* Prices may differ from that shown
Looking to kill two birds with one stone and find my son a pool that could act as a paddling pool or a pool for a ball pit. When browsing online, we came across this Pop Up Pool from the Early Learning Centre. It appealed to us as there is no need to pump it up and it could be used both inside and out. It was also part of the 3 for 2 promotion on outdoor toys so we purchased with two sets of playballs. The pool itself cost £25 and is suggested for use from 9 months of age (please note the ELC website contradicts this and states it is for use from 2 years, but this is incorrect).
The pool comes in quite a small, neat cardboard box - showing just how compact it is when folded. To open you simply pull it out and it literally does just 'pop' up into a pool. Simple! The pool has a diameter of 95cm and a height of 65cm so is ideal for toddlers but a little small for older children. It is blue in colour and made of a fairly thick, waterproof material. With the pool comes a green sunshade that can be easily attached to protect children from the sun's harmful rays when playing outside. It also comes with a material carry case so that you can pack it up and take it with you on holiday or to friend's houses.
We have, so far, had limited use of this as a paddling pool due to the good old British weather. However, when we have used it it has been easy to set up and fill with water. At first, I was unsure that the sides were strong enough to hold the water in - they seemed a bit flimsy - but they actually perform really well with no dipping or loss of water. The only problem we had that there wasn't as much 'give' in the sides as there would be an inflatable pool, so it was a little hard for my son to get in and out of. Not a problem at the moment as he is barely toddling but, as he becomes more independent, it may become a minor issue. It dries quickly after use in the sun but some patches of water can remain and need mopping up.
As a ball pool it functions well and is ideal for both indoor and outdoor use. We fill with 200 play balls and this gives a good depth of balls. Again, the sides act well to keep the balls in. The pool keeps it's shape well under the stress of movement from my son, although I would not be as confident of the sides being so supportive if he leans on them as he gets older.
When packing away, you can fold the pool quite small. There are instructions contained on how to do this but I found these very difficult to follow - even with the diagrams. I am not the best at following instructions anyway but I can usually figure them out. Not in this case, they make very little sense to me and every time I followed the step by step guide, I could not fold this at all. I ended up finding a guide on You Tube and following this. When I did manage it, I was not able to fold it as compactly as it originally was but I did manage to fit it into the carry case.
Overall, I probably like the concept more than the pool in practice. It is handy to have an instant, no fuss pool for the garden that can also be transported easily with us on holiday or to stay with friends. However, the pool is a little too difficult to fold up for my liking. It functions well as a paddling pool and a ball pool and the sunshade is a lovely addition for peace of mind, especially for babies and toddlers. This stays in place well and offers quite a bit of shade and protection.
I feel that £25 is a little expensive for what is essentially a bit of material with a wire frame. As with most such things, you are paying for the convenience. On the plus side, it does pop up well, holds it's form and maintains it's contents well. Negatives include difficulty in dipping the walls to allow a child to step into or out of the pool, lack of support from the sides and, most frustratingly, it is very difficult to fold down again - vastly detracting from the convenience of it!
I would recommend this pool if you are looking for an indoor ball pit that you do not need to keep collapsing or as a second pool for holidays etc. I think we will probably be purchasing a good old fashioned inflatable pool next year when my son is older as this will likely better suit his and our needs.
A couple of summers ago my son was bought this as a present for his 1st birthday. I wanted something that was big enough to fit two toddlers in, was easy to assemble, quick to fill, and overall not to much hassle. You don't want to be filling something up with a lot of water when you have two small children under foot trying to strip off, as well as a cat trying to get in on the action. I was also keen on something that would offer a little bit of shade as our garden can be a real sun trap.
My sister bought it from the early learning centre, and i think it cost around £10. I immediately liked this because it wasn't an inflatable pool. I didn't have the extra hassle of trying to blow it up while chasing a one year old and 2 and a half year old. It also is shallow enough that i could stick the hosepipe in for about 10 minutes, and then add a couple of hot kettles of water and we were ready to go.
Siting this pool is quite important as it is made from a sturdy but very thin material. If there were stones or similar underneath i don't think it would tear it but it would feel very uncomfortable if it were stood or sat on. Once sited, this pool is a perfect size for two small children to sit in. They can't really lie down in it if they are older, but they can have a great splash around and cool down when the weather is hot.
One bit of this pool that really annoys me is the roof part of it. It attaches around the side of the pool with what are like duffle coat toggles, and i find it is really hard to get it to stand at the jaunty angle shown in the picture above. In fact, it is so much bother, i have given up and site them under some other form of shade.
Once the kids have finished playing it is fairly easy to empty. Put your foot on the side and it collapses down and the water goes onto the grass. We have also emptied it with a bucket and used it to water the veg patch, as it seems a shame to when we are on a water meter.
Packing it away is also not quite as easy as it should be. Supposedly you twist it, and it folds back up into the box. I have found with this and a pop up tent that we have that i can't manage to get it to go back to its collapsed shape. I have no idea why as my hubbie can manage it, but i tend to leave it up.
Last year we bought an inflatable pool that the kids loved, but the cat put his claw in it, so we are back to this one this summer. At least it doesn't cost the Earth to fill, and no danger of this one getting a puncture. Now if we could only solve the other age old problem of how to stop grass getting in, then we really would be onto a winner.
As last summer approached, my son's very generous Granny decided to buy him a paddling pool. She arrived one day in June with not only a pool, but a big bag of plastic balls so that he could also use it as his very own ball pit.
The item in question was a Pop Up Pool from the Early Learning Centre, which was packaged in a large, fairly flat cardboard box with a picture of the fully assembled pool on the front. Inside the box, we found the pool and a co-ordinating sun-shade, neatly folded into a handy black mesh carry bag, with a set of instructions. I was most impressed by the inclusion of the carry bag, as theoretically this meant the pool would be easily portable and could be taken on weekends or holidays away.
Assembling this pool is such a doddle- all you need to do is remove the pool and sun-shade from the bag and they quite literally pop up all by themselves. No endless huffing and puffing through little plastic blowers or stomping on pumps, which is great news for those of us with impatient toddlers. The pool itself is light blue and made from quite a thin feeling plastic material, with what feels like either plastic or metal rods, which are sewn in underneath strips of green material around the base and top. There are also four straight rods sewn into the sides of the pool, again underneath a strip of green, all of which help the pool keep its shape. On the base and side of the pool is a white graphic, containing the words 'pop up pool', I guess in case you happen to forget that this is a pool, which pops up!
Also on one side of the pool is a useful diagram, showing you how to empty water from the pool and on the inside of the pool wall is a maximum water level marker. The sun-shade is made from the same material, but in green, with the interior lined in silver coloured plastic. I seem to remember the silver lining offers UV resistance, although I can't confirm this as I have long since thrown out the box and there is no information on ELC's website. Around the sides and rear of the pool are several small, black plastic toggles, which you very simply attach through corresponding loops of fabric on the sun-shade in order to fix the two together.
Once your pool is popped up, it's ready to be placed in the garden and filled with water. Now although the material appears to be strong and durable, it is still fairly thin and the last thing you want is to end up with a hole in the pool (trying to work out where on earth the water is leaking from is a mission in itself!) For this reason, it's best to double check the area where you want to put the pool for stones or twigs that might end up piercing it. Then of course you simply fill the pool with as much water as you want and get ready for some paddling!
The age range suggested for this pool by the ELC is 2-3 years, which seems somewhat limited to me- basically that's just one summer! Elliot received his pool at the age of 10 months and we were happy to let him sit in it and play with the water and various toys whilst supervised. I personally feel that as long as an adult is there to support and supervise, most babies will enjoy splashing about in this pool from the age at which they can sit up unsupported and you can also use a bumbo or bath seat for a bit of extra stability and peace of mind if you wish. I also think that children well over the age of three would get plenty of enjoyment out of paddling and splashing in this pool, even though it is quite small (96cm wide.) I imagine that as Elliot grows older, we will buy him a bigger paddling pool but hang on to this one as well, as it is so easy and quick to set up.
You can of course also use this pool as a small ball pit indoors or outdoors. The sides of the pool are very flexible and not that sturdy, which has both plus and minus points. On the one hand, it's quite easy for babies and toddlers to crawl in and out of the pool as they choose, but on the other hand a lot of the balls follow them out and you find yourself forever chucking them back in. Although it is a little sturdier when filled with water, it is still easy for little ones to pull and push the sides down so a fair amount of water can and does escape.
I have found the sun-shade to be particularly useful, as you don't have to worry so much about hats and sunscreen, both of which my son isn't keen on wearing. It does however make it a bit chilly in the pool (unless it's a very hot day) so I've often put some warmer water in the pool to make it more comfortable. You also have to be wary on windy days as the wind can pick up the shade and create a gap between it and the pool, so it's best to check if there are any gaps through which the sun could burn your child. I'd suggest not leaving one of these outside if they're empty as they can quite easily take off with a sudden gust of wind and end up in your neighbour's garden!
A major downside to this little pool is that I have found it to be well nigh impossible to fold back up into the carry bag. My mum and I tried for well over half an hour, following the instructions and just didn't get anywhere. My husband had a go and also found that as fast as you get one bit folded, another pops out and he very soon got fed up with it. Rather than being stored in the tidy little bag it came in, it's had to go up in the rafters of our garage and this also negates the whole idea of it being portable. I would quite happily rate this toy five stars if it wasn't for this problem, but due to it no longer being easy to transport or store, I feel I have to knock two stars off.
Overall, this is a great little pool for ease and convenience of set up but is let down by the folding issue. The ELC is currently selling it for £20, which I think is slightly overpriced considering its size and the quality of the fabric, however my Mum picked one up during a half price sale last June for a tenner, which I feel is closer to what it's worth.