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The 12 best paddling pools for children

Paddling pools are an excellent way to keep kids cool, content and entertained during the warmer months. Here are the 12 best children's paddling pools to buy this year, as recommended by parents.

By Mumsnet HQ | Last updated May 20, 2022

children playing in paddling pool

While British summertime is far from predictable, an outdoor paddling pool is one of the best outdoor toys you can have in your armour ready when the sun finally makes an appearance – something which many parents of toddlers and young children will attest to.

Far easier than taking them to the beach, cheaper than taking them to the local swimming pool, and with the ability to entertain kids of all ages,  a decent paddling pool can easily last until your children outgrow it.

It’s important not to wait for the heatwave to make an appearance, however, as paddling pools tend to sell out quickly with significant demand. Instead, buy your paddling pool in advance, stash it away in the shed, and reap the benefit of happy kids this summer - before smugly watching others squabble over the last three ring pools left in Asda. 

Whether you're after a smaller sized first paddling pool for babies and toddlers, a fun play pool with inflatable accessories or a larger sized pool the whole family can enjoy together, we've done the legwork so you don't have to, bringing you the low down on the best paddling pools for toddlers and children.

How we chose our recommendations

Recommendations from real Mumsnet users

Mumsnetters know only too well how a good quality paddling pool can provide hours of entertainment during the summer months, so first up, we headed to the Mumsnet forums to read about the wealth of genuine real-life experiences - the paddling pools Mumsnetters have bought and loved with their families. We researched the features that Mumsnetters felt mattered most when purchasing paddling pools for their children of all ages. We also looked out for any bad experiences, including the paddling pools they found hard to inflate, that burst easily or were generally of poor quality. 

Expert opinions

We want to ensure that the products we recommend are fit for purpose and good value for money, so we researched the bestselling paddling pool brands such as Intex, Chad Valley and Bestway, to ensure they were well regarded and trusted within the industry. We also considered advice from experts surrounding paddling pool hygiene and the steps involved in keeping a paddling pool clean on a more long-term basis. 

Authentic consumer reviews

Finally, we trawled through a significant number of online reviews on retailer sites such as Argos, Amazon, Asda and Smyths Toys to research wider consumer experiences of the paddling pools on our shortlist, looking out for any criticism, weaknesses or factors you may want to consider when selecting the right paddling pool for your family. 

Based on our findings, here are the best paddling pools you can buy today. 

1. Best overall paddling pool - Chad Valley Rectangular Kids Paddling Pool

Chad Valley Rectangular Kids Paddling Pool

Price: £30 | Buy now from Argos 

We have the 6ft Chad Valley one from Argos. Really pleased with it, it's a great size and super sturdy. There are two separate parts to the walls that you can blow up separately. So for older kids, you blow up both, but for tots, we only blow up the lower one so they can step in and out.” (Recommended by Mumsnet user ElspethFlashman)

With plenty of room for siblings or a small group of friends to splash around together, this pool may look simple in size and shape, but it is guaranteed to bring a lot of fun into your family days at home this summer.

Made from heavy-duty, robust vinyl with extra sturdy walls, it’s strong enough to cope with lively kids jumping in and out on repeat and unlike some pools which children can quickly outgrow, it’s ideal for siblings of a variety of different ages to enjoy together. 

The Chad Valley Rectangular Pool comes with two interconnecting nozzles for quick and easy inflation, so you can spend less time prepping and more time splashing. It’s worth noting however that you will need to purchase or borrow an electric pump to inflate this paddling pool if you don’t already have one.

Pros

  • Strong and sturdy sidewalls
  • Room for siblings and friends to play together 
  • Excellent value for money

Cons

  • Requires a pump to inflate (not included)
  • Brand states recommended age is six plus due to the potential depth, but you may feel comfortable supervising younger children with just one ring inflated 

Key specs

  • Age suitability: Ages 6+
  • Size: 7ft
  • Assembly: Minimal assembly - air pump required 
  • Drainage plug: Yes 
  • Capacity: 400L 
  • Max user weight: Unspecified

2. Best budget paddling pool: Intex John Adams Sunset Glow Pool

Intex John Adams Sunset Glow Pool

Price: £11 | Buy now from Amazon

If you’re keen to treat the kids to a paddling pool this summer but are trying to manage your spending in the light of constant price rises (aren’t we all!),  then this Intex Sunset Glow Pool offers plenty of fun for your kids without the eye-watering price tag. 

At just £11, this multicoloured, three-ring paddling pool is suitable for children aged three years and above and even comes with a lightly padded inflatable floor to provide extra comfort whilst your children sit and splash. Ideal for helping the kids cool down when the temperatures rise, the Intex Sunset Glow Pool can also double up as an outdoor ball pit on cloudier days. 

Pros 

  • Engaging multicoloured design
  • Soft inflatable floor for additional comfort

Cons

  • Only suitable for younger children due to size

Key specs

  • Age suitability: 3 years+ 
  • Size: 114cm x 25cm
  • Assembly: Inflate via mouth or pump (not included) 
  • Drainage plug: Yes
  • Capacity: 136 litres
  • Max user weight: 14 kilograms 

3. Best family paddling pool: Chad Valley 8.5ft Family Swim Centre

Chad Valley 8.5ft Family Swim Centre

Price: £55 | Buy now from Argos 

It's great and still gets used every year. My daughter is 11 and plays in it whenever the weather is good enough. We had a cheap plastic slide that she (and sometimes her older brothers) used to slide down into it.” (Brand tried and tested by Mumnetter Trillis)

This paddling pool is made by Chad Valley, the same brand as our overall best paddling pool choice, but with an added extra benefit - it’s big enough for the grown-ups to get into as well!  

The Chad Valley 8.5ft Family Swim Centre inflates in just 13 minutes using an air pump. Filled just 23 minutes later, you, your other half and the kids can all jump in together, cooling off or having an energetic splash about depending on your mood. 

With sturdy walls that are strong enough for you to lean back and relax, this robust pool also comes with quick deflation valves, making deflating and packing it away a doddle when the rain (inevitably) comes. 

Pros

  • Not just for the kids - big enough for the whole family to enjoy 
  • Quick to inflate and fill 

 Cons

  • Doesn’t come with a cover, so you may wish to purchase one if you intend on keeping it inflated for several successive days 

Key Specs

  • Age Suitability: 6 years plus
  • Size: 8.5ft 
  • Assembly: Pump (approx 13 minutes inflation time) 
  • Drainage plug: Yes 
  • Capacity: 950L 
  • Max user weight: Unspecified

4. Best paddling pool with seats: Intex 6475NP - Inflatable Swim Center Family Lounge

intex family paddling pool

Price: £40.99 | Buy now from Amazon

I liked the look of the Intex 7.5 round family pool with chairs.” (Considered by Mumsnetter PumpkinP)

“We have this one - felt a bit like I was on holiday and I loved the cupholders! My cousin spotted it on my socials and instantly ‘popped’ around for catch up (just happening to bring her bikini with her!)” (Reviewed by Mumsnet Writer Lucy)

A paddling pool that's likely to appeal just as much to the adults as the kids, the Intex Swim Center Family Lounge is ideal for relaxation. With four integrated inflatable chairs with backrests and two handy cup holders; it’s a great way to cool down at the end of a hot and stuffy day at work. 

A fun choice for a group of friends who want to chat as much as they do play, it’s also spacious enough for younger children to enjoy the water whilst parents simultaneously splash and supervise. 

Pros

  • Four integrated seats with backrests
  • Spacious 

Cons

  • Technically the seats aren’t recommended for adults weighing over eight stone, but many adult reviewers have used and enjoyed them 

Key specs

  • Age suitability: 3 years plus 
  • Size: W 229.0cm x D 229cm x H 66.0cm
  • Assembly: 5-7 minutes with electric pump 
  • Drainage plug: Yes
  • Capacity: 990L 
  • Max user weight: Seats maximum weight 8 stone 

5. Best baby paddling pool with sunshade: Chad Valley Crab Baby Ball Pit and Paddling Pool

Chad Valley Crab Baby Ball Pit and Paddling Pool

Price: £15 | Buy now from Argos 

I got one that looks like a crab with a roof! Great for a ball pond too.” (Type of paddling pool recommended by Mumsetter furryelephant)

If you want to introduce your child to a paddling pool for the very first time, it’s important to choose a pool that’s relatively small and shallow, and ideally, one that offers some protection from the midday sun on hotter days.

Suitable for children aged one or above, the Chad Valley Crab Baby Ball Pit and Paddling Pool is a versatile choice that can be used as either a baby paddling pool or a ball pit/play pod.

With a super cute crab character design, this adorable pool comes with an inflatable canopy to help provide some welcome shade from the sun. 

Pros

  • Multipurpose 
  • Shallow for safe supervised splashing

Cons

  • The sunshade is not removable, unlike an older ELC version which has since been discontinued   

 Key specs

  • Age suitability: 1 year plus 
  • Size: Size L117, W101.6, D71cm.
  • Assembly: Around 6 minutes to inflate with an air pump (not included) 
  • Drainage plug: Yes 
  • Capacity: 37L
  • Max user weight: Unspecified

6. Best paddling pool for toddlers/preschoolers: Chad Valley 8.5ft Aquarium Kids Paddling Pool - 308L

Chad Valley 8.5ft Aquarium Kids Paddling Pool - 308L

Price: £30 | Buy now from Argos 

It’s no secret that toddlers are full of energy, so if you’re looking for a paddling pool with lots of extras to keep them entertained, this one comes with the addition of a miniature inflatable slide, which toddlers will adore climbing before slipping and splashing into the shallow water below.

The Aquarium Kids Paddling Pool also comes with a whole host of portable inflatable accessories, including a clownfish, a dolphin who can be propped onto the sides and an octopus hoopla game, where children can test their skills by throwing stars onto his tentacles.

Whilst you’re unlikely to find a great deal of actual swimming taking place in this pool, it’s a great choice for parents who want to safely supervise younger children and keep them cool as they play and burn off some energy outdoors. Due to its shallow depth, however, your children are likely to outgrow this paddling pool fairly quickly.  You may find it can also fill up with grass pretty rapidly as your children repeatedly get in and out whilst using the slide.

Pros

  • Includes a slide with inflatable steps
  • Lots of inflatable ‘extras’
  • A shallow pool for younger children  

Cons

  • Children will quickly outgrow 

Key specs

  • Age suitability: 2 years plus 
  • Size: H86, W241, D260cm
  • Assembly: Approx 7 minutes to inflate with an air pump (not included) 
  • Drainage plug: Yes 
  • Capacity: 308L 
  • Max user weight: 45kg 

7. Best activity paddling pool: Intex Dinoland Play Centre

Intex Dinoland Play Centre

Price: £49.99 | Buy now from Amazon 

Whilst this pool doesn’t offer the depth of some more traditional paddling pools, there are so many elements to the Intex Dinoland Play Centre that it can literally keep kids entertained for hours.

From mastering the Dino Hoops to rolling balls down the Volcanic Ball Roller Game, you can even attach the garden hose to the removable arch to create a delicate water spray as they whizz down the slide.

Intex has clearly put some real thought into ensuring this pool is comfortable for younger kids too. We love the padded landing mat at the bottom of the slide to prevent bruised or bumped bottoms! 

Pros

  • Water spray arch
  • Padded landing mat at the bottom of the slide.

Cons

  • Children will quickly outgrow 
  • Shallow

Key specs

  • Age suitability: 2 years and above 
  • Size: 48 x 41 x 17 centimetres
  • Assembly: Electric Pump required
  • Drainage plug: Yes 
  • Capacity: 280L 
  • Max user weight: Unspecified 

8) Best aqua slide: TP Toys Aqua Slide

TP Toys Aqua Slide

Price: £29.99 | Buy now from Amazon 

They are brilliant. Especially with lots of shower gel.”’ (Recommended by Mumsnetter Theoistfit

We used to have one when the kids were younger and they loved it (as did their footy teams and other friends!). Go for it!” (Rated by Mumsnet user Allthebestnamesareused)

A childhood rite of passage; gone are the days of placing a groundsheet covered in washing up liquid on the hill at the end of your garden and whizzing across it in your cozzie. These days you can pick up Aqua Slides that are far more fit for purpose!

 A six-metre long heavy-duty silicone slide, the TP Toys Aqua Slide can be placed at the base of a traditional slide, positioned to run down a hill or simply laid across the grass to create the perfect wet and slippery surface for stacks of silly sliding.  

With lawn anchors included to hold the slide securely into place, simply attach it to the garden hose and set the kids a challenge for who can slide the furthest. 

Pros

  • Quick and easy set-up
  • Multi-use 

Cons

  • Be prepared for your grass to get a bit muddy!  

Key specs

  • Age suitability - 3-12 years 
  • Size - ‎600 x 100 x 0.2 cm
  • Assembly - Minutes 
  • Drainage plug - No
  • Capacity: n/a 
  • Max user weight: Not specified 

9. Best fun paddling pool: Sunnylife Kiddy Paddling Pool Unicorn

Sunnylife Kiddy Paddling Pool Unicorn

Price: £45 | Buy now from JoJo Maman Bebe 

A craze that doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon, if like many parents you’ve got a little one who’s unicorn obsessed, they’ll certainly be pleased to see this sparkly rainbow unicorn arrive in their garden this summer. 

Whilst you are paying a premium for the unicorn character (on what is essentially a relatively small paddling pool), the Sunnylife Kiddy Paddling pools offer an integrated canopy to provide some shade from the sun and can also be used indoors as a ball pit on cooler days. With a lion and shell option to choose from too, they even have a super squidgy inflatable floor for extra comfort.

Pros

  • Sunshade included 
  • Padded floor for comfort 
  • Can be used inside and outside 

Cons

  • Costly for the size 
  • The canopy is not removable  

 Key specs

  • Age suitability: From 12 months 
  • Size: W100 x H115cm
  • Assembly: Not specified
  • Drainage plug: Yes 
  • Capacity: 31L 
  • Max user weight: Not specified 

10) Best hard framed paddling pool: Bestway SteelPro Round Frame Swimming Pool 12ft

Bestway SteelPro Round Frame Swimming Pool 12ft

Price: £154.99 | Buy now from Amazon

“Look for the rigid frame pools. You can get rectangular but I think the 12ft round steel one would be perfect. Plenty of room and you can still afford to get a ladder and possibly a solar heating panel too. Set up a foot bath to go under the ladder so they don't walk dirt into it and stay on top of the chlorine levels with a floating multi-function tablet and dispenser and you will only need to top it up every few weeks.” (Recommended by Mumsnet user ChiefBabySniffer)

Of all parent’s bugbears around paddling pools, wasting water, sodden grass and having to constantly refill and freshen up the water are pretty high up the list.  

If you’re looking for a pool that can become more of a permanent fixture in the garden (whatever the weather), and don’t want to consider a hot tub, the Bestway SteelPro Round Framed Swimming Pool offers a significant 12ft round space for your family to swim in the comfort of your back garden.

With strong robust side panels that are puncture and corrosion-resistant, this is a high quality above ground pool that despite its substantial size, is relatively affordable and easy to assemble with no tools required. Whilst it does come with a filter system to help keep the water clean and hygienic, we recommend you also invest in the Bestway pool cover to prevent unwelcome bugs or wildlife from going for a dip.  

Pros

  • Can stay up as a more permanent feature (all seasons) 
  • Rigid, durable side panels 
  • Filter system included

Cons

  • The cover is not included

Key specs

  • Age suitability: Unspecified  
  • Size: 3.66 x 3.66 x 0.76 metres
  • Assembly: Seal and lock (no tools required) 
  • Drainage plug: Yes 
  • Capacity: 6,473L
  • Max user weight: Unspecified

11) Best quick inflate paddling pool: Bestway BW57392 Fast Set Swimming Pool, 6'x20 for Kids

Bestway BW57392 Fast Set Swimming Pool, 6'x20 for Kids

Price: £20.49 | Buy now from Amazon

We have a Bestway one where you just pump up the top ring, then the rest stands up as the water goes in.” (Recommended by Mumsnetter CacenCrunch)

Are your kids the impatient sort or do you tend to leave getting the paddling pool out until the very last minute? If so, you’re going to want a pool that’s quick and easy to inflate, allowing you to fill it up and jump in as quickly as humanly possible.

This Bestway Fast Set Swimming Pool is made from durable, puncture-resistant material and takes just 10 minutes to set up, simply needing the top ring inflating before self-standing as the pool is filled.  

Pros 

  • Quick and easy to inflate 
  • Easy to pack away and store

Cons

  • Some reviewers had trouble getting this pool to stand up correctly, although this may be down to user error 

Key specs

  • Age Suitability: Unspecified
  • Size: 1.83 m x 51 cm
  • Assembly: 10 minutes to inflate with a pump 
  • Drainage plug: Yes 
  • Capacity: 940L
  • Max user weight: Unspecified

12. Best larger sized paddling pool: Bestway 57266-19 Round Kids Inflatable Paddling Pool 10ft

Bestway 57266-19 Round Kids Inflatable Paddling Pool 10ft

Price: £59.97 | Buy now from Amazon

We've just bought our second Bestway one, the first one we'd had for a good few years and was 8ft we've just bought the 10ft one. It didn't take that long to set up but the filling up does take quite a while. It comes with a fitted pump and a cover and we have all of the cleaning stuff so once it's up it stays up and filled for quite a while.”(Reviewed by Mumsnetter ohtheholidays) 

Another vote for the Bestway one. Get the one with the pump and filter, and get some chlorine and dip strips. I test it once a week and just top up chlorine as needed. Very low maintenance.” (Recommended by Mumsnet user DeltaAlphaDelta

With the quick and easy inflation benefits of the Bestway model above, this substantial 10ft paddling pool comes with the addition of a filter pump system and built-in drain valve to keep your water clean whilst removing dirt and debris such as grass and bugs from the water. 

Made from robust heavy-duty three-ply TriTech material, this pool is easy to look after and maintain, but you may also want to can pick up a 12ft pool cover for additional peace of mind. 

Pros

  • Substantial size for the whole family
  • Pump and filter system included

Cons

  • Cover not included 

Key specs

  • Age suitability: Unspecified
  • Size: 3.05 x 3.05 x 0.76 metres
  • Assembly: 10 minutes, self standing
  • Drainage plug: Yes 
  • Capacity: 3,638 Litre
  • Max user weight: Unspecified

What to look for when choosing a paddling pool 

Paddling pools have come a long way in recent years and have now evolved into full-blown entertainment centres for children of all ages. But there are a few things to think about before you buy one.

  • Safety - According to child safety experts at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), young children can drown in as little as 5cm of water. When it comes to using a paddling pool, parents must supervise children at all times, and make sure the pool is drained and packed away after use.

  • Your child’s age - Checking age suitability is vital when choosing a paddling pool. This will not only determine the size of the pool you end up buying (you don't want to get one that's too small for your children or which they will soon grow out of) but also general safety. Consider whether you have siblings of different ages who are going to want to share.

  • Paddling pool size - Paddling pools are a great way for kids to have fun at home, but you'll need to consider how much outdoor space you actually have before investing. There are a range of paddling pools to suit all kinds of spaces, whether that's a small terrace or a sprawling garden.

  • Garden suitability - Consider whether you have a suitable space to lay your paddling pool. Ideally, they should be on a flat surface, but you may want to avoid putting one on the patio in case your child was to slip or fall. A flat lawn is ideal, but if your garden is on a slope, you may prefer to take advantage of the benefit of gravity with a water slide instead. 
  • Paddling pool lining - Budget-friendly paddling pools can be a great option for those not wanting to (ahem) splash out, but cheaper products often mean low-quality materials that are more likely to tear. For babies and toddlers, this might not be a problem, but for older children likely to play boisterously in the water, you may need something a little more sturdy that won't fall apart after a handful of uses.

  • Versatility - If you want to get the best value for money, you may want to consider pools that have multiple uses or additional accessories, such as the ability to use as an indoor ball pit. Does the paddling pool come with any extras such as inflatables or slides? These can often prolong the play and work out better value for money, particularly for younger children. 

  • Sunshade - For younger children and babies, you may want to consider a paddling pool that offers the addition of a canopy or sunshade, helping to protect them from the sun’s harmful UV rays. It’s also worth remembering you should  still avoid the midday sun where possible and regularly reapply sunscreen when your children are getting wet.

  • Do you need a pump? - These days, whilst a small number of paddling pools can be blown up via mouth, it's far more efficient (and much less tiring) to use a pump. If you don’t already have one, you may need to factor this into the purchase price. 

  • Set up and ease of emptying - How easy is the pool to set up and inflate? Whilst the majority do, not all paddling pools come with a drainage valve, which can make them quite challenging to empty. It’s worth not only considering the speed of inflation but also how long the pool takes to fill and how simple it is to pack away and store once you’re done.

  • Keeping it clean - If you’re planning on reusing the water, or keeping the pool up for a more significant amount of time, it’s worth considering how you will keep it clean, hygienic and free from debris. Do you need to invest in a cover, or does it come with a filter and pump? 

What size paddling pool should I choose?

The size of the paddling pool you purchase will very much depend upon who is going to be using it. Whilst for a baby or toddler a shallow small round pool such as the Chad Valley crab pool is often the best bet, you may want to invest in a larger, deeper pool for older children or for the whole family to enjoy. Larger pools do however take much longer to fill, so you may find on a really hot day the smaller size is perfectly sufficient.

What types of paddling pools are available?

As you can see from our list of best paddling pools, there are lots of different styles of paddling pools to choose from. The most obvious types include:

  • Small 3 ring inflatables (with or without a sun canopy)  - best suited for babies and toddlers 
  • Large, deep paddling pools - coming in a variety of sizes (round or rectangular)  but normally suitable for siblings and families to share. 
  • Play pools - Normally shallow, these paddling pools offer additional accessories such as inflatables, slides or water sprays.
  • Solid shell paddling pools - Designed to be a more permanent fixture in your garden, these more solid-walled paddling pools often come with a filter and pump to keep your water free from dirt and debris. 

Do paddling pools come with a pump and repair kit?

Most paddling pools do not come with a pump (some do!), so check you already have one before promising your children an afternoon in their brand-new pool. If you don't own a pump, they can be bought for as little as £5.

Does your pool also come with a repair kit? After all, paddling pools can puncture, so having tools to hand for a quick fix is always useful. The majority of the pools on our list come with a repair patch included, but for extra peace of mind, look out for hard-wearing puncture-free materials to ensure your paddling pools last the test of time. 

What age can babies go in a paddling pool?

Officially, there is no specific minimum age at which you can use a paddling pool with a baby, however, your child must be supervised at all times. Many paddling pools are recommended for babies aged one year or above, but you may wish to dip your babies' feet in and allow them to splash in the water. 

It’s worth remembering to stay in the shade and avoid the midday sun due to babies’ sensitive skin and carefully consider the water temperature, ensuring it’s not too hot or too cold. 

What temperature should a paddling pool be?

For a baby under three months, 32 degrees is recommended, but even older babies can lose heat very quickly.

Test the water yourself to make sure it feels warm and don’t let them stay in too long at one time. About 20 minutes is ample.

Have plenty of warm towels to hand too so you can get your baby dry and dressed quickly afterwards.

How to empty a paddling pool

The best way to empty a paddling pool is by using a garden hose.

Submerge your hose in the water until it fills completely, leaving no air bubbles. Pinch each end of the hose so that no water seeps out.

While still pinching, take one end of the hose out of the water, carry it to the appropriate drainage location, and then release your fingers so that the water drains out.

How to clean a paddling pool

Once all the water has been drained out, get rid of any surplus water by wiping the pool down with a rag or towel.

Use a cleaning solution (this must be at least one part bleach and five parts water, or equal parts vinegar and water, if you're making it yourself) to clean the sides of the pool. Use a scrubbing brush or broom to make this easier.

Bacteria and algae can create slippery sections, so make sure you pay particular attention to those when cleaning.

Once cleaned, quickly rinse the paddling pool with a high-pressure hose.

What's the best paddling pool to buy?

You’ll need to pick a pool that’s suitable for the age of your children and unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all option here.

But we think the best paddling pools to buy for families with kids aged six and above are the Chad Valley Rectangular Paddling Pool (for the kids only) or the Chad Valley Family Swim Centre (for the whole family). They will last a good few years, feel really robust and are quick to fill. Almost instant fun for a gang of school-aged kids on a hot summer’s afternoon.

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