You know the ones I mean – they sell them at Wal-mart for 10 bucks or so. At first glance they appear to be far too small for anything bigger than a small one year old child to enjoy. But before you toss it after just one summer, think outside the box a little bit – you might be surprised at what you can do with it! We used ours for Big C the summer we moved to Charlotte – he had just turned 1, and we hadn’t explored the local pool options yet. We used it for a couple of months, then moved it to the attic, where it had previously been collecting dust for the past three years. But this summer our creative juices (and sweat glands…) have been flowing, and we’ve brought it back to life. And I daresay we’re having even more fun with it now than we did before!!!
WATER TABLE – Our “pool” fits perfectly onto the round table on our back patio, which goes into shade by mid-afternoon. Fill it up with a few inches of water, toss in some toys, and voila! A sensory experience that will entertain the kiddos as well as keep them cool. Big C likes floating his lego men around in boats (aka bowls), while Baby Z likes when the water from the bowls spills onto her legs. (Just a fair warning, if you’re kids are anything like mine, they will most likely end up IN the water table before it’s over, so dress accordingly.)
ACTIVITY MAT – Speaking of getting IN the pool, Baby Z has discovered that tummy time is twice the fun when it’s done in a couple of inches of water. Plus the threat of getting a face-full of water is a great incentive to keep her head up (totally kidding…it should go without saying that this one should only be attempted for a few minutes at a time and under very close adult supervision!!!) But you don’t have to stop at tummy time – once baby can sit up independently, park him/her in the pool with a few toys. Your child will have fun exploring how the toys interact with the water!
SCIENCE EXPERIMENTS – There are all sorts of science experiments that involve water. (For some ideas, check out here and here.) It can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it. With a 4 year old (and a 4 month old), we tend to go for impromptu teachable moments rather than following the Scientific Method to a “T.” For example, there were a few afternoons last week in the upper 90’s, which meant the water that was nice and cool from the hose earlier in the day had elevated to hot tub status. Our solution was to grab a giant bucket full of ice cubes and watch them melt. Another favorite at our household is grabbing a bunch of toys and predicting “Sink or Float?” WARNING: Unless you want your pool to become a birthing center for female mosquitoes, I suggest you don’t experiment with leaving the same water in the pool for more than 24 hours…
BALL TOSS GAMES – A cheap plastic pool can make a “wet and wild” version of just about any ball game. Recently we’ve been enjoying a few lively rounds of “Splashketball,” which is basically a watery combination of H-O-R-S-E and Keep-away. (At least that’s what it felt like yesterday…it’s hard playing with a 4 year old because the rules change often and without warning…)
SAND/DIRT TABLE – Just because pool weather is over doesn’t mean you have to part ways with your cheap plastic pool. It can still make a great sensory table during cool weather – but instead of water, why not use sand? Dirt? Moon Dough? Throw in a few cups, bowls, garden tools, and maybe even a small dump truck or two, and you’ve got a fairly well-contained mess on your hands that any toddler will love!
The above is how we’ve been rolling with this summer, but we’re always up for other ideas! Any other “off-label” uses for a cheap plastic pool that we should know about?