When the going gets hot, paddle into one of these cool water play centres…
If you were caught out by last week’s mini heat wave without so much as a pot for your kids to splash in, make sure they cool off in style the time next time the mercury hits the red with one of these gizmo-packed paddling pools. From cute and colourful to full-sized fun for all the family, these interactive play centres put the bog-standard round pools of old into the shade, and keep the fun going long after the sun’s gone down.
1. Shady characters
Water babies will be chomping at the bit to jump into this fella’s jaws. Not only is the dinky pool perfectly sized for the under-3s, but it also comes with a bigger-than-average sunshade to protect your nippers from being steamed alive as they splash! There’s also a clear window on the back so your kids can check out what’s going on behind their backs. And even if the good ol’ Blighty weather does its usual trick of hiding the sun as soon as you’ve filled the pool up, just chuck the water on the flowerbeds and fill it up with a load of those air-filled balls that nippers love diving into.
Blown-up proportions: 124cm x 109cm x 71cm
Intex Lazy Fish Baby Paddling Pool (ages 1 to 3 years): £14.61. Amazon.co.uk
2. Pint-sized paddlers
Wannabe pirates will get a kick out of hoisting the Jolly Roger and climbing aboard this Pirate Ship for hours of swashbuckling fun in the sun. And just wait until they check out the inflatable and movable water-sprayer cannon, pirate shields, swords and binoculars – not very PC, true, but tools of the trade for any self-respecting cutthroat of the high seas.
Blown-up proportions: 110cm x 210cm x 160cm
Pirate Ship Paddling Pool (ages 2+): £12.50. tesco.com
3. Mermaid mayhem
Little ’uns will lap up this colourful play centre, complete with a golden throne (plastic yellow chair) from which the head of the mermaid kingdom can rule their land (bit of back garden). The built-in sprinkler attaches to a garden hose for a gentle but refreshing shower, while the slide (with comfy landing mat) and six Fun Ballz add to the beauty of a day spent splashing about in the sun. Oh, and there’s a handy drain plug in the pool floor for easy emptying at the end of the day.
Blown-up proportions: 279cm x 160cm x 140cm
Intex Mermaid Kingdom Play Centre (ages 2+): £34.99. amazon.co.uk
4. Dino divers
If your kids have gone dino-mad after seeing the new Jurassic World movie, this dinosaur-packed pool is a no-brainer. First up is the moveable Dino Arch that attaches to the garden hose to cool down your little monsters as they hunt for fossils. But then it’s onto the deadly serious business of sliding down the volcano and splashing into the pool to feed the kiddy-eating beast with colourful balls. Nifty extras include a landing mat to protect delicate bums, and a handy drain plug for heat-exhausted dads.
Blown-up proportions: 333cm x 229cm x 112 cm
Dinosaur Water Play Centre (ages 3+): £59.99. amazon.co.uk
4. Road ragers
This one will keep car-fanatic kids happy, thanks to the road features, stop sign, traffic lights and inflatable car, plus a boot-load of other accessories. There’s also a sprayer included for cooling kids off when road rage hits. If it’s raining / snowing (who knows with our weather?), the Road Paddling Pool can double up as a ball pit (balls not included alas, but most kids have at least 300 of them stashed around the house).
Blown-up proportions: Capacity 1,610 litres
Chad Valley Road Paddling Pool (ages 3+): £29.99. argos.co.uk
5. Pool Party
Warning. If you splurge out on the Little Tikes Slam ‘n’ Curve Inflatable Water Slide, you’ll have every little kid from the neighbourhood queuing up to have a go – and a good few of the parents too. It’s not so much a paddling pool as an aqua-based bouncing castle come climbing wall, with bits on. Water is pumped from the top of the curved slide to ensure kids whizz down into the splash pool, where they’ll slam-dunk the inflatable ball in the basketball hoop before wading across to the climbing wall and scrambling up it to do it all again. And again. Yes, this little number will make a big dent in your wallet, but although skint, you’ll be able to chill out in your deckchair, knowing your kids’ entertainment is sorted for the rest of the summer without you ever having to leave your garden. And maybe you could charge the local little tikes 10 pence a go?
Blown-up proportions: 241cm x 300cm x 3,940cm
Little Tikes Slam N Curve Inflatable Water Slide with heavy-duty blower with GFCI plug (ages 3+): £299.99. toysrus.co.uk
6. Family Fest
OK, so the Quick Up Pool may not come with any zany extras – you won’t find a water canon, sunshade or dino hoop. But just look at the size of this beauty – space enough for the whole family to cool off in. At 12ft across, it’s even big enough for little ’uns to practice their swimming technique and you your underwater headstands. And before you have a heart attack at the mere thought of blowing this beast up, you’ll be relieved to hear it simply pops up, hence the name. It also comes with a filter pump as well as a ground cover to help keep the water clean. And once you’ve finished using the pool, it can be drained by connecting a garden hose to the drain valve on the side of the pool. Nice touch.
Blown-up proportions: 76cm x 360cm x 360cm
Tesco Out There 12Ft Quick Up Pool: (ages 3+): £70. Tesco.com