One of the biggest items on our “pro” list when looking for a neighborhood to buy a house in was a community pool. I love the way it brings everyone out of their homes and together in the summer, and that it is a built-in activity close by that will get energy out when it is just too hot to go to the park or play in the yard. But as much I love the pool, taking four kids under the age of eight, especially flying solo, can be a daunting undertaking. So I make sure to load my giant canvas pool bag with as many items to make life as easy as I can.
Of course we all know to take towels (bring extra — one will invariably get dropped in a puddle or dipped in the pool), suits, and sunscreen, but I have found a number of things to help us have a safer, more enjoyable time poolside. I also asked other contributors and Facebook friends what makes pool time with kids more enjoyable for them so that hopefully we can all breathe a little easier and have more fun this summer!
First of all, the above-mentioned giant pool bag is a MUST.
With this one I can fit towels for the entire family as well as all of the other paraphernalia listed in this post. Look for one with long enough straps you can toss it over your shoulder and with plenty of interior pockets to keep you from having to dig to the bottom to find smaller items like hair ties, chapstick, and sunscreen. If you’re going to stuff it full and carry it around a lot, quality is key; nothing throws off your cool pool style like a busted shoulder strap and swim diapers all over the place. I also love having the option to personalize so there is no risk of another family grabbing the wrong bag in the inevitable scramble to round up all the things and all the small people at the end of the day.
Sunscreen is a non-negotiable in our family; the kids know that they get thoroughly coated in SPF before their toes touch the water.
For ease and speed, we love a spray on sunscreen that sticks to wet skin for easy touch up applications, but the kids hate having it sprayed on their faces. So in addition to a full body spray, I keep a sunscreen face stick tucked in a pocket of my bag. Even my three year old can apply it to her own face with only minimal blending from mom or dad, and it’s easier to put on the baby as well.
Whoever invented the Puddle Jumper gets a long, standing slow clap from me.
They are the best for toddlers or preschoolers learning to swim, and as a bonus they are Coast Guard approved flotation devices, so if you visit the lake or beach you can use them there as well! (These are recommended for kids over 30 pounds, but my skinny kids have used them as well, just be sure to supervise constantly! No flotation device should be used in place of a watchful adult.)
I have a tiny one this summer who is not only too small for the Puddle Jumper, but was also not a fan of the standard baby float.
After some research I ordered this waterproof ring sling so that she can come into the pool with me to cool off. She is much happier being close to mama, and I like being a little more hands-free while still keeping her with me.
When your tiny one is not in the pool but the big kids are still going strong, clip a little high-powered fan onto their car seat or stroller to help keep them cool. You may find yourself borrowing it in the dog days of July and August.
My older kids won’t go in the pool without goggles, especially now that they are also participating in swim team, but sometimes those plastic straps can be a pain, especially (and literally!) when they get tangled in wet hair!
A friend recommended Frogglez goggles, a neoprene strap that forms a circle on the back of their heads to hold goggles in place without slipping or pulling.
I stick wet bathing suits or towels in a grocery bag in a pinch, but it’s also nice to have a wet bag or two tucked into a pocket to keep everything else from getting damp.
We also use cloth diapers rather than swim diapers, so you could change a dirty cloth diaper and stick it in there to contain the mess and smell.
Most of the moms I talked to said snacks, snacks, SNACKS topped their list of pool essentials.
If you’re spending a day at the pool, or going to a long swim meet, keep water bottles, fruit and veggies, crackers, gummies, etc. contained and refreshingly chilly in a cooler. I love ones that are easy to clean and transport (this one has a removable liner, rolls like a suitcase, and holds up to 42 cans!).
Pool toys make swimming even more fun, but don’t limit yourself to pricier seasonal, pool-specific gear.
Plastic cups, tea sets, squirt bottles, and bath toys can be just as much fun and you probably have them lying around the house! A genius mama on Facebook said that her son’s favorite pool toy was a paintbrush to paint designs on the concrete with water! My older kids love dive toys so we keep a set in the bag. Make sure to label any that you are super attached to in case they end up being forgotten at the bottom of the pool and tossed in the lost and found.