When the warm weather hits, it's always a winner to fill up a paddling pool and get your children enjoying some cooling, splash-about play. Each year, there's always a rush to get hold of the best pools – from cute little baby/toddler pools to giant inflatable activity centres with slides and fountains – so it's best to get your paddling pool order in early.


Which one to choose, though? There are so many great paddling pools out there now it's not always easy to work out which one is best for your child.

With the help of our brilliant child testers, we've been splashing our way through dozens of paddling pools, assessing the pros and cons of each, to find the best buys for every age and budget – from single sit-in shaded ones for babies to shaped and sprinkly toddler ones to great big pools with pumps and solid sides for older kids (and the odd parent). Do take a good look at our selection before you splash out...

Best paddling pools at a glance

  • Best water spray feature: Intex Dinoland Play Centre, £59.99
  • Best baby paddling pool: Chad Valley Unicorn Baby Paddling Pool, £18
  • Best budget buy: Intex 4 Ring Sunset Glow Pool, £8.99
  • Best for fun accessories: Chad Valley Aquarium Activity Pool, £30
  • Best big pool for easy assembly: Bestway 10ft Kids Inflatable Paddling Pool with Filter Pump, £60
  • Best coverage from the sun: Intex Mushroom Baby Pool, £14.49
  • Best for extra inflatable features: Chad Valley 9.5ft Inflatable Funhouse with Pool and Slide, £250
  • Best water slide: TP Toys Blue 77 Aqua Slide, £29.99
  • Best pop-up/portable pool: JoJo Maman Bebe Pop-Up Paddling Pool, £45
  • Best pool for big families: Summer Waves 10ft Round Frame Family Pool, £225

What to look for when choosing a paddling pool

Age suitability – Paddling pools vary hugely according to the age range they're made for: baby pools will be small and cosy, toddler pools are bigger with more features, and pools for older children are deeper and designed to stay filled for days on end (see our Safety notes, below). If you're looking for a baby pool, bear in mind that it's hard to find paddling pools made with an age suitability below 12 months but, if you choose one with a shallow base and you take super-extra-care to supervise your child at all times, a pool for 12 months+ should be fine for a baby over 9 months who's sitting well independently.

Size and ground suitability – It sounds obvious but you do need to think about your pool's dimensions before you buy – especially if you're opting for one of the bigger pools. You also need to consider where you're going to put your pool: grass is always better (and more forgiving, if your child slips) than concrete (less robust pools will puncture more easily on concrete) and the surface you place your pool on needs to be clear (no stones!) and as level as possible. If your pool has a filter, an air blower or a hose attachment, you also need to be near a plug and/or a tap.

Safety – Never leave your child unattended in the pool, even for a few seconds and even if it's only filled shallowly: child safety experts, such as RoSPA, advise that small children can drown in as little as 5cm of water. It's also best to empty your pool after every paddling session and store it upright (so it won't get filled with water). We have included some paddling pools in our selection that are designed to stay filled but these are only suitable for older children and are best left covered when not in use.

Water capacity – The bigger your paddling pool, the more water it needs and the longer it's going to take to fill up.

Pumping it up – Don't get caught out with a brand new paddling pool, an excited child, and no way of inflating it other than using your own puff. Even the tiniest of toddler pools can be exhausting to blow up without a pump – we've indicated in our product selections how long (roughly) each one takes to inflate. Few paddling pools come with a pump included these days, so we suggest you invest in a foot pump or an electric pump (see our suggestions for good pumps in And if you need a pump at the end of this article).

Emptying it out – Small, shallow pools are easy to upend to tip the water out but with a bigger, deeper paddling pool, life is a lot easier if it has a drainage plug.

Padded bases – Most paddling pools don't have padded floors, which is fine if your child will be mostly standing up to splash about or wallowing in deeper water. But for a baby or small toddler, who'll mainly be sitting in the water, look for a paddling pool with an inflatable or padded base for extra comfort.

Extras – Some paddling pools are just plain circles or squares; others have slides, sprays, inflatable accessories – even bouncy castles! You'll find that the price of your pool generally reflects how plain or feature-packed it is, though, however much or little it costs, it's worth checking to see if it comes with a repair patch or repair kit.

Shade – Water reflects the sunlight's rays, so on a bright day a small child sitting in a paddling pool can get sunburnt on their back, arms and shoulders very quickly. If you have a baby or small toddler, look for a paddling pool with a built-in sunshade; for older children, always remember to layer them up with some waterproof high-SPF sun protection.

Here's our pick of the best children's paddling pools

1. Intex Dinoland Play Centre, £59.99

– Best water-spray feature

3 year old Ezra playing with Intex Dinoland Play Centre

Age: 3+ | Size: L3.3m x W2.3m x H1.1m | Assembly: 10 minutes (electric pump), plus filling time | Drainage plug: Yes | Water capacity: 290 litres | Max user weight: 50kg
This long, large, dinosaur-themed pool features a slide, a blow-up pterodactyl and stegosaur, a volcano ball chute, and a brilliant, movable diplodocus arch sprayer (which you can connect to your garden hose with the included hose attachment) that also turns the slide into lovely water slide. It also comes with 6 balls, 3 hoops and a repair patch.
The base isn't padded but the slide does have a well padded landing pad, which is a nice touch. It has a drainage plug and the vinyl material is tough, though it's not designed for more boisterous older-kid play and the arch is too small for most children over the age of 5 or so. It is a big pool, so do check you have enough space for it before you buy – and note that each section of the pool needs pumping up separately (we really do recommend an electric pump for this one).

Charlene, mum of our child tester Ezra, 3 (pictured above), is impressed by its robustness. "We've used it for the past 2 summers," she says, "and it's strong and has lasted. We have a small dog who likes to jump in too, and it hasn't punctured. It has little balls and hoops and a slide, so it's really fun. I'd say you do need an electric pump but, once it's up, it stays up the whole summer."
Pros: Generous size, excellent play features, padded landing below slide, host attachment, drainage plug
Cons: Might be too big for some gardens, no sun shade, unpadded base (mainly), only suitable for toddlers/preschoolers

Available from: Amazon and Smyths Toys

2. Chad Valley Unicorn/Dino Baby Paddling Pool, £18

– Best baby paddling pool

Chad Valley mini paddling pool with baby testers

Age: 12 months+ | Size: L110cm x W112cm x H970cm | Assembly: 3 minutes (with manual pump), plus filling time | Drainage plug: No | Water capacity: 28 litres | Max child weight: 15kg

This bright, fun, small paddling pool has shallow sides and, depending on which version you choose, either a unicorn-draped inflatable rainbow sun shade or a yellow-spiked stegosaurus spine one. Best of all, it has a really lovely padded base, which makes it a great choice for a baby or young toddler (the suggested age is 1 year plus but it would work well for a smaller baby who can sit independently, provided you put only a little water in and you closely supervise at all times).

It's quick and easy to inflate with a manual pump (and actually not too bad to blow it up yourself) but you do have to inflate each of the 4 sections separately. Worth noting that because part of the sunshade is inflatable, it can be trickier than a baby pool with no shade to empty, especially as it hasn't got a drainage plug, and packing it down once deflated is slightly more of a job. Comes with a repair kit.

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Our baby tester Forrest (pictured above, with some playmates), enjoyed his Dino version of this paddling pool both for water play and ball-pit fun. His mum Sydney said, "It's the perfect size. We add a few toys and some balls for him to play with too. Having the canopy is good for keeping him out of the sun."

Pros: Sun shade, padded base, quick assembly, good size for a baby
Cons: No drainage plug, not suitable for older children

Available from: Argos and Amazon

3. Intex 4 Ring Sunset Glow Pool, £8.99

– Best budget buy

children testing the index 4 ring sunset glow paddling pool

Age: 3+ | Size: L168cm x W168cm x H46cm | Assembly: 15 minutes (with manual pump), plus filling time | Drainage plug: Yes | Water capacity: 617 litres | Max child weight: 20kg

If you're after a decent-but-not-huge-sized preschooler paddling pool that won't break the bank, then this is definitely one to consider. Do be careful when you're ordering it, though, as there are several variations of this pool, in different sizes and number of rings and it's all too easy to purchase one that's a lot smaller/bigger than you thought.

When you're blowing it up, you do need to inflate each ring separately – which you may find tiresome or, like our Bryony, mum of our child testers Poppy, 2, and Toby, 5 (pictured above), you may actually find it useful: "It's very easy to pump up and I can fill it to different levels, depending on the age of the kids playing it in that day." We've found that the rings can deflate quite easily, so you may need to have your pump nearby for a quick top-up.

It's not as robust as some of the others in our list but it is very good value and it does have a drainage plug. "It's a great size for the price," said Bryony. "I also love the bright rainbow colours, too: they brighten up the garden." Comes with a repair patch.

Pros: Great value, quick assembly, drainage plug
Cons: No extra features, no sun shade, no padded base, not as robust as some other pools, rings can deflate quite quickly

Available from: Smyths Toys and Amazon

4. Chad Valley Aquarium Activity Pool, £30

– Best for fun accessories

Chad Valley Aquarium Activity pool being tested by 3 and 7 year old girls

Age: 2+ | Size: L241cm x W206cm x H86cm | Assembly: 10 minutes (electric pump), plus filling time | Water capacity: 308 litres | Drainage plug: No | Max user weight: 45kg

This long, shallow paddling pool comes with a slide, a palm tree that sprays water and a friendly dolphin, as well as separate inflatables of a clown fish, an octopus and a star. Its rectangular shape makes it a better choice for some gardens – and means there's room for a parent to sit in it, too (result!)

It's fairly quick to get ready (as long as you have an electric pump) but each section and inflatable needs blowing up separately. The slide has a step at the back to help with the climb but it is a small slide – definitely too small for over 3s. You can remove it, though, so you could put your garden slide (if you have one) in its place. The palm tree sprayer is fun (the pool comes with a hose attachment you need to make this work) but does tend to lean over quite a bit. There's no drainage plug but it's a fairly shallow pool, so not too tricky to tip over for emptying.

Without doubt, it's the number of standalone accessories that make this pool stand out from the crowd. Katie, mum of our child testers Felicity, 3, and Paige, 5 (pictured above) said, "I think the accessories are fab. And I like how the slide is not fixed but tied on, so that it can be removed." Comes with a repair kit.

Pros: Generous size, rectangular shape more suitable for some gardens, great accessories
Cons: Slide only suitable for small children, no sun shade, unpadded floor, no drainage plug

Available from: Argos

5. Bestway 10ft Kids Inflatable Paddling Pool with Filter Pump, £60

– Best big pool for easy assembly

Bestway Quick Up Pool being testerd by 6 year old girl tester

Age: 6+ | Size: L3m x W3m x H76cm| Assembly: 10 minutes (with electric pump), plus filling time | Drainage plug: Yes | Water capacity: 3638 litres | Max user weight: Not specified

This large and deep family pool is made from heavy-duty PVC/polyester and comes with a filter pump, flow-control drain valve and a heavy-duty repair patch. The filter pump will keep the water from getting too dirty and so you can leave it out without having to empty and refill it. Obviously, if you have a baby or small children, it's not safe to leave a pool full of water in your garden when you're not using it, especially one as deep as this, so this is strictly an older-kids-only buy.

The pool is simple to set up – you just pump up the white top ring and then put a hose inside and the sides will rise up as the pool fills. Because it's so deep, though, it holds a lot of water and will take a few hours to fill properly. And you do need to be sure to site the pool on level ground or it will slant a little. You may also find you need to top up the air in the top ring every couple of days, When it comes to emptying the pool, you can fix your hose to the flow-control drain valve with the included adaptor, which is handy.

Sarah, mum of 4, including our child tester Anabelle, 7, said, "It's really easy to fill: all you have to do is blow up the outer edge. It comes with a basic filter which helps keep it clean and it's large enough for a few kids to have a bit more fun without it being massive. We really like it."

Also comes in an 8ft and a 12ft size, and you can buy it without the filter pump if you prefer. You may also want to buy water clarifier to help the filter pump keep the water clean.

Pros: Generous size, quick assembly, drainage plug, filter pump
Cons: Takes a long time to fill, no sun shade, unpadded base, not suitable for younger children

Available from: Amazon, Mano Mano and Bestway

6. Intex Mushroom Baby Pool, £14.49

– Best coverage from the sun

2 year old Miles playing in Intex Mushroom pool

Age: 12 months+ | Size: L89cm x W89cm x H102cm | Assembly: 10 minutes (with a manual pump), plus filling time | Water capacity: 45 litres | Max child weight: Not specified

This colourful toddler pool has a fun, mushroom-style inflatable sunshade that sits above the pool, rather than to one side like many other paddling pool with shades. It also has a soft, inflatable floor with little indentations that make for fun splash effects or for nestling little balls in. As with the Unicorn pool, it's sold as suitable for 1 year plus but we'd say it's fine for babies over 9 months who can sit independently provided you only put a little water in (it's quite shallow-sided anyway) and you're constantly supervising your child.

It's simple enough to inflate, although you do have to blow up each section separately, and it packs down well once deflated, too. It doesn't have a drainage plug but, as it's so shallow, there won't be much water to tip out. Our Reviews Editor Gemma tested this paddling pool with her 2 year old son, Myles (pictured above) and said, "This pool is great for toddlers who just want to splash about as it's easy to inflate and super-fast to fill. And the built-in sun shade is great for keeping your child cool." Comes with a little inflatable mushroom (that handily pops into a pocket on the ring) and a repair patch.

Pros: Sun shade, great size for toddlers, inflatable floor
Cons: Small and shallow-sided so not suitable for older children, no drainage plug

Available from: Amazon, The Range and Tesco

7. Chad Valley 9.5ft Inflatable Funhouse with Pool and Slide, £250

– Best for extra inflatable features

Chad Valley 9.5ft Inflatable Funhouse with Pool and Slide tested by child testers Anabelle and Emillie

Age: 3+ | Size: L2.4m x W2.9m x H 1.9m | Assembly: 2 minutes (with air blower, included), plus filling time | Drainage plug: No | Water capacity: Not specified | Max user weight: 60kg

It's large, high and the paddling pool is actually the least of it – as the 'wow' factor is really all about the 'bounce house' and water slide. The bounce house has netting on the sides (which opens like a curtain on one side) and a climbable inner wall (with grab holes) that takes you up into a the water slide. The pool comes with a hose attachment that fixes at one end into your garden hose and, at the other, onto the slide to turn it into a water slide.

It's surprisingly quick to inflate with the included air blower but you do need factor in some time to find a level patch of grass that's near enough to an electrical point (the not-too-noisy blower will need to be on all the time that the pool's in use), unfold the pool, anchor the blower and the pool into the grass, and fasten on the hose attachment.

It's pricey but robust and undeniably play-tastic – although, for all this product's overall size, the pool area is not that large (and doesn't have a drainage plug) and the bouncy castle section is probably only big enough for 1 child (or 2 very co-operative small ones) at a time. We'd also recommend a groundsheet underneath to keep it cleaner as your children rush around and up and down it. Comes with a repair kit, lawn anchors for the funhouse and the blower, and a storage bag (do make sure it's properly dry before you put it away).

Sarah, mum of our child testers Anabelle 7 and Emillie 13 (pictured above) said, "I love that we can put it up really quickly, it takes 2 minutes to blow up and you don't need very much water. I find the younger children get cold in big pools so this is easier. It dries out really quickly if you leave it on after use too. We've had it for 2 years and found it longer lasting than a paddling pool".

Pros: Quick assembly, great extra features, generous size, air blower and hose attachment included
Cons: Pricey, no sunshade, no padded base, no drainage plug, pool area relatively small, not suitable for younger children, might be too big for some gardens

Available from: Argos

8. TP Toys Aqua Slide, £29.99

– Best water slide

TP Toys Blue 77 Aqua Slide

Age: 3+ | Size: W1m x L6m | Assembly: 15 minutes | Water capacity: N/A | Drainage plug: N/A | Max user weight: 60kg

You can certainly paddle in this, although it's not actually a pool, but the real thrill is sliding along it for a whole 6m. It's made of heavy-duty silicone, has a little inflatable cushion (easy to blow up yourself) at the end and – most exciting of all – water spray shower all along both sides. (Note to jealous parents: the max user weight limit is quite high!)

The slide can be set out on the grass (do check there are no stones underneath) or you can anchor the non-cushioned end under a garden slide for a bit of downhill action before the watery whoosh. Comes with 2 lawn anchors and a hose attachment.

Pros: Easy to assemble, water-shower feature
Cons: Not strictly a paddling pool, not suitable for younger children, might be too long for some gardens

Available from: TP Toys. John Lewis and Amazon

9. JoJo Maman Bebe Pop-up Paddling Pool, £45

– Best pop-up/portable pool

Immy 11 months playing in JoJo Maman Bebe pool

Age: From 9 months | Size: 97cm diameter (40cm, packed down) x 57cm height (with canopy) | Assembly: 1 min | Drainage plug: No | Water capacity: Not specified | Max user weight: N/A

This baby-sized pool has whale motifs and a nicely designed UPF 50+ sun canopy. It's well made (the tough material of the pool itself is UPF50+ too) and, as the name suggests, it pops up in seconds out of its (included) carry bag – making it a great choice for those who want a pool they can move indoors, take to grandma's or pack for holidays.

The base isn't padded and there's no drainage plug – and, although popping it up is super-quick, packing it back down does take a little longer (it would be helpful if the instructions were a little clearer).

Kirstie, mum of our child tester Immy, 11 months (pictured above, using the pool as a ball pit) said, "I really rate the sun shade. We end up using it as a ball pit when it's not quite warm enough to fill up with water – and we love it!"

Pros: Sun shade, super-quick assembly, good size for a baby
Cons: unpadded base, no drainage plug, not suitable for more than 1 small child

Available from: JoJo Maman Bebe

10. Summer Waves 10ft Round Frame Family Pool, £225

–Best for big families

MFM home tester boys playing in Summer Waves Pool.jpg-1

Age: 6+ | Size: L3m x W3m x D76cm | Assembly: 30 minutes, plus filling time | Water capacity: 4792 litres | Drainage plug: Yes | Max child weight: Not specified

This rigid-sided family pool is very robust and sturdy and can easily fit 6 children in at once. It comes with its own electric filter pump to help keep the water clean (though you may also want to buy water clarifier, too). As with the Bestway pool, this strictly an older-kids-only buy as if you have a baby or small children, it's not safe to leave a pool full of water in your garden when you're not using it, especially one as deep as this.

There's a fair bit of assembly to do, including fitting the pump to the finished pool, but most of it is simple, snap-together stuff. Do factor in that it will take several hours to fill. The drainage hole is slightly awkwardly placed for completely hassle-free emptying.

Emma, who tested the pool with her 3 sons and step-daughter (you can just about see the 6-year-old and 8-year-old in the picture above) said, "It's amazing! And I found it easy to put up. It does take ages – around 6 hours – to fill up but, if you keep it clean, the water will last ages." Should come with a protective cover but check when you buy as it's not always included.

Pros: Large enough for several children, filter pump, drainage plug
Cons: Longer assembly and fill time, no sun shade, unpadded floor, too big for some gardens, not suitable for small children

Available from: Argos and Amazon

And if you need a pump:

How did we choose our 10 of the Best?

When testing and selecting these paddling pools, we considered features such as size, comfort, ease and time of assembly, age suitability, added extras, water capacity – and, importantly, play value.

Our 10 of the Best lists are compiled by qualified and experienced parenting journalists. They rely on a number of sources, including our independent reviews, testing undertaken during the MadeForMums Awards and MadeForMums Toy Awards, and feedback from our Top Testers Club. Each year thousands of products are put through their paces by hundreds of parents across the country on behalf of MadeForMums, to ensure we’re bringing you honest and true reviews and recommendations.

Our list is not an ordered ranking from 1-10, instead it is a carefully selected group of tried-and-tested products, each of which we believe is best for a different situation or requirement. We don’t just tell you what is best, we help you discover what is best for your family.

About the author Chloe Brightwell

Chloe is a Digital Reviews Writer and Coordinator for MadeForMums. She researches and writes articles on everything from water play tables to playpens, looking to our Top Testers Club for their recommendations and asking them to test products for us. She has a first-class degree in Psychology degree and a strong interest in child development.

Pics: Product websites/MadeForMums testers


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Picture of Chloe Brightwell
Chloe BrightwellDigital Reviews Writer and Coordinator

Chloe is a Digital Reviews Writer and Coordinator for Immediate Media's Parenting team, specialising in household and trying to help parents save money. She researches and writes articles, recommending the best products, ranging from best cordless vacuums to best playpens. She has a First-Class Honours Psychology degree where she developed a strong interest in child development. During her teenage years she worked as a play worker and Brownie volunteer to support children's play.