January 13, 2013

Fun in the snow

Toys ranging from old-fashioned wooden sleds to plastic blocks for building snow forts lure children outdoors for winter activities.

By Meredith Goad mgoad@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Julie Mulkern and the other folks over at WinterKids couldn't be more thrilled with the snowy start to this winter, especially after the dramatically snowless season Maine had last year.

click image to enlarge

Winter Lightning sleds are the biggest seller for Paricon.

click image to enlarge

L.L. Bean’s Classic Dash Sled.

Additional Photos Below

Winter is Maine's longest and most sedentary season, which only helps fuel the state's still-rising rates of childhood obesity. Getting children outside to play in the snow can help combat the winter blahs and tear them away from their video games, computer screens and social media for a while.

"There's about 30 percent of kids in Maine alone who are already obese when they enter kindergarten," said Mulkern, executive director of WinterKids, an organization that promotes the development of healthy habits through outdoor winter activities. "It's a huge problem, and one that many different groups, including WinterKids, are trying to tackle."

Snow toys, from old-fashioned wooden sleds to plastic blocks for building snow forts, can be vehicles for luring children outside for some exercise and fun. Here's a look at some of the hottest toys available this winter. 

ROCKET LINKABLE SLED

L.L. Bean, $89

Scot Balentine, L.L. Bean's senior developer for outdoor gear, says his team got the idea for this sled while watching how children play on sledding hills.

"One of the things you see kids trying to do is tie the sleds together, whether they're snow tubes or inflatables or foam sleds," he said.

The sleds link together using a durable rubber strap. Just how many sleds can be linked together and still go fast depends on the slope and snow pack, but Balentine says a typical chain could include at least four or five sleds.

The product has a molded seat and foot wells to make your ride on the sled train as comfortable as possible. Woo woo! 

ZIPFY FREESTYLE MINI-LUGE SLED

Kohl's, $39.99

This feet-first sled has won a slew of "best of" awards from retailers, parents' groups and media. It comes in eight colors, and is designed for children ages 5 and up. The sled has a center control handle that looks something like a joystick, and you steer by leaning into turns.

It's lightweight, which makes carrying it back up the hill for another run easy. You can watch a video of how it works at zipfy.com

WINTER LIGHTNING

Paricon, $10-$15

Paricon in South Paris makes a lot more than the sled it is best known for, the famous Flexible Flyer. The company still makes old-fashioned wooden sleds with runners, but also manufactures plastic, foam and inflatable sleds.

Tom Morton, whose family founded the company, says that today the biggest seller is "Winter Lightning," a simple 48-inch plastic sled that sends you down the hill fast, even on fluffy snow, at an affordable price. 

SNO SMASH INFLATABLE AIR BOARD

Kohl's, $34.99

Why not root for your favorite team while flying down the sledding hill? This inflatable air board can be ordered with the New England Patriots logo. Sports logos are also available for the Sno Smash Inflatable Tube ($29.99). 

SNOW SCREAMER AND SKELRIDER FOAM SLEDS

Paricon, $39.99

Kids love foam sleds because they are lightweight and soft, and work well on packed powder. A foam sled is more expensive than a simple plastic sled, Tom Morton notes, "but it gives you a nice ride, and kids love the graphics."

Paricon is testing some new designs and shapes for its foam sleds and expects to release new models next winter. 

SONIC SNOW TUBE

L.L. Bean, $109

(Some styles, including this camouflage pattern, were recently on sale for $89.99.)

Scot Balentine, L.L. Bean's senior developer for outdoor gear, said the company decided some time ago not to make certain plastic and foam snow toys because of their impact on the environment and their lack of durability. The Sonic Snow Tube is more expensive, he said, but it will last longer and will continue to give families a good time over multiple runs.

(Continued on page 2)

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors


Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

The Sno Smash Inflatable Air Board with the New England Patriots logo.

click image to enlarge

A Rocket Linkable Sled, inspired by how children play on sledding hills.

click image to enlarge

The Snow Castle/Snowball Maker Set.

click image to enlarge

The Zipfy Mini-Luge Sled.

click image to enlarge

The Sonic SnowTube is “probably the fastest sled that we have,” L.L. Bean’s Scot Balentine says.

click image to enlarge

“Kids love the graphics” on foam sleds like this one, says Tom Morton of Paricon.

click image to enlarge

Tubbs Snowflake Snowshoes even come with stickers.

  


Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)