Product Type: ELC Outdoor Toy
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A pool full of fun
ELC Baby Activity Pool
Member Name: sandemp
ELC Baby Activity Pool
Advantages: Can be used outdoors as pool or indoors as ball pit, very tough, deep
Disadvantages: Shade only covers half of pool, no instructions and needs to be blown up in particular order
I'm a great believer in bargains, so we bought this pool last year when we spotted it on sale for half price. Even though our little man was literally only a couple of weeks old, I couldn't resist paying the miniscule £8 that Mothercare (on behalf of ELC) were asking for it. The pool stayed in it's box for the next six months, until Little Man was confident enough a sitter to be able to reach for toys without toppling. But it now has pride of place in the living room, filled with playballs. I know that it's not being put to an exactly conventional use, but it has had extensive use over the last few months and I'm sure that it will manage to find it's way out to the garden should we ever see anything of that ball of gas we call the sun.
==Several Lungs Full Of Air==
Billed as being suitable for babies and toddlers over nine months of age, the Baby Activity Pool (hereafter known as the pool) is a fairly large first paddling pool. Before being inflated it comes packed in a fairly small box and is actually surprisingly heavy. I personally was reassured by this weight as it gave the impression that the pool was made from higher grade material than most other paddling pools in the same price range. On removing the pool from the box, I was faced with the pool itself, three rings and a patch for repairing any punctures. The pool obviously needed to be inflated, and there are in fact three sections that need blowing up. Although this obviously should have been easier using a foot pump (or electric pump) we didn't have one available and so it was completely inflated by the power of our own lungs.
If you were to use a foot pump to inflate this then there is a very specific order that you will need to follow and with there being no instruction leaflet, this may not be particularly obvious. Instinct would tell us that the actual pool section should be inflated first, but if you do this then you will struggle to inflate the uprights and shade sections as these are just too far from the floor for a standard foot pump to reach. How do I know this if I inflated the pool by lung power? Well as with any inflatable toy, a small amount of air leaks over time, meaning that the pool will need topping up occasionally and we've since bought a foot pump to discover that very problem. I won't be removing a star for this, but it would have been nice to have been warned.
Actually inflating the pool isn't that hard, even using lung power alone it only took about half hour, but we did have a bit of a struggle pushing the valves in so they were flush. This was particularly a problem with the shade section, which we never actually succeeded with meaning that the valve does still stick out and look a little unsightly. The three hoops are also quite problematic, with these the valve is not one-way meaning that as soon as I try to close the valve the air escapes, so it takes a lot of effort to inflate them. As with the shade it's also difficult to push the valves flush, as in almost impossible.
Although the pool is also available in pink, with Little Man being a boy we obviously picked the blue version with yellow supports and green leaf shaped shade. Once inflated the pool is surprisingly large and deep, measuring approximately four feet across, it does dominate any room that it's kept it. The sides of the pool are made of thick, durable, transparent blue plastic in the shape of a flower, with the base being opaque. As I've already pointed out the sides of the pool are fairly deep, in fact at approximately 20cm, if I were to fill the pool to capacity with water I really wouldn't be happy with putting a nine month old in it. The sides are also rather too deep for a nine month old to climb in and out of the pool, which makes it brilliant for keeping the little one safe for a couple of minutes.
While the sunshade idea is a good one, I'm not convinced that it really provides much protection from UV rays. As it covers only half the pool, there's still plenty of scope for baby to get burned. So let's put it this way, when this pool does go out in the summer, Little Man will still be wearing a tee shirt, hat and sun cream. I'm not exactly sure of the point of the three rings, as they aren't closed they are easy to place over the supports, but with there being four supports and only three rings? As with all inflatable toys the pool does deflate a little over time, but we do only need to top the air up once a week, which is pretty good really.
Although we obviously haven't filled the pool with water yet, it will take quite a lot to fill it. To half fill the pool you are looking at approximately 100 litres of water, or ten trips with a standard bucket. When it comes to emptying the pool there is a rubber bung that can be removed from the base to allow the water to run out. What I do like about this bung is that it is attached to the pool, meaning it is less likely to be lost. When used as a ball pit, one bag of ELC play balls will just about cover the base, but two or even three bags are really needed to create a really good ball pit.
As a whole the pool has proved to be very durable, it probably gets far more use as a ball pit than it ever would as a paddling pool as we don't need to wait for a nice day. The seams have withstood being chewed (by Little Man) and stood on (by visiting children) without any sign of damage. Obviously we will be ensuring that we don't place the pool on any sharp stones but I'm perfectly confident that it is durable enough to withstand outdoor play once the sun does finally come out.
==Swimming in Balls==
As I've pointed out several times, we do not use this pool filled with water, but rather filled with play balls. Although the Little Man is nearly one, he is slightly delayed in his gross motor and has an unusual method of getting around (sort of a mix between rolling and crawling). Little Man is, however, quite tall for his age, being on the 75th centile and having been wearing 12-18 month clothes since the age of ten months. Bear with me, this is all relevant as you'll see in a bit.
When we first introduced Little Man to this pool he had just mastered the art of sitting unaided and would topple over every now and again. By allowing him to sit in this pool surrounded by play balls, we gave him the chance to sit up without worrying that he was going to hurt himself when he toppled backwards. The pool is the perfect size so that when he does go backwards he falls onto the side rather than banging his head on the floor. I have to say that this pool has done wonders for both Little Man's confidence and his balance as well as giving me a break from constantly worrying that he's going to bump his head. The sides are too high for the Little Man to be able to climb out, meaning that I can also leave him in here when caught short, without having to worry that he's going to get up to any mischief.
While I couldn't see any purpose for the three rings, Little Man certainly could. He absolutely loves to chew and bite on them, especially on those days when his teeth are bothering him. It's a real testament to the quality of the materials that this pool is made of, that these rings have felt the full fury of some very sharp teeth without popping or even puncturing. As well as chewing the rings, Little Man has also had a good munch on the actual pool section, which again is still intact.
Little Man also enjoys laying in the pool of balls, but he's a little too long to be able to fit with his legs stretched out (see I told you the bit about how tall he is was relevant). Although the Little Man isn't yet standing unsupported, the actual shade is so low that his head touches it when he's upright. This leads me to think that it may not be suitable for children much above the age of two.
As well as Little Man, other older children have also had a go playing in the pool (as a ball pit) and they have obviously been quite a lot rougher in their play. My fears that children above the age of two would find the shade a little low have been confirmed, as they do struggle to stand in the pool. As with the chewing, the pool has easily survived being jumped in with the sides being used as a spring board without popping.
All in all, this pool has been a success with both Little Man and his slightly older friends in it's guise as a ball pit. And that's what I really like about this pool, while I'm sure it will be fantastic as a paddling pool in the summer, let's be honest how much actual use would it have got solely as a pool? Not a lot really, thinking about it, there were probably six weeks where I would have been happy to have a pool set up in the garden last year. But because it's so deep this pool is also brilliant as a ball pit, meaning that it gets far more use than if it was solely in the garden full of water.
As with all the toys they sell the ELC suggests that this will help your child's development in various ways and for once I think that they are spot on. Firstly they suggest that this toy will help instil confidence, and I completely agree, it will help your child gain confidence in many different ways. I've watched Little Man become far more confident at sitting , knowing that if he does fall it won't hurt and have watched him steadily learn to move from sitting to laying without bumping his noggin. When filled with water, the pool will also help your child gain confidence in water. Not that we've ever had a problem with Little Man and water. But one of my older children was terrified of water and wouldn't even get into a bath. One of the ways we solved this problem was to start by just putting a tiny amount of water in a paddling pool and then steadily increasing the amount of water, until one day he was sitting in water up to his tummy.
Another skill that the ELC suggests this will help your child develop is their physical development, in particular coordination, balance and strength. I don't need to repeat myself, but we have seen definite improvements in Little Man's balance and coordination while using this pool. To begin with he struggled to stay sitting upright, but over time he's become better and better and now will sit and reach for toys without a hint of wobble.
As to the recommended age range, well I do think the upper limit is just about right. Children over the age of two will probably find the pool a little small and the shade a little low. But with the lower age limit, I would actually say that babies younger than nine months would enjoy playing in the pool. It all depends on how willing you are to spend time allowing your child to access the pool as to when they are ready to use it. The first thing I will say is that there is no way I would leave any child to play unsupervised in this pool, even those over the age of two. It only takes seconds and an inch of water for a child to drown, so much as I wouldn't leave a child in the bath unsupervised, I wouldn't leave them in here. Taking that supervision into account, I really don't think that there is a lower age limit for the pool. Even quite small babies can be held in the water for a few minutes, just make sure the water is warm and you have a towel ready. While when used as a ball pit, babies from about three months will enjoy the sensory experience and being able to make the balls move.
For the price I paid for it the ELC Baby Activity Pool is excellent value for money. It is a fairly large and deep pool that doubles up as an excellent ball pit for use indoors when the weather is less than clement. The material it is made from is much tougher and more durable than most other paddling pools in the same price range. My Little Man also loves this pool, and will happily spend twenty minutes at a time sitting in it playing, while I'm safe in the knowledge that he is safe. I'm not, however, convinced that it's worth the full asking price of £16, so while I am recommending this pool (and giving it five stars out of five), I am also recommending that you wait until it is included in one of the ELC's regular half price sales.
Summary: Great paddling pool that makes a brilliant ball pit