!

Consider:

a hose

Let your little one spray themselves and the garden with a hose on the “mist” setting. Let bigger kids just have at it and spray each-other! Of course, if you live somewhere where water resources are limited, this is super irresponsible, but especially if your garden needs watering anyways this is as fun a way to do it as any! I love these pocket hoses because they’re easier to maneuver (no kinking!) and store, but no need to go out and buy something new: an old leaky host will work just as well for this.

Natural sea sponges

This is a little…weird, but if your kids really want something wet to throw, try getting some sea sponges and a bucket of water. Soak them up, chuck them at the neighbors, run away screaming. All the fun, none of the plastic. (Try also looking for them at art supply stores or in the beauty isle of your local natural foods store.)

Spray bottles

Okay, these will likely really only satisfy little kids, but at least that’s something. Try re-using the plastic or metal spray bottles (glass seems inadvisable for this) that something else came in, or buy new ones. Our co-op sells them empty in the beauty isle.

kiddy pools

For the very crafty and space-blessed among us, I’ve always thought that following DIY instructions for a cedar hot tub, just with much lower walls and no wood stove, would make a great wading pool. For the rest of us, try making like your grandparents and just using a big dish bin.

Water squirters

They’re not the most eco friendly option out there, but when it comes to older kids who really just want to run around the block drenching each other, simple water squirters are a good option. They don’t have as many breakable parts as the fancier models, and aren’t shaped like guns which is important in my book. The downside is that they’re still plastic and they’re not recyclable, so consider them with care and try to find some second hand and/or pass them along when your children outgrow them.

Just go to the beach/river/pond

If you can. Let the kids splash in the water that nature blessed us with and make their own toys from shells and sand. Don’t forget to bring a bag to pick up litter while you’re there!

Learn more about the environmental impacts of balloons here.


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Editors note: This article has been revised to note the environmental impacts of balloons more correctly and specifically.

Willow WestwoodComment