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Unplugged

Five must-have summer toys

Unplugged

No matter how exciting the prospect of a long, hot summer vacation might be, there comes a point where school suddenly doesn't look quite so bad. Right about mid-July, in fact. By now we're betting the kids are thoroughly fed up with TV, video games, books and outings, and have resorted to staring slack-jawed at the walls in boredom. And there's still over a month to go.

What's a parent to do but head to the toy store? Here are five new summer-suitable offerings that'll perk up even the most morose of vacation-weary youngsters.

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Razor Flash Rider 360

Big Wheels are yesterday's news. Here's a modern spin on the classic tricycle design -- and when we say spin, we really mean spin.

The Flash Rider's rear wheels are on casters, so you can pull all kinds of tricks with ease. Just like the Big Wheel, it's got a handbrake handle, though if you give this one a yank, it'll emit a cool shower of sparks as you go. Metal construction make it safe for kids (and adults, even) of up to 160lb. Although the price tag's on the high side, it's built to last.


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Blast Zone Tropical Splash

It might have a name that brings to mind a lurid, questionably-sourced, fruit-flavored beverage, but the Tropical Splash is in fact the water toy that'll make your yard the most popular on the block.

This inflatable slide comes with its own mains-powered blower, so there's no tedious pumping: just hook up the hose and let the kids go nuts. Those of them under about 8 years and 75 pounds, that is, so don't get any ideas trying to ride this thing yourself.

Got tons of space and a little extra cash? Then consider going even bigger with the Blast Zone Jet Stream Waterpark.


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Step2 Sand and Water Transportation Station

Can't get to the beach? Bring it to your back yard with this unique table, which boasts all the timeless, free-play fun of sand and water -- plus trains, boats, funnels, paddle-wheels, and all kinds of other accessories.

Have fun, get messy, play all day...and who knows, perhaps you might let the children have a turn, too.


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Nerf Super Soaker Lightning Storm

Top of the water-gun charts this year, the latest from the newly combined Nerf-Super Soaker line is a real doozie. Not only does it hold over a quart of water in its magazine, it's battery-powered, so no tedious pumping. Hold the trigger down and it'll happily keep up a stream until either the tank or the batteries run out. Combine that with the bundled shield and stock, and you've got a total water-blasting package that will make you the envy (and the terror) of your friends.


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Crayola Outdoor Colored Bubbles

Ain't science grand? Twenty years in the making at Crayola's labs, this range of vividly colored soap-like bubbles actually debuted last year, but the first wave of products caused a shower of complaints from parents when the dye proved not quite as washable as it probably should have been.

They're back for 2012, however, now sporting a new formula that's promised to be less permanent -- and reports from the field thus far are glowing. Grab some old clothes and give them a try.

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