Truth: I ache for an in-ground pool at our old farmhouse in upstate New York. The summers there can be scorching, and with minimal AC inside, a cool dip is what I dream of all season long.
Instead, I’ve made do with a plastic kiddie pool.
Bought for $20 from the local hardware store, this bright blue tub might pale in comparison to a true in-ground swimming area. Still, over the years, I’ve been surprised by how often I break it out, and not just for a quick knee-deep dip.
The most important reason I own this plastic number is that it’s the perfect cooling station for my rescue pup, Django. She races around the lawn and in the woods in the summer heat for hours and then trots over to this pool to drink her fill or perhaps splash around within.
Is this pool infallible? Nah—it cracked a couple of years ago, which means it’ll leak if it’s not positioned with the hole higher than the waterline. It also looks dingy on the bottom after so much use. But will I toss it out? Never. It’s become my go-to secret weapon for just about everything you can imagine.
Curious to learn all the ways you can wield this simple plastic piece to your advantage? Consider these kiddie pool hacks a great place to start.
1. Outdoor doggie bath
One of Django’s great joys is to furiously dig a hole and unearth defenseless field mice that hide in the dirt. She also plunges through the swampy water across the road from our house and then returns shamelessly with “black socks” on.
In both cases, I direct her to the kiddie pool (known in dog parlance as her “tubby scrubby”). A quick soak and a once-over with a big sponge, and she’s as good as new.
Bonus: This dirty dog never has to enter the house to wash up.
2. Beverage cooler
For most parties and barbecues, I’ve found that a cooler is too small to offer easy access to all our soda and beer. Enter the plastic kiddie pool!
For your next outdoor party, place this container in the shade (and away from the grilling area) and then fill it with a few bags of ice. Toss in seltzer, juice boxes, beer, wine spritzers, and other canned and bottled beverages so folks can help themselves.
3. Grill grate cleaner
How much fun is it to force a wire brush across your grill grate after your brother-in-law burned a bunch of burgers on it? Yeah, I thought so. Instead, turn to your trusty kiddie pool and pop that nasty grate in the water overnight.
The result: Very little elbow grease will be required to remove the last of the gunk tomorrow.
4. Laundry soaker
If you host a crowd, you know your tablecloths can take a beating. Ditto for swim towels, sheets, and other linens. When stains appear, I grab my kiddie pool and make a bleach solution for them to soak in. After a few minutes, ketchup, red wine, barbecue sauce, and more have loosened up and the soiled linens are ready for the washing machine.
5. Garden tool washer
Have a muddy hoe? Or pots you forgot to clean up last season? Fill your plastic kiddie pool and have a seat on the grass next to it so you can quickly wash this garden gear.
This pool is also great for dipping the bottoms of muddy sneakers to remove the big pieces of sod your husband was planning to track into the house.
6. Portable sandbox or play area
I don’t have young kids anymore, but if some ever come around, I’d make a fast play space for them out of my plastic pool. One fun idea is to add sand and make a sandbox, though you could also fill this container with plastic balls for an easy ball pit.
And when the weather’s inclement, you can quickly slide this sandbox out of the rain so the contents don’t get wet and the play can continue when the sun’s out again. In fact, a kiddie pool works as the perfect large-yet-enclosed play area for an array of messy activities, from Play-Doh to water balloons and beyond.
7. Seedling planter
I’m not a great gardener, but I understand the value of starting early with certain seedlings so they can be transplanted to a bigger plot to thrive. Planting a few vegetables in a sunny room in seed pots can give them a head start, but watering can get messy.
The solution? Put these containers in the kiddie pool, where watering is a breeze, and we can extend the growing season in my somewhat cool neck of the woods.
And once a kiddie pool has a lot of leaks that make it less than ideal for water, it can also work as a great container for plants on a permanent basis. Thanks, plastic kiddie pool!