After months spent cooped up inside with our kids for endless afternoons that feel like days, there’s no greater joy than knowing summer is finally here. It’s the season where we can let our sun hat-wearing toddlers wear themselves out to their heart’s content by running ’round the yard, swing on their outdoor swings, and jump in the colorful, new inflatable pool.
The only thing better than a stretch of grass to let your kid play on is having some type of water table or water toy (like a unicorn floatie) at the ready—already blown up, put together and ready for endless play. Pretty much any toy that involves water in some way, shape or form is a winner for summer weather—although some are more promising when it comes to occupying your little one than others. For whatever reason, kids just love getting themselves doused in water (usually mixed with something stain-worthy like grass, sand or dirt).
And in the era of COVID-19, when you’re less likely to go to public parks of any kind, water toys will literally become your saving grace. If you stock up on enough of them and spread them out across your lawn, you can create a water park in your own backyard. In case you need us to spell it out for you, that translates to some well-deserved peace and quiet for you. Okay, maybe not the quiet part, but at least you can catch up on some work or a new chapter of that new book you started four months ago.
What more could your child want out of summertime than an extra large, water-spraying unicorn smack dab in the middle of your lawn? The answer is nothing, Mom—you are the best! However big you think this unicorn is, picture it bigger. It measures approximately 82.6” X 33.5” X 65” (once inflated, of course) and it is one of the best ways to keep your kid cool on a hot, summer day. It is super easy to use—simply inflate it (tip: consider an electric pump if you don’t already have one) and connect your hose right to it. It comes with four stakes so that it can stand firmly on the ground without blowing away and sprays water up to 10 feet in the air. Hey, if your kid doesn’t like it, you can always use it as a fountain or decoration of sorts for a booze-filled birthday party in your backyard!
Few toys come in more clutch on a 90-something degree summer day than a glorified sprinkler plus wading pool. Just hook up the hose and you’re done! This splash pad has some of the best reviews, with parents clamoring over its ease of use, accurate description, quality material and overall value. It is made from a durable material that can handle the weight of a child from ages 1 to 12. It’s safe—it has passed 8 safety inspections to ensure that it is nontoxic and safe in the sun for long periods of time. It is fairly large—with a diameter of 68 inches—so it is big enough for up to four children to play on. And, despite its originally low price, it comes with a 1-year quality assurance and (wait for it) a customer support team that actually responds to calls and emails! Woo!
Have a little pipsqueak who’s eager to dip his feet into the big-kid pool? Start him on an inflatable baby float designed to accommodate ages 9 months to 24 months. This one goes the extra mile to provide UPF 50+ sun protection for little ones while they’re splashing up a storm in the pool. It’s made from a heavy-duty construction that’s not going to pop upon blowing it up. It’s large size makes for enough buoyancy to hold your baby’s weight and then some so you don’t have to constantly wrap your arms around him to ensure it stays well above water. One reviewer said it was particularly ideal for her small 11 month old who weighs just 16 pounds. “It’s a little tough to find equipment made for his age that accommodates his small stature. This worked great for us! He didn’t sink too low, and was able to sit up and float around while kicking and splashing. He LOVES it.”
If you’re lucky enough to have access to a sandbox or, better yet, live near a beach, this purchase doesn’t have to be used with water only. Sand works wonders. But you can also place it in a large bucket or kiddie pool (one that’s too large for your kid to annoyingly dump over) and let your little one go to town. Seriously, you’ll be surprised by how long this set of 19 sand toys captivates his attention, including 1 water wheel, 6 beach tools, 1 beach bucket, 1 watering can, 9 beach molds and 1 mesh bag for carrying it all wherever you need to go. It’s made from a durable, nontoxic plastic so you don’t have to freak out everytime your kid attempts to take a bite (because he will). The variety is great for curious minds and each piece is perfect for being played with by little hands.
Can’t decide whether you want to go the baby pool or sprinkler route? Double up and do both all in one purchase. This splash pad is fairly large, at 70 inches diameter, so it can fit at least three children comfortably for pool splashing or sprinkler jumping on those hottest of summer days. Along with the mat you also get some fun pool toys including princess wands and princess hairband crowns. Setting it up is easy. Simply grasp the edge of the mat and fold the spout inward, secure your outdoor water faucet (or hose) to the water spray mat and choose the intensity: low, middle or high (78 inches tall). Many parents will also be pleased to know that this mat is made from a sturdy and durable material that is built to withstand repeated use. It is also non-toxic and free of BPA.
If you could go back to your childhood, wouldn’t you want this to be part of it? It is not only kid-friendly—it is straight-up tempting for adult use. While it is clearly meant to be used in the yard, it can also be used indoors as a playhouse or as a kiddie pool. It’s great for imaginative play (get ready to place your ice cream order). It has three assorted and inflatable ice cream bars that are removable or can be placed in their respective ice cream holders, a roof for sun protection if you do happen to be using it outside, as well as a wading pool in the very back. It is made using clean and safe materials—having been independently tested to monitor toxicity (including phthalates). It even comes with a repair patch in case an area pops open.
This kiddie kitchen sink will captivate your child’s attention for hours at a time—seriously. For whatever reason, kids love sinks. They love to mimic what you do 24/7—even if that means washing the damn dishes your partner leaves sitting in the sink even though you have a perfectly working dishwasher. This water toy is actually pretty cool—it has real running water and temperature sensing that allows it to turn white when the water is hot (it changes color!). The faucet has a battery powered pump that reuses water instead of wasting a ton like you would in your actual kitchen sink. With over 1000 reviews, one dad put it just right, “Well deserved 5 stars!! It was easy to set up, only takes 2 AA batteries, and some water. My daughter has enjoyed playing with it, the color changing was pretty cool too. Although she takes washing dishes as a serious matter, she has enjoyed washing her dolls with it too… lol. I’m 100 % satisfied with my purchase.”
Looking for a super low-maintenance water toy that will keep your child busy without flooding your home (or lawn)? This one is just what the burnt-out mama ordered. It’s actually meant for the bath but can be used outside of the tub with even a small amount of water. Simply fill a big bowl up with water and let your kiddo go to town. It’s great for developing hand-eye coordination, since your child has to fill the device — be it the strainer, the cup or the water can and then pour it over the tower to rotate the propeller, leaf and create a waterfall. All of the toys are made from a durable plastic that’s BPA free and the edges are nice and smooth so you don’t have to worry about any snags. It also stays in place thanks to two strong suction cups at the backside, which comes in handy whether you’re using it in or out of the bath or the kiddie pool.
Not able to take that tropical vacation you’ve been dreaming of? This inflatable toy won’t make up for it, but at least it will distract your child on a hot summer day so you can put your feet up and relax for a whole five minutes (and hopefully more). It is easy to inflate (connects right to your hose) and has a water bag at the bottom so that it stays upright (35” tall) while your kid is trying her very best to knock it flat on its back. This bottom weight will also help ensure that the wind doesn’t take it for a ride. It is made from a high-quality vinyl material that’s thicker than most so you won’t have to worry about it popping at the lightest touch. And if it does pop, or doesn’t meet your expectations, the company wants to hear about it, thanks to a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee.
Now that you’ve got your water toy inventory squared away, stock up on some of these other essential toys that are great for summer and beyond.