Get your summer off to a sizzling start with our guide to paddling pools and turn your outdoor space into an adventure playground with a themed design or purchase 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.
Types of paddling pool
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 one metre diameter, you can find models up to three metres across that are more suitable for larger families, gatherings, or older children.
Inflatable pools are generally regarded as the traditional family paddling pool and they require blowing or pumping up to use. 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 three 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 to themed kiddie pools with their favourite superheroes splashed over the base, castle-shaped pools or even pools in the style of pirate ships!
Frame pools more sturdy, long-lasting option, pools that are made with a metal frame around the sides sometimes offer more depth, meaning smaller children can have a proper swim in the 59cm-deep models. The extra size often appeals with frame pools, as they can stretch up to four and a half metres across giving a swimming pool feel. Watch out for age restrictions if you have children that span a range of age groups.
If you want something that’s more like a hot tubs 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 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 idyllic 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 prudent 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 clouded. Many of these are chlorine-free.
Making the most of your paddling pool with accessories
There’s often a lot of scope for fun with paddling pools, 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 – especially good if you have any boogie boards to hand?