On a hot summer’s day in the garden, younger kids love nothing more than getting the paddling pool out.

But with so many to pick from, it can be hard to know which one to splash the cash on, so we’ve whittled them down to the best of the best, taking into account durability, ease of inflating and deflating, storage, play value and size – making sure there’s something for everyone and all budgets too.

They range from no-frills basics to larger ones where parents can get a slice of the action – there’s even one that comes complete with slide, water blaster and shoe holder.

Check if your paddling pool will need a pump to blow it up (most don’t come with one) and think about size too, as some are larger than you might think.

Does it have a drain or does it need to be turned out to empty it? If you’re putting it on a hard surface, consider the flooring.

Some, but not all, include a repair kit, and you may need to think about storage too as some take up a lot of space even when not in use.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.

Chad Valley activity pool play centre: £25, Argos

Size: L 76cm x W 146cm x D 259cm

With this, you get two pools for the price of one, offering hours of inflatable fun. We made one half a mini ball park (we’d advise buying more balls separately as you need a lot) and the other a paddling pool and kids had great fun using the slide to go from one to the other. As if that’s not enough, there’s a sprinkler, which our young testers found hysterical. The bright colours, along with the focus on play, value and attention to detail all combine make this a real crowd-pleaser, but try to keep kids over five away as this is really aimed at tiny tots.

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Bestway H2OGO! turbo splash water park: £587.97, Amazon

Size: L 365cm x W 320cm x H 270cm

This is so much more than a paddling pool, as you’d hope with the hefty price tag. Kids can keep things simple by paddling about in the water or more adventurous souls can climb up the rock wall to the slippery slide that curves gently round for a fun splash into the pool. Then there’s our testers’ favourite bit – the water blaster that means you can spray your siblings or mates as they slide down. Incredibly, it inflates within just two minutes with the air blower. Aimed at children aged five to 10, it even has a mesh shoe holder to keep them safe while the kids get wet.

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Chad Valley aquarium activity pool: £30, Argos

Size: H 86cm x W 241cm x D 260cm

There’s a whole world of aquatic fun for tiny tots with this vibrant looking water play area, complete with blow-up slide, palm tree, dolphin, clown fish and octopus. We had ours inflated in just under 10 minutes, using a pump, and our little testers jumped up and down in excited anticipation for the whole duration. So did it live up to their expectations? Well, yes, actually – four of them easily had enough space to play and got stuck into all sorts of imaginary games for the whole afternoon. It’s recommended for three and over, but we think it’s fine to put younger ones in as long as they’re confident in water and you’re supervising at all times. It folds up nice and flat afterwards.

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Intex swim centre family pool with seats: £45.99, Amazon

Size: H 66cm x W 229cm x D 229cm

There’s room for all the family with this fabulous paddling pool from Intex. And the good news for mum and dad is that instead of having to sit on the (usually unpadded) pool base, this comes complete with inflatable seats, backrests and even cup holders. Other nifty touches include the drain plug and that fact that it folds away so compactly when not in use. We suggest warming the water up a bit first, grabbing a nice drink and getting in there before the kids. Expect it to inflate in around 10 minutes with a pump.

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JoJo Maman Bebe pop up paddling pool: £35, JoJo Maman Bebe

Size: D 96.5cm

Light and compact to transport? Tick. No need to blow it up? Tick. Protection from the sun? Tick. Durable fabric? Tick. When it comes to babies, we think this is the best you can buy – it pops up within seconds and has double whammy shield from the sun, both thanks to the UPF 50+ cover and the overhead shade. You can easily fit it back in the fabric carry bag after use, which in turn will fit easily in a beach bag.

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Bestway slim ’n’ slime family paddling pool: £44.99, Bestway

Size: L 201cm x W 150cm x H 51cm

If you’re after a heard-wearing family-sized pool to see you through summer after summer, then look no further. Not only did it win us over with its generous size, but the extra wide and thick walls means it is nice and robust. The built-in drain valve means you don’t have to battle with turning it over to empty out the water and kids will love the fact that it includes slime powder for turning the water into slime. We like the green and white colouring too, which blends nicely into the garden.

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Early Learning Centre race car pool: £39.99, The Entertainer

Size: H 156cm x W 102cm x D 91cm

Why settle for a bog-standard pool when you could have one in the shape of a racing car? Youngsters will have great fun when they splash, steer and drive in this ingenious orange car-shaped pool that also has a handy sun shade. If it’s a bit chilly or there’s a hosepipe ban, you can always fill it with six bags of play balls instead. Suitable from 18 months, it’s a superb option for getting their little imaginations going as they decide where to go on their travels today.

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Intex mystic unicorn spray pool: £21.95, Amazon

Size: H 104cm x W 272cm x D 193cm

Unicorns are all the rage, in case you hadn’t noticed (unlikely if you have a young girl). Which means this is going to be popular this summer, based on the theme alone. The spray is our favourite feature – you attach the sprayer sprout to the garden hose and children get a lovely light (or stronger) mist in addition to the feeling of cool water on their toes. Not all paddling pools have a drain plug (some just expect you to tip it over), so it wins extra brownie points for that too. Suitable for two-year-olds up.

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Norlog 400 gallon giant garden pool with liner: £644.42, Mano Mano

Size: H 75cm x W 229cm

So much more than a mere paddling pool, this is a more permanent and large structure that will suit families that don’t like filling their garden up with plastic and want a more natural looking option that the whole family can use. Made from pressure-treated interlocking pieces of wood, which are lined with a durable plastic layer to stop the water escaping, you’ll need to be prepared for a sizeable water bill but it looks great and is nice and deep for slightly older kids (or adults) to cool down in. You can take it apart and rebuild it quite easily if you don’t want it out all winter. We were also impressed with the 20-year guarantee.

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Bestway turtle totz paddling pool: £21.95, Amazon

Size: H 104cm​ x W 96cm x D 109cm

Worried about your little ones getting too much exposure to the sun? This completely shaded pool has an inflatable roof so they are protected from UV rays. As for the kids, they’ll love the tropical design and bright colours, while the turtle roof is bound to give them a smile. There’s a padded floor, which makes it extra comfy and means it can be used on harder grounds like patios. And at 104cm x 96cm, it’s just the right size for younger children to have a splash about in. It compresses down into a tiny pack that’s easy to store away too. We wouldn’t recommend using it on windy days though in case the wind catches it underneath.

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The verdict: Paddling pools

The Chad Valley aquarium activity pool gets top marks from us for the fun factor and value for money. JoJo Maman Bebe’s pop up paddling pool is our top recommendation for babies, while the Bestway turbo splash water park gets our vote for older kids – yes, it costs a fortune, but this is likely to get used every time the sun comes out, year after year.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.