With local beaches and public pools closed and temperatures steadily climbing, we needed another warm-weather activity that would keep our toddler cool this summer. The kiddie pool we had our eye on was sold out (as were a bunch of others; it seemed that a lot of parents were desperate too), so we decided to try this highly reviewed splash pad we came across on Amazon. For $24, it was worth a shot, and ready to ship immediately.
When it arrived a couple days later, we were surprised by how uncomplicated it looked. It’s essentially a circular vinyl mat with an inflatable outer ring that has holes in it — think of it as the world’s shallowest blow-up pool, but instead of air filling the low wall, it’s water. To set it up, all we had to do was stick a garden hose into the nozzle (it also comes with an optional adapter) and turn the water on. Within minutes, the perimeter filled with water, and the tiny punctures lining it became a sprinkler, shooting out gentle, arcing sprays that reminded me of a fountain at a fancy outdoor shopping mall.
In our excitement, we plopped Augie down right in the center of the mat — and he immediately got a faceful of cold water, whimpering to be let out. We quickly learned that you can adjust the height of the sprays depending on how high you turn up the hose. At full blast, the shoots can reach up to about five feet (high enough, apparently, to scare my kid). But if you turn the water off once the outer ring is filled, the sprays turn into trickles.
Shortly after, Augie recovered and stepped back onto the mat, which had filled up with enough water to become a very shallow pool. He splashed and stomped around in his Crocs, occasionally squatting down to touch the water and admire the animal-and-alphabet design underfoot, or passing his hand through the sprinkler. He also got a kick out of stepping on the ring to watch the pooled water rush off the pad. (At 60 inches in diameter, it’s also big enough for adults to join in on the action.) He stayed in there for a good half-hour, oblivious to the swarming mosquitoes nipping at his legs.
Later that week, we used it for the second time, all of us now pros on how to get it exactly right from the get-go. Screw the hose on, turn up the water all the way to fill up the ring, then down again to get the optimal sprinkler height. Augie stepped right in and splashed and stomped to his heart’s content. We had to pull him out when it was time for dinner; otherwise, he would have stayed all evening.
Because of how simple it is, it’s just as easy to clean up as it is to set up. Tip the water out from the center, then drain the water from the ring through the nozzle. It’s also easy to store; you just fold it up and stow it away in the little box it comes in. This splash pad is a fresh reprieve on a hot summer day — and it’s less stressful than packing up a beach bag. Good, clean backyard fun, in other words, that doesn’t make us (or Augie) miss the pool or the ocean all that much.
The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.