The 15 Best Pool Toys for Kids

Neve Spicer
Written by Neve Spicer Updated on October 13th, 2021

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When warm weather rolls around, it’s time to make a splash, and there’s no better companion for the journey than a fun pool toy. From big rafts for multiple kids to perennial durable favorites like noodles and boogie boards, there’s a wide world of fun floaties out there — we’re just swimming in it. Check out our list of the 15 best pool toys for kids, and take a deep dive into the buyer’s guide for important tips on pool safety.

What are some essential safety tips for swimming, and why are they important?

On a hot summer day, there’s not much that’s more refreshing than a dip in the swimming pool. It’s a great way for kids to stay healthy and work off some extra energy, and most of them can’t get enough time splashing around. The flip side of this is that if safety guidelines aren’t followed, grave consequences can follow — water play demands caution, especially at home where parents are the lifeguards on duty. Check out these essential tips, as well as why they’re important, to be better prepared for safe pool play.

  • Always supervise younger kids while they’re swimming. Even if kids are strong swimmers, it still takes very little time for an accident to turn dire when water is involved. Kids can also be creative with their play when they’re unsupervised, which is a nice way of saying that your presence can keep them from roughhousing and trying dangerous things.
  • Swim with a buddy. Once kids are old enough and responsible enough to not require parental supervision, it’s best for them — and the whole family — to ascribe to the rule of swimming with a buddy. If an accident or medical incident were to happen, someone would be present to offer aid or contact authorities immediately.
  • Life vests for beginners, at any age. There’s a first time for everything, and first times often beg for caution. This is especially true of swimming, and it’s best for new or inexperienced swimmers of any age to wear a life vest for their own safety. The boost in buoyancy will make it easier for them to acclimate to the feeling of swimming without having to keep themselves afloat.
  • Skip the booze if you’re in charge of supervising swimmers. We’re pretty sure you know this one already, but it’s an important reminder. As delicious as that poolside drink is, save it for when you can really kick back and relax. Alcohol cuts down on your reaction time and can alter your judgement, making it a bad companion to any situation where you’re the adult in charge.

Our best picks for kids pool toys

Editor's Choice

Our opinion

Water slides are the height of summer fun, and this pick provides activities they can enjoy both in and out of the pool. The Surf ‘N Slide play center is an inflatable standing water slide with a shallow pool base. Kids can climb up the back of the slide into the shark’s open mouth, sliding down the “river” into the pool on one of the two accompanying inflatable “surf riders” — these can double as floats when kids are in the swimming pool, complete with handles to grab onto. The backyard slide requires a garden hose to power its sprayers, and has a weight limit of up to 176 lbs.

What they’ll love:

  • It’s a water slide they can enjoy in their own backyard

Watch out for:

  • The slide itself needs to be placed entirely on solid ground, so it can’t be used in or next to the pool (but the enclosed rafts can)

Upgrade Choice

Our opinion

They won’t have to jump through hoops to swim through them with this easy-to-assemble ring course, which uses adjustable air chambers to stabilize rings and determine their depth. Each of the collapsible rings in this set has a chamber which can be filled or deflated to the pressure level necessary to create their desired course, which can be done by children or adults. The rings are great for helping kids practice their form while swimming, but they’re also large enough that adults can easily swim through the obstacle course also.

What they’ll love:

  • Varying the depth of the rings is as easy as adjusting the amount of air in their chamber, so creating a dynamic obstacle course is simple even for kids

Best Budget Buy

Our opinion

When they’re ready to soar across the pool like a turtle through the sea, this classic float with extra-durable handles is an ideal budget-friendly pick. The turtle’s vivid green and blue design and friendly eyes are perfect for kids, and the raft’s two handles are designed to stand up to repeated use. At 59″ x 50″, the raft can accommodate one adult or multiple children. The float comes with a repair patch for fixing any accidental leaks, but the thick plastic construction of this sturdy turtle ensures that they’ll be few and far between.

What they’ll love:

  • The turtle design is cute and appealing to kids, and the durable raft has handles and can seat multiple younger kids

Best sporty pool toy

Our opinion

Playing volleyball is a great way to stay active during summertime, and taking the game into the pool helps players stay cool while they’re serving and spiking. This durable floating volleyball set from Intex is almost 8′ long, so there’s plenty of room for a few players to get in on the fun. It’s easy to inflate, and optional anchor weights can make playtime easier by holding the inflatable net in place. There’s no need to bring your own ball, as the set even includes an inflatable volleyball. The durable game includes a repair kit for emergencies and a shelf box to preserve the integrity of the vinyl when the set isn’t in use.

What they’ll love:

  • The net is almost 8′ wide, so there’s enough room for a few kids to play
  • The anchor weights make playtime more convenient by holding the net in place

Best for babies

Our opinion

Spending time in the pool can be a fun sensory experience for babies, who often take naturally to the sensation and can acclimate quickly. A wide raft with leg holes for baby is safest and offers baby a feeling of security, which is the case with this adorable blue and green octopus-themed float from SwimWays. The float features a breathable mesh canopy which offers UPF 50+ sun protection to little riders, which is an important part of pool safety for babies. They’ll also enjoy developmental play with the rotating octopus, which contains a rattle, a squeaker, stacking pieces, and more.

What they’ll love:

  • The secure leg holes, UPF 50+ breathable mesh canopy, and rotating octopus with developmental play opportunities makes this an ideal pick for babies

Watch out for:

  • It has an age limit of 9 – 24 months, so make sure to pick a new float when they get too big

Best for girls

Our opinion

If she’s always wanted to be a mermaid, this unique monofin might be the perfect pool toy to add to her collection. This reinforced tail has a beautifully detailed design that really sparkles, and is available in bright jewel tones like teal, magenta, blue, green, orange, pink, and even rainbow. The durable neoprene-coated tail is comfortable and safe for her to wear while swimming, creating a powerful feeling as she cuts through the water just like a fish. The mermaid tail is designed to stand up to regular wear and use, and its fade-resistant fabric will help to keep colors vivid despite exposure to pool chemicals and direct sunlight.

What they’ll love:

  • It’s both beautiful and functional, featuring a shiny, vivid scale design that’s fade resistant on a neoprene monofin that adds real speed and power to her swim

Best for parties

Our opinion

Jumbo floats are large and in charge, and when they’re as unique as this white unicorn with a rainbow mane and tail and shiny gold horn, they make a statement as kids ride in style. This massive unicorn pal can support up to 500 lbs, so multiple kids can squeeze into the inner tube at once if desired. The raft features rapid valve inflation, so there’s no frustrating wait to play when it’s time to get in the pool, and it also quickly deflates when it’s time for the raft to be stored. The jumbo size of this float makes it great for the whole family to share, and the vinyl is UV-treated, so the vivid rainbow hues of the accents will hold their color even after repeated sun exposure.

What they’ll love:

  • It’s big enough for any member of the family to use, and the unique rainbow unicorn theme makes it a standout at pool parties and on river trips

Watch out for:

  • Because it’s a bigger float, the center hole is large, so it may be too big for kids under 7 to feel secure in

Best for modish kids

Our opinion

Emojis are all the rage — they’re how kids and adults are expressing their thoughts and feelings via text message, and the most-loved of the recognizable icons are quickly popping up on all kinds of products. That includes this set of 12 inflatable 12″ emoji-themed beach balls, featuring two each of the winking, laughing, heart-eyes, sly smile, sunglasses, and kiss emojis. They’re great for play inside or outside of the pool, and the large size of the pack means that even if one gets misplaced or deflates, there’s still plenty left to get kids back in the game.

What they’ll love:

  • It’s a pack of 12, so even if a few get lost or pop, they’ll still have a lot — plus, they’re good for groups and siblings

Best pool diving toys

Our opinion

Diving games are a great way to encourage kids to develop their underwater swimming skills, and these bright torpedoes can be launched far and have point values that make collecting them an even more exciting competition. Toypedo Bandits rockets from SwimWays can soar up to 20 feet under the water, and their shape is made for a child’s hands to grasp and grow. With vivid shades like yellow, blue, green, and purple, they’re easy to spot under the water, and each rocket has a point value to create a diving contest game that’s sure to make a splash.

What they’ll love:

  • They’re fun to throw AND retrieve, and the point values add a new level of competition to the classic diving game

Watch out for:

  • While they can travel quickly underwater, it’s hard to achieve the maximum distance of 20 feet without the Toypedo Blast launcher, sold separately

Best eco-friendly

Our opinion

Green Toys is a company that takes ecology seriously, choosing to manufacture their toys only with totally safe and earth friendly recycled plastic, and even using minimal recycled packaging. This sweet little yellow and blue sub is a perfect toy for little swimmers to use, encouraging them to grasp, place, and submerge the small toy for experience with cause and effect as it floats, bobs, and bubbles. It’s great in both the pool and the bathtub, and the simple design doesn’t overstimulate and is excellent for inspiring creative pretend play.

What they’ll love:

  • It’s made out of BPA and phthalate-free recycled plastic with minimal recycled paper packaging, so it’s a lot more eco-friendly than some plastic toy picks
  • The design is simple, which is ideal for inspiring creativity in younger children

Best pool water gun

Our opinion

Squirting water blasters are a classic way to have a water battle during outdoor play, and this set of two is fun in and out of the pool. The detailed, articulated plastic blasters feature bright shades of red, blue, green, and orange. They can hold up to 25 oz of water, so kids will get a lot of “ammo” out of one tank fill, and the pair can fire water up to 36 feet. Because it’s a set of two, it’s perfect for a tag match between siblings or friends, and the durable blasters are made of thick, non-toxic plastic that is designed to hold up to regular use and childhood roughhousing.

What they’ll love:

  • It’s a set of two blasters, so only one set is needed for a tag match between two siblings or friends
What we love
Watch for

Our twelve pick

Our opinion

Shooting hoops is even cooler when it’s done in the pool, and this floating basketball set makes use of water to create a stable hoop that’s fun to play with. The 20″ orange and yellow basketball hoop is inflatable, but has a base which can be filled with water in order to stabilize the unit during play. It’s a toy that’s fun for all ages, and it’s even accompanied by a mini-basketball to get the game started — it’s not a regulation-sized hoop, though, so their real ball will need to stay on the court but other small balls are great for play.

What they’ll love:

  • The base of the hoop can be stabilized with water, and it contains the ball to make retrieval easier

Watch out for:

  • It’s much smaller than a real basketball hoop, so players will need to use the accompanying ball or a similar-sized pick

Our thirteenth pick

Our opinion

Forgive us, but we have to say it — they’ll have a ball with this watermelon-themed, gravity-defying pick, which is filled with water and creates nearly neutral buoyancy for a totally unique play experience. Most balls float immediately to the top of the water, but the watermelon ball can be spiked, kicked, dribbled, and thrown up to 10 feet underwater. It will return to the surface on its own eventually, but it does so far more slowly than balls designed for land games, so it’s a perfect pick for underwater sports.

What they’ll love:

  • It creates a more satisfying underwater play experience, because close-to-neutral buoyancy prevents the water-filled ball from returning immediately to the surface

Watch out for:

  • It’s not suitable for play outside the pool, as it is too heavy and impact could lead to breakage

Our fourteenth pick

Our opinion

Floats that let riders kick back and relax can be a great addition to fun in the sun, but picks that aren’t breathable can become sweaty, sticky, and uncomfortable after a while. This mesh-bottomed circular river run raft from Intex solves the problem expertly, using a durable but flexible netting to support riders while also allowing water flow that will keep them cool as they ride. A neck or back rest and two sturdy handles offer extra security and comfort to the rider, and there’s even two cup holders present on this raft for their drink of choice.

What they’ll love:

  • The mesh bottom of the raft supports the rider comfortably while also allowing water flow for maximum coolness and comfort
  • The back rest, handles, and cup holders bring extra comfort, security, and convenience along for the ride

What kinds of pool toys are there to choose from?

  • Rafts: Large and in charge, rafts give riders the opportunity to float around in style on their very own inflatable platform. They may have a cute theme or design, or may simply be a place for the rider to lounge in leisure. Some pool rafts even have cupholders where a drink can be kept as you float, and others yet can accommodate multiple riders — almost always kids — at the same time.
  • Inner tubes: These familiar round flotation devices look like a donut you can’t eat and feel like a hug that can swim, sliding easily around the wearer’s waist or under their arms to create buoyancy in the water. Picks for babies and young children often have a vinyl support for their bottom with two leg holes to offer extra security and freedom of movement.
  • Free floating/mounted games: Games like basketball, ring toss, tag, and others are even more fun when they take place in the pool. Some toys are free-standing objects, others have targets that float in the water, and some mount to the side of the pool for extra security.
  • Pool noodles/boogie boards: These durable flotation devices tend to outlast inflatable picks, and the lack of setup required for use makes them an evergreen favorite in the world of pool toys. They’re easy to grab onto, and both make it a bit easier to float while swimming.

And the winner is…

Offering fun both in and out of the pool, the Intex Surf ’N Slide Inflatable Play Center (check price on Amazon) offers backyard water excitement that’s great for younger users who may not always want to go in the big pool. The surf riders that are included with the set not only make going down the shark-themed water slide a little easier, they also double as inflatable boogie board-sized pool rafts with durable handles that can be used by riders of any age, making this set a well-rounded pick that’s fantastic for families.

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Neve Spicer
Written by Neve Spicer Updated on October 13th, 2021
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