Paddling pools buying guide

Get your summer off to a sizzling start with our guide to paddling pools. You can turn your outdoor space into an adventure playground with a themed design, or go for a traditional, round or square option. The age of your children and the space you have available are both factors that will determine the depth of water you require and the size of the pool.

Pop-up pools

A gray L-shaped sofa

Pop-up pools are sometimes called quick up or easy up pools because they need very little time or effort to assemble. With some models, you can simply unfold the rigid plastic pool from the packaging before setting it on the ground fully constructed.

Others may need partially inflating and filling with water, but this usually takes only minutes to complete and is perfect if you just want a cheap option that you only use a couple of times each summer. Though generally small in design, starting at a 1 metre diameter, you can find models up to 3 metres across that are ideal for larger families, get-togethers, or older children.

Tips for putting up pop-up pools

• Pop-up pools must be placed on flat, level ground, free of debris and sharp objects. Do not install the pool over concrete, asphalt or any other hard surface. Ensure the pool is placed in an open area, 2 metres away from any surroundings.

• Spread out the pool liner on the level ground.

• Inflate the top ring using a foot, hand or electric pump. NEVER use a high-pressure compressor. Inflate until reasonably firm but do not over-inflate as this will weaken the material and cause splitting.

• Place the hose into the pool, the pool will start to rise as it fills up. Ensure the pool is filled up to the correct level with no creases.

Inflatable pools

Inflatable pools are generally regarded as the traditional family paddling pool and are easily inflated and filled by blowing or pumping up. Typically featuring layers of inflatable rings, they do vary in terms of assembly time, taking up to an hour to inflate for sizes that reach 3 or more metres in length (electric pumps will reduce this time). They also have the most variety when it comes to design, ranging from shallow baby pools and smaller inflatable pools that are ideal for young children. You can even find themed kiddie pools with their favourite superheroes splashed over the base, castle-shaped pools or even pools in the style of pirate ships! Certain inflatable pools are large enough for the whole family.

Frame pools

Frame Pools

Frame pools are sturdier, longer-lasting options with a larger swimming area, ideal for families and groups of friends. The pools are made with a metal frame around the sides and are sometimes deeper, meaning smaller children can have a proper swim in the 59cm-deep models. The extra size of a frame pool is a big selling point, as they can stretch up to 4.5 metres across, giving a swimming pool feel. Watch out for age restrictions if you have children who span a range of age groups.

Situating your pool

When deciding where to situate your pool:

• Ensure you take into account the dimensions of the pool, once it has been inflated and filled.

• Place your pool on a level surface free of debris, with plenty of room around the pool to make it easy and safe to get in and out.

General pool care and storage

• Empty, clean and put away after each use.

• Store in frost-free conditions. Ensure your pool is protected from any sharp objects which could cause punctures.

• Some larger pools come with a filter pump to keep the water clean and a repair patch to mend small tears or punctures.

Hot tubs

Hot tubs

If you want something that’s more like a hot tub or a hard-wearing pool in your back garden, you can spend a bit more for extras. Hot tub pools are often constructed from hard-wearing materials like wood, but some inflatable paddling pools can also have a pump attached to produce their own bubbles. These are inevitably more expensive options, and you will need to consider if you have space in your garden for something that is more like a permanent garden feature.

Practical tips for paddling pool use

You might want to think about a few practical concerns before choosing your paddling pool:

  • Firstly, check for water restrictions in your area - paddling pools are not included in hose pipe bans, but your local council can issue drought orders that may affect how much you can use your pool, if at all, during hot summers.
  • Some pools come with built-in sun shades, which can be very useful in protecting young children’s skin in the height of summer. If your pool doesn’t have a shade attached, however, you can use a windbreak or tent.
  • Be aware that pools with frames or heavier materials will cause discolouration on your lawn, as they are likely not to be moved as much.
  • When buying a sturdy inflatable pool, check the size and air capacity, as it might be a good idea to buy an electric pump, or filter pump, rather than blowing it up by hand pump or mouth.
  • You might also want to look at pool covers, as paddling pools that are left out overnight, or for a few days, tend to gather leaves and other debris on the water’s surface or in the base.
  • Think about how much water is likely to be splashed on your lawn during play – if you have any garden areas at risk of flooding, it might be wise to downscale or buy a pool with more rigid sides to reduce the overflow.
  • While you won’t need any serious chemicals to treat paddling pool water, if you’re going to be using it frequently, you can buy water treatments to keep the water from getting dirty or cloudy. Many of these are chlorine-free.

Making the most of your paddling pool with accessories

Paddling pools can be tons of fun, with some being more like miniature water parks, featuring built-in slides and extra inflatable toys.

Pool accessories don’t have to be fancy or expensive, as children love the various games and activities you can do in and around water, and play can be as simple as directing the hose pipe into the pool. Some paddling pools even come with their own sprinkler toys or you can make your own water cannons by piercing the top of a plastic bottle.

Another idea is to introduce a few plastic play balls and other toys for a game of catch. Many people use a dry paddling pool as a ball pool for indoor play during the winter months, meaning you can get more year-round use. Objects with different textures such as sponges also work a treat in getting kids to engage with the pool and the water itself is a great source of creativity, as you can squirt a little bubble bath in to make the pool froth up, or even use coloured dyes for a fun party idea.

If you really want to extend the pool’s play zone, why not get plastic mats that you can wet with the hose pipe and use as a slide? You can even add a boogie board into the mix for more excitement!