splash n swim Splash Catchers Net and Ball Game (Dollar Tree)

splash n swim Splash Catchers sitting on a Dollar Tree peghook in mesh packaging
With a modification or two, it's well worth the dollar investment. 

This will probably sound like an ad, but it’s just the honest truth: Dollar Tree is the perfect place to find fun ways to kill time over the hot summer months, especially if you have young kids, who tend to play one thing one time before losing interest in it forever. That’s one scenario (admittedly, of many) where that one dollar price point is perfect: low enough that it doesn’t feel like a waste if they don’t like it, but a decent enough investment to where you can actually find some quality products, if you know what to look for.

This kit includes two plastic “splash catchers” - which are just tennis-shaped plastic paddles with a net attached, instead of racquet strings - as well as a small ball, which is the soft kind that’s made to get wet. That makes it the perfect toy to play around sprinklers, pools, on the beach, or anywhere else that water might be around...although of course it can be enjoyed on dry land, too. We played it around our inflatable backyard pool that seems to have a slow leak because one side always starts drooping and leaking water out all over the place until we put more air in the entire thing, and had a pretty good time overall. 

Two drawbacks stand out to me, and they’re probably what you would have already expected: the plastic in the catchers are fairly weak, and the ball is so small, it tends to slip through the netting. Seriously, it’s a pretty common event to actually have the ball “caught”, only to have it slide through the netting and into the ground (or pool) below. Couldn’t they have made the netting a little bit tighter, or included a larger ball? Thankfully, we happened to have one lying around (that’s probably about five times the size) that's made from the same material, and that was left over from something else, which we use instead. However, that has merely led to some additional problems...

Since the larger ball is heavier (especially when wet) we face a couple other potential issues: the ball sometimes dislodges some of the netting, or in extreme cases, “breaks” the entire paddle. Thankfully, both of these things can be fixed - in the case of the former, the net can be threaded back through the sides of the paddle, and in the case of the latter, the paddle can be “snapped” back into place right at the handle - but the fact it happens at all, and with such frequency, means that there’s really no way to do anything “competitive” since you pretty much have to stop to fix something every time you catch it.

Really anything tougher than a light, underhanded throw is enough to knock the netting off; same with really high tosses...unless you’re in close quarters lightly tossing it to each other, then chances are good you’re going to have to keep fixing the netting. If you're looking to entertain a couple children, or to play with a child, this might be a good fit. But if you're looking to get in a game with your adult friends...well, you're unfortunately going to have to find something that costs more than $1, I'm afraid.

Overall: 5/10. With a larger ball, this set can be a lot of fun to play with, but as-is out of the packaging, it’s a little lackluster. The included ball is so small it frequently slips through the netting, and any amount of pressure seems to be enough to dislodge some of the netting from the catchers. With enough force, it’s even possible to dislodge the two-piece paddle part, requiring you to snap both pieces back into place. That means you’ll probably spend just as much time re-netting as you will playing...and that’s not a whole lot of fun. However, the idea is neat, and when it works, it’s a very cheap way to kill some time and have fun with the little ones. If you're just looking to entertain some kids, you might get away with it, but anyone older than that and chances are the hassles will outweigh the fun.