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Summer water fun has come a long way since the days of a wide-open fire hydrant, simple hose, or an oscillating lawn sprinkler if you’re fancy. These days, families have a huge number of options, many of which can fall under the category of splash pads: a zone in which water sprays, bubbles, and spritzes. The best splash pads for the home now range from huge, elaborate personal water parks with sprayers and slides to evolved, colorful hose attachments—all of which are more convenient than loading the kids into the car for an exhausting day navigating a theme park. Read on for our guide to turning your home into a backyard water park that will keep the kids happy (and busy) all summer long. 

Considerations when shopping for the best splash pad

If you’re lucky enough to live in a place where public playground splash pads are an option, then you know the details that get kids really excited: think sprouting sprinklers, gentle rain showers, swiveling sprayers, wading pools, and toddler-sized bubblers. Fortunately, all of those features are available for your own backyard when you choose the best splash pad for your family. But outdoor water toys run the gamut from small and simple to neighborhood-party sized, so how can you decide?

First, consider how many kids will be using the backyard water toys, and how big those kids are. A toddler or two will fit perfectly in a smaller pad, but you’ll need something larger if you have older, bigger kids. Broadly, splash pads come in a sprinkler style (where the dominant feature is a series of jetting water plumes to run through) or a pool style (where a wading pool or splash pool is the main attraction), though you can certainly find crossover options that include both. 

Many backyard splash pads are inflatable, so also think about how quickly and easily a given option will inflate. Larger versions take more time, effort, and water to set up. Does the one you’re eyeing include a pump? Features are also important: Do you want water sprayers? A slide? Included toys or games? Finally, set your budget. You can shell out a lot on a life-sized dinosaur sprinkler or find plenty of amazingly refreshing options closer to $20, so there’s something out there for every budget. 

Related: Want to run through an old-school lawn sprinkler? We’ve got you covered.

Do you want a classic backyard splash pad?

The classic backyard splash pad is a circular mat with plumes of water shooting up, like a lawn sprinkler, but better. Typically, these hook up to a garden hose. Some are only large enough for one or two toddlers; others have a wider circumference to accommodate more splashers. Some kids’ splash pads come decorated with brightly colored cartoons, or even feature number and letter decor to infuse a little education into a play session. More expensive classic backyard splash pads will boast more water pressure for taller sprays of water, or multiple jets shooting out from all sides. They might feature inflatable water toys and animals, too. Ever wanted to get sprayed by an octopus? Well, you can!

Best entry-level backyard splash pad: BESWORLDS Sprinkler for Kids

Splash and Spritz

This affordable splash pad features an educational design and 360-degree sprinklers.
BESWORLDS

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Colorful and decorated with alphabet letters and animals, the BESWORLDS splash mat plugs right into a standard garden hose for easy setup. The 68-inch size accommodates two to three toddlers and sports a non-slip base for safety. 

Do you want a supercharged kids’ sprinkler?

Running through the sprinkler is a summer activity that’s stood the test of time. And, sure, the regular old lawn sprinkler still works. But there are way more fun water sprinklers for kids on the market these days. Want a big, inflatable archway sprinkler for kids to run under? They’re out there. Like long, twisting gizmos with multiple sprinkler heads? Ditto. You can even buy huge, inflatable elephants that shoot water from their trunks. 

Best kids’ sprinkler: CHUCHIK Outdoor Water Spray Sprinkler

Whimsical Wiggles

This turtle-shaped wonder is equipped with spinning tubes to spray water all over the place.
CHUCHIK

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You’d never imagine something so fun could be powered by a simple garden hose. But this kids’ sprinkler shoots water through six flexible hoses, which wave around wildly as they spray in an unpredictable cloud as wide as 15-feet across.

Are you looking for a splash pool?

Splash pools take the already fantastic kiddie pool concept and kick it up a notch with extra features, such as multiple pools and/or slides. Great for very small kids and anyone who likes to soak in a deeper pool, splash pools are perfect for hot days, and also prevent you from running the hose nonstop. When shopping for a splash pool, first consider the size and depth you’ll need. Then look over all the bells and whistles. We couldn’t find any with actual bells or whistles, but you won’t miss them with all these features.

Best backyard splash pool: Sable Inflatable Play Center

Tropical Play in Your Backyard

Kids stay safe with fixed handrails and sponge cushion padding.
Sable

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This easy-to-use splash water park has a fun slide and is made of durable, BPA-free PVC. Holes on the side spray water in, making kids feel like they’re at the water park. The backyard splash pad does not include an electric pump. 

Do you want water toys for toddlers?

Water fun is always a hit with the smallest kiddos. From water tables to squirt guns to sprinklers and mini-splash pads, anything that will get them wet and splashing is bound to please. Many backyard splash pads and water toys are particularly suited to toddlers: small, not very deep, and adorned with colorful cartoons. Any items that come with inflatable animal toys or other accessories are even better. Of course, be careful when letting toddlers (or any children who can’t swim) play in a pool or splash pad; make sure an adult is within arm’s reach at all times.

Best water toys for toddlers: Splash Pad for Kids/Toddler

Friendly Elephant

It’s a pool! It’s a splash pad! It’s both—and it comes with an elephant sprinkler to boot.
BATURU

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With a 65- by 51-inch oval shape and 6-inch depth, this water toy for kids is just right for two or three toddlers. It’s easy to adjust the height of the spray to match the size of the kid, and the elephant toy on the side sprays a shower of water, too. It inflates quickly with an electric pump (which isn’t included, it’s important to note).

Got a big yard and bigger dreams?

You don’t have to be a part-time archeologist, full-time thrillseeker to run through a cave, escape from the gaping mouth of a crocodile or scale the walls of adventure: you just need to be a kid with enough space (and indulgent parents) to get an inflatable water park. The best backyard water park will pack multiple children and several attractions into a quickly inflatable and deflatable extravaganza.

Best backyard water park: Costzon Inflatable Double Water Slide

No Summer Travel Required

Kids won’t get bored with this pool’s two waterslides, splash pool, and water cannon.
Costzon

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This backyard water park has everything: two slides, a climbing wall, tunnel, basketball rim, and more. It also has a PVC coat (and soft, durable cleaning cloth) so that it can last for several summers to come. And if this isn’t enough, it comes with a hose, four blower stakes, five bouncer stakes, a repair kit, and a carrying bag—so you can bring the fun wherever you go. It’s available with or without an air blower, and isn’t cheap either way, but if you don’t have an in-ground pool and want to dip your toes into aquatic adventure, it will blow any kid’s mind. 

Are you looking for a bargain splash pad?

You don’t have to go into debt to find a fun outdoor water toy for the kids this summer. Sure, a bargain splash pad or sprinkler won’t be 10 feet high or large enough to entertain your child’s entire preschool class at once. But if all you need is a backyard toy that squirts, sprinkles, or lets kids splash around, then you’ll have plenty of options. And that’s really all they’re looking for.

Best bargain splash pad: Scientoy Splash Pad

Budget Pick

At under $15, this splash pad is out of this world.
Scientoy

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Sized to fit two or three kids comfortably, the Scientoy Splash Pad hooks up to a hose easily and can be adjusted for higher or lower spray heights. The durable PVC material holds up to jumping and bouncing.

FAQs

Q: How much does a small splash pad cost?

Though the highest-end models can certainly get expensive, simple, small splash pads don’t cost all that much. It’s easy to find a typical option—a circular sprinkler mat that fits two or three young children—for $25 or less, sometimes significantly less. Costs begin to rise when you add extra features (such as animal-shaped sprayers) or slides, and the larger the water pad, the more you’ll pay.

Q: Do splash pads reuse water?

Most backyard splash pads don’t reuse water; they hook up to a hose just like a lawn sprinkler, and also like a sprinkler, they spray out into the grass. These outdoor water toys are usually simple plastic mats with sprinkler holes, without any structure to recapture and recirculate water. Keep that in mind when deciding how long the kids can play in one. 

Q: How to choose a splash pad?

When deciding how to choose a splash pad for your yard, think about what’s most important to you (or more likely, to your kids). Do you prefer a sprinkler-style toy for running through? Or would a wading or splashing pool be better? What about a splash pad that includes both? Also consider the size: Smaller splash pads fit a couple of young kids, while bigger ones can accommodate more children or even adults. Finally, think about your budget. A splash pad can set you back hundreds of dollars, or $20, depending on its size and features. 

Related: If you’d rather spring for an inflatable kiddie pool, check these out.

The final word on choosing the best splash pad

Countless summer afternoons of watery fun await when you choose the best splash pad for your family. Shop around and think about what style would suit your kids best: A backyard water park? A sprinkler mat? A pad with inflatable water toys? Soon you’ll find just the right splash pad for you. Then connect the splash pool to your hose, turn on the spray, and get ready to cool down in style. 

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