The 12 best paddling pools for children

06 May 2021

three children playing in a paddling pool

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

While British summertime is far from predictable, an outdoor paddling pool is one of the best outdoor toys you can have in your arsenal – as parents of both toddlers and young children will attest to.

It's easier than taking them to the beach, cheaper than taking them to the swimming pool, and a decent one will last until they outgrow it.

We've done the legwork so you don't have to, trawling the Mumsnet forums for recommendations from parents as well as bestseller lists and other expert review sites.

And the results are in. Here are the best paddling pools for toddlers and children.

1. Best overall paddling pool: Chad Valley Family Swim Centre

“I recommend the Chad Valley Family Swim Centre Pool. At 9ft and 950 litres, it’s ideal for six- to nine-year-olds.”

1. Best overall paddling pool: Chad Valley Family Swim Centre

This one's big enough for multiple children to splash around in all at once, and even for a couple of adults to lie side by side to cool down. It’s super sturdy, with extra-wide walls and should stand up to even the most exuberant kids on a hot day.

It holds a whopping 950 litres and its depth means it’s not suitable for under-threes but, for older children, the Chad Valley will make a great addition to any garden.

When it comes to assembly, this one takes 13 minutes to inflate and 23 minutes to fill. It doesn’t come with a pump but it does have quick-deflation valves, which makes it much quicker to put away at the end of a garden paddling session.

Alternatively, if you want to supervise your smaller children while they take a dip, you could consider Chad Valley's smaller 400L model instead.

Need to know

  • Age: 6+
  • Dimensions: 262 × 175 × 51cm
Buy now from Argos

2. Best budget paddling pool: Intex Crystal Blue Three-Ring Paddling Pool

“Absolute bargain!”

2. Best budget paddling pool: Intex Crystal Blue Three-Ring Paddling Pool

At less than £8 (less than the price of a round of ice creams in many seaside towns!), you really can’t go wrong with this paddling pool from Intex.

Because it’s not too tall, it’s ideal for younger children to sit in and it’s big enough for a couple of young 'uns to splash in together, with a few toys thrown in too.

This pool doesn’t have any bells or whistles, but it blows up easily, squishes down for easy storage and does exactly what it says on the tin.

If you’re looking for a cheap and cheerful place for your child to splash safely or a budget paddling pool for holidays, this is ideal.

Need to know

  • Age: 2+ years
  • Dimensions: 114.3 × 2.5 × 25.4cm
Buy now from Amazon

3. Best family paddling pool: Summer Escapes Octagonal Family Pool

“We got this paddling pool the other day and started using it yesterday. I just left the water overnight and we’re using again today.”

3. Best family paddling pool: Summer Escapes Octagonal Family Pool

A great choice for family fun in the garden. At nine feet wide, there’s more than enough room for you all, but it’s not going to take over your entire lawn. We like the traditional octagonal shape too.

This generously sized pool takes 1,806 litres of water but, with its three double-intake air chambers, takes only 15 minutes to inflate using an electric pump. It then takes around 20 minutes to fill.

The cup holders are a nice addition and very welcome on warm summer days when you want a cool drink close to hand.

The octagonal shape seats two adults and three children with ease – and more if it’s just children – which is perfect for both splashing and relaxing all summer long

Need to know

  • Age: 6+
  • Dimensions: 279 × 279 × 56cm
Buy now from Amazon

4. Best paddling pool with seats: Intex Family Lounge Pool

“I bought this one a couple of weeks ago and it's great.”

4. Best paddling pool with seats: Intex Family Lounge Pool

Want a paddling pool the whole family will love? Intex's Family Lounge Pool could be the ideal choice.

With four built-in seats with back rests, extra-wide walls and two drink holders, this family-sized pool is suitable for children aged three and over and idea for parties for older children, with a cool hot-tub vibe about it.

With a couple of adults sitting in the seats, there’s still plenty of room for kids to play in the water.

When it’s time to put it away, there’s a drain plug in the floor of the pool that saves you the bother of upending the entire pool, and it folds completely flat for easy storage.

Need to know

  • Age: 3+
  • Dimensions: 229 × 229 × 66cm

Price: £45.99

Buy now from Amazon

5. Best baby paddling pool: JoJo Maman Bébé Pop-Up Paddling Pool

“Mine loved paddling pools from six months. But all children need to be closely supervised around water, and always make sure you empty the pool immediately after use.”

5. Best baby paddling pool: JoJo Maman Bébé Pop-Up Paddling Pool

Suitable from nine months, this pop-up paddling pool from JoJo Maman Bébé is ideal for introducing babies and toddlers to water.

It’s just the right size for your child to sit in and splash happily, with enough room for a boat or two and a watering can.

It can be assembled instantly (music to any parent's ears), and is made from a durable fabric with UPF 50+ protection for those particularly hot days. The hood will shade your little one from the sun.

The design is simple but works really well. It pops up in seconds and for storage and, when not in use, it can be folded down into a handy 4cm carry bag – brilliant for slinging in the car when you’re off to grandparents’ houses or on holiday.

Need to know

  • Age: From 9 months
  • Dimensions: 96.5cm in diameter
Buy now from JoJo Maman Bébé

6. Best paddling pool for three-year-olds: Trespass Belly Flop Paddling Pool

“I just bought a decent pool from Trespass. It has high sides so the water will stay in on a sloping garden or uneven ground. It was cheap and has been really good so far.”

6. Best paddling pool for three-year-olds: Trespass Belly Flop Paddling Pool

The surfer turtle print makes for one cool toddler paddling pool. Made of three rings, it's quick and easy to inflate, so they can jump straight in when the sun pops out and enjoy splashing surrounded by underwater friends.

When they're finished, this pool can be easily deflated and folded up without taking up too much space.

It's on the cheaper side and suitable for kids aged three and older, so one to consider if you're looking to give younger children an introduction to paddling.

Need to know

  • Age: 3+
  • Dimensions: 20 × 30cm
Buy now from Amazon

7. Best versatile paddling pool: Chad Valley Sand and Water Pit

“We bought the Chad Valley sand and water pit. It’s essentially two moulded pools, one in which you put the sand, and in the other water. It's so easy to empty as it's firm plastic. The empty water pool covers the sandpit overnight. It’s cheap too!”

7. Best versatile paddling pool: Chad Valley Sand and Water Pit

Think of it as a mini beach at home. This blue apple-shaped sand and water pit from Chad Valley will be a hit with children aged 12 months onwards.

Arguably the most versatile paddling pool on our list, you can fill the pits with water, sand or balls. Made from polypropylene, it packs up snugly too, with one half acting as a lid.

And, from more than 2,000 reviews on Argos, it received close to top marks.

Need to know

  • Age: 12 months+
  • Dimensions: 23.5 × 106 × 92cm
Buy now from Argos

8. Best activity paddling pool: Chad Valley 8.5ft Activity Play Centre

“We have the Chad Valley one from Argos. Really pleased with it.”

8. Best activity paddling pool: Chad Valley 8.5ft Activity Play Centre

This activity paddling pool has garnered excellent reviews from experts and parents alike and it’s easy to see why.

So much more than a paddling pool, this is an inflatable playground, featuring a sprinkler flower that you attach a hose to, slide and ball pit, as well as a little figure to be a friend to your child on their adventures.

The bright colours and bold shapes are really appealing for little ones, and there’s lots for them to touch and interact with, from the squishy palm tree to the slide to run balls down. There’s plenty of splashing space too.

The Chad Valley 8.5ft Activity Play Centre Paddling Pool takes just five minutes to inflate, but should keep kids busy for hours.

Need to know

  • Age: 3+
  • Dimensions: 259 × 146 × 76cm
Buy now from Argos

9. Best metal frame paddling pool: Intex Rectangular Pool

“We've got one of those big Intex ones. We leave it up year-round and are on our fourth year now. It's fab!”

“We have an Intex rigid-sided pool and our kids are go in it as often as they possibly can!”

9. Best metal frame paddling pool: Intex Rectangular Pool

Intex is popular with parents who want a larger pool to cool off in, although this manufacturer does make smaller models, including an innovative paddling pool with seats for around £50.

They cover the whole range, from blow-up paddling pools through to collapsible structures, to large pools like the one featured, which has Hydro Aeration™ Technology to improve water clarity.

Basically, this is a small portable swimming pool, which kids can swim in and adults can use for relaxing. It can hold more water than a traditional round frame pool, and even has a mosaic tile print inside the grey liner.

It’s simple to put together, though obviously there’s a bit more to it than a blow-up paddling pool, and it should be ready to fill in 30 minutes. It even comes with an instruction DVD to help.

Need to know

  • Age: Not specified
  • Dimensions: 300 × 300 × 75cm
Buy now from Amazon

10. Best paddling pool for quick inflation: Bestway Fast Set Pool

“My daughter loves it. It's really more of a proper pool than a paddling pool. If you want to have the same water in it all summer then you will need water treatment kit. It’s a lot of fun.”

“I thoroughly recommend it. We had brilliant fun and it easily fitted two adults, two kids and lots of floaty toys.”

10. Best paddling pool for quick inflation: Bestway Fast Set Pool

Quick to inflate, the Bestway Fast Set Pool comes in a range of sizes – we’ve gone for the third of the six available – that will suit any outdoor space, big or small.

Inflation is really fast because you’re only inflating the top ring. You then fill the pool and the weight and volume of water is what gives the pool its shape; the pool simply rises as you fill it.

If you don’t have very high water pressure, it can take a while to fill, but once full, you can cover this pool and leave it up all summer if you like, wasting less time and water. (Note that the drain valve is not included, so you may want to buy one if you’re emptying the pool regularly).

It's also strong enough to be set up on a patio if you intend to leave it up for a while and are worried about flattening your grass.

This pool is made of extra strong PVC, which means you shouldn’t need to worry about tears, and it’s also really easy to fold and put away after use.

All in all, this is a great pool for leaving up during hot weather, to relax in after a long day, inviting friends to for a drink, or letting the kids have what’s almost a proper swim in its depths. Brilliant value for money.

Need to know

  • Age: Not specified
  • Dimensions: 274 × 274 × 76cm
Buy now from Amazon

11. Best two-in-one paddling pool: Early Learning Centre Bouncy Castle Palace

“We've bought an ELC castle paddling pool. It's quite a small pool, but my kids think it's great.”

“It's great! It's been a lifesaver this weekend and it's really good value.”

11. Best two-in-one paddling pool: Early Learning Centre Bouncy Castle Palace

From the ever popular ELC comes a bouncy castle/pool combo – an excellent two-in-one option for children aged three to eight, although it's worth noting that you have to buy the pool separately for around £25.

The pool comes with a special side attachment to link it to the bouncy castle, but each element can also be used independently.

While not huge, the Bouncy Palace is big enough for a cooling splash on a hot day and the bouncy castle doubles the play space available.

It's great for active play, physical development and summer parties (as well as tiring them out before bedtime) and, in the winter, the paddling pool can be used as a ball pit indoors, so it offers excellent value for money.

Need to know

  • Age: 3-8
  • Dimensions: 180 × 173 × 170cm

Price: £49.99

Buy now from Early Learning Centre

12. Best paddling pool with slide: Intex Dinoland Play Centre

12. Best paddling pool with slide: Intex Dinoland Play Centre

Tiny dino fans will fall in love with this play centre surrounded by palm trees, which includes an inflatable pterodactyl and stegosaurus, as well as a fabulous inflatable slide with a soft padded landing at the bottom.

The dinosaur arch attaches to a hose and gently sprinkles them as they go down the slide, but the arch is a separate piece that can be moved or used alone to run through on the lawn. There’s also a dino hoops game and a volcanic ball roller to keep them busy.

The practicalities are good too. There’s a drain plug included for easy emptying and the pool also comes with one free repair patch.

It’s quite large for indoor use, but you could easily fill it with plastic balls indoors and be the most popular parent ever on a rainy day too.

Need to know

  • Age: 2+ years
  • Dimensions: 48 x41 x 17cm
Buy now from Amazon

Things to consider when buying 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 they drain and pack away the pool 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.

Some paddling pools are designed specifically for babies while others are suited to older children.

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.

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.

Where will you put your paddling pool?

If you're putting your paddling pool on the grass then it should be fine without anything else underneath it. If, however, you plan to put it on concrete then you need to put something softer underneath – rubber matting, for example.

Storage is also worth considering. Where will you keep it in the cooler months when it's not in use? Find out if it folds up into a compact shape that can be easily stored.

Does it come with a pump?

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.

How long does a paddling pool last?

How long a paddling pool lasts depends very much on how carefully it’s used and stored. It’s very easy to get a puncture in an inflatable pool by accidentally putting it down on a stone or dragging it across concrete (or children jumping wildly onto the inflated sides).

Despite that, you’d expect a paddling pool to last a good three or more years as long as you’re careful with it and ensure it’s completely dry before you put it away so that it doesn’t grow mould. Some of the more expensive and non-inflatable models may last much longer.

How warm should a paddling pool be for a baby?

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 to the appropriate drainage location, 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 pool to buy for families with kids aged six and above is the Chad Valley Family Swim Centre.

It will last a good few years, feels really robust and is quick to fill. Almost instant fun for a gang of school-aged kids on a hot summer’s afternoon.

How we chose our recommendations

Because safety comes first with paddling pools, we began by consulting safety charities and organisations on what they look for in a paddling pool and what needs to be considered when buying one.

We then looked at which paddling pools had recently won awards and accolades from other parenting websites and print media.

Having drawn up a long list of those, we cross-referenced the products with customer reviews online and also spent some time trawling the Mumsnet forums to see which of those products had made a splash with Mumsnetters and which were a bit of a damp squib.

We used that information to draw up a shortlist and then picked a final list of 12 products which we think offer something for every lifestyle and budget.

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