Summer Fun

10 Creative Ways To Use Target's Classic $10 Kiddie Pool That Don't Involve Water

Cheap and full of possibilities? *Adds to cart.*

A baby sits in a kiddie pool filled with balls.
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While shopping for supplies at Target to keep my toddler busy this summer, I spotted a seasonal staple that just so happens to also be refreshingly affordable: a classic wading kiddie pool. At regular price, the Sun Squad item is a steal at only $12. However, it often goes on sale — as I’m writing, it's marked down to just under $10. (The Target Circle app tells me this item sells out quickly, so keep that in mind!) My hold-up? I don't have a backyard, so I have to be strategic about ways to use this inexpensive item indoors... without making a huge mess.

So, I started brainstorming and came up with 10 different creative solutions to use this pool indoors. Are these all super neat and tidy? Maybe not. But they won't result in sloshing water that could damage the floors or cause someone to slip and fall. I'd rather Shop-Vac up a little sand than make a trip to Urgent Care.

The best part? You can throw together these activities using regular household items, no matter the weather.

1. Archaeological Dig

Grab a handful of small toys, aka the dinosaur figurines your child always leaves around the house for you to step on. Place a large cloth (e.g., drop cloth, tarp, blanket) over the pool, tucking the ends underneath the pool. Take a bag of sand — or crush up some bags of Cheerios for a thin alternative layer that's taste-safe — and dump that out into the pool. Give your kid a paintbrush and tell them to gently excavate some dinos!

2. Alphabet Soup

You bought too many pool noodles from Target because they were on sale, right? Perfect! Take a few noodles and, using a serrated knife, cut them into various widths. Have your little chef toss these in while imagining which ingredients each one represents. Add alphabet blocks or foam bath letters and give it a good stir. Then, as you both “eat” the soup, review the letters one by one!

3. Magic Claw

Here’s a chance for your Bluey-loving toddler to recreate the beloved episode “The Claw.” Have them toss in a variety of toys and stuffed animals into the kiddie pool. As for the magic claw itself, you have a few options. Play the Bluey way by acting as the magic claw while your toddler uses a set of chopsticks to “operate” the machine. Another way to play is to give your kid one of those grabber tools for them to use as the claw. And, if you want a good arm workout, you can pick up your kid and lower them so they can reach for their toys.

4. Dumpster Diving

Does your kid love playing with trash like mine does? Well, gather your non-breakable recyclables (cleaning them out first!): milk cartons, yogurt containers, cereal boxes, etc., and make it into a game. Pretending that the kiddie pool is a dumpster, toss a mix of toys and clothing items in with the recyclables. Then, ask your kid to pick items out individually and sort them into three bins: recycling, toys, and clothing. You can teach them environmental responsibility while gathering items you can donate.

5. Sleepy Bear

“Shhhhhh! The bear is sleeping!” It’s time for your kid’s teddy bears to hibernate for the winter. Build a den by placing blankets and pillows in the kiddie pool. You and your toddler can go through a typical night routine with the teddy bears and tuck them in for a long rest. Place a blanket over the kiddie pool (or stack an upside-down pool over the top, if you have more than one). Play a bear-themed song, practice counting, or throw on a Miss Rachel video — no judgment here! Then, wake up the bears and repeat.

6. Race Track

Grab some painter’s tape and use it to create a few racing lanes within the kiddie pool. Using any toy cars you have on hand, let your toddler push their car around and around. Immerse them in a race track setting by playing sound effects or the Cars soundtrack on Spotify. You can vary up this activity by switching out the cars for horses.

7. Tea Cup Ride

Disney World is expensive, but YouTube videos from the POV of a rider sitting in a teacup are free! If you’re feeling ✨extra✨, you can make a ticket, wear a uniform, and guide your toddler to their teacup. As the teacup in the video spins and moves, do the same with the kiddie pool. Though I’ll warn you, if you have a sensitive stomach like me, you might want to take some Dramamine before you start.

8. What’s the Time?

This one’s for my fellow millennial moms whose own childhood stretching routine involved attempting the Clock Stretch from The Big Comfy Couch. Tape numbers onto the kiddie pool and place your kiddo in the center. Have them use their hands (or legs) to mark different times.

9. Ball Pit

The easiest option, for sure — but ball pits can get pretty pricey! TBH, my ideal ball pit is this aesthetically pleasing $115 option from Gathre, but I much prefer the price of Target’s kiddie pool. Toss in a bag or two of cheap(er) plastic balls from Amazon and let your kid live it up.

10. Poolside Picasso

Swap out your kid’s swimsuit for an art smock and get them painting! Using paintbrushes and washable paint, let them channel their inner artist by painting the inside of the pool. When they’re done, make sure to clean your canvas by hosing down the kiddie pool. Want to opt for a less messy art project? Line the pool with drawing paper, or press Play-Doh to make imprints of the pool’s wavy pattern.