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When I was younger, I loved anything that had to do with water: water balloons, water slides, water guns, anything. I also loved playing army. One day, when I was about four, my mom brought home a toy that quickly became one of my all-time favorites, a toy that linked my two favorite seasonal pasttimes: water and war. It was a package of water balloons, but not just any water balloons. These were Water GrenadesTM.

Water Grenades are water balloons that roughly mimick the size, shape and color of a pineapple hand grenade. These nifty balloons have been around since at least the late 1980's and (judging by their multilingual packaging and manufacturer addresses) can be found in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, Germany, and Mexico. Over the years many immitators have sprung up, but the "real" Water Grenades are made by Pioneer National Latex under their Funsational brand. These authentic Water Grenades are made in the USA and carry an "official" seal. Water Grenades are most commonly found in small bags of 36, and larger packages are usually readily available. The bigger packages can be easily spotted because of their distinctive orange blister cards with grenade shaped blisters. Also included is an "inflation device" that screws onto outdoor water spigots and makes filling the balloons easier. I highly recommend the larger package, since it's a better value (about 60 balloons if I remember correctly) and the inflation device is pretty handy.

What makes Water Grenades better than average water balloons? For one thing, Water Grenades are made of thinner latex than regular balloons. This means that the balloon will almost always explode upon hitting its target. (Words cannot describe the sharp, stabbing pain brought on by taking a hit to the crotch with a water balloon that doesn't break.) A blessing in disguise is that Water Grenades are smaller than average balloons. Not only does this give something of a sense of realism, but it makes them easier to carry in large numbers. A plastic shopping bag from Wal-Mart will easily hold 10-15 fully loaded Water Grenades, more if the grenades aren't totally filled. Sure, Matthew from down the street might soak you with that basketball-sized generic water balloon he's been lugging around, but you can handily trump his rate of fire (and volume of water) with a salvo of Water Grenades. Finally, and perhaps most importantly in the eyes of children everywhere, is the fact that it looks like you're chucking a grenade at someone. Let's face it: without the olive drab coloring and shrapnel-like ribbing, a Water Grenade wouldn't be much to look at.

Although Water Grenades are undoubtedly the greatest water balloons ever made, they are not without fault. As previously mentioned, the latex that Water Grenades are made of is noticeably thinner than that used in most other water balloons. This can be both a blessing and a curse, as thinner latex means the balloon rarely survives being accidentally dropped. In an effort to preserve some of the realism of an actual grenade (since kids everywhere demand that their water balloons look and feel like real grenades), Water Grenades inflate in a rough pear shape. This may be great for realism, but it also limits the size and payload of the balloon. However, this usually isn't an issue since a large number of Water Grenades can be carried around by even the smallest kid. The neck of the balloon is quite narrow and tends to break when stretched over a large water faucet. Also, the neck is made to be as flush with the sides of the balloon as possible. This makes Water Grenades the hardest balloon of any type to seal with a knot. Although I had the baddest water balloon arsenal of any kid in the county, my fingertips were always red and sore from tying so many tiny knots.

Water Grenades can be found at fine retailers everywhere. If you can't find them in the toy department of your favorite store, try looking in the party supplies. (Water Grenades inflated with air or helium could add an interesting touch to a military-themed party). Since Water Grenades are a seasonal toy, they may be difficult to locate during the winter months...but who wants to throw a water balloon at someone in November? My local Wal-Mart, however, always seems to have Water Grenades in stock. Perhaps picking up a few packages in early spring might not be a bad idea, since Matthew and the gang will be raring to go come June 1st.

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