Taking a dip in the pool can be a fun way to enjoy the summer and keep cool as temperatures rise. To help make it even more entertaining for the whole family, you might want to stock up on toys, floats, games and other fun accessories. There are plenty of pool toy options that the whole family can enjoy, including inflatable basketball hoops, water guns and classic pool noodles.
We’ve compiled highly rated pool toys for kids and families to help escape the summer heat. We also spoke to swimming experts about pool safety tips while you fight the heat this summer.
Our top picks
- Best pool float: Intex Wave Rider
- Best for new swimmers: Sprint Aquatics Padded Bar Float
- Best pool game: Hoop Shark Basketball Hoop
How we picked the best pool toys
All of our picks are either expert-recommended or highly rated with an average of four stars or higher and in line with our expert guidance. Here’s what we kept in mind when compiling our favorite pool toys:
- Material: Experts recommend inflatable toys made from vinyl material, which are lighter, easier to clean and easier to store than foam pool floats. That said, foam floats work better for pool noodles or other floatation devices, as they are generally unsinkable, even though they might peel or tear with consistent use.
- Type of toy: We considered inflatable floats, pool noodles and pool games geared toward both non-swimmers and advanced swimmers.
- Ratings: Each pool toy not directly recommended by an expert has a rating of four stars or higher from over 500 reviewers.
Top-rated pool toys for kids and adults
If you’re looking to ramp up your pool activities, we sifted through some highly rated pool toys that the whole family can enjoy and compiled a few options we think are worth considering that are in line with our experts’ guidance.
Family and friends can show off their basketball skills without ever leaving the pool with this inflatable hoop. It sits 40 inches tall when fully inflated and contains large bore valves that allow you to inflate and deflate it quickly, according to the brand. It comes with an inflatable basketball that has a textured finish to maintain a better grip even when the ball is wet. This toy has a 4.2-star average rating from more than 3,600 reviews on Amazon.
This 6-pack of water shooters can be used by the whole family — you simply pull back the handle to load the cannon with water, aim at your target and push the handle forward to blast a stream of water (don’t worry, it’s all in good fun). At just a little over 14 ounces for the whole set, these foam water blasters are both lightweight and portable, the brand says. The toy, which has a 4.6-star average rating from more than 8,800 Amazon reviews, is recommended for kids ages six and up.
An inflatable twist to a classic outdoor lawn game, this cornhole set comes with a cornhole board and eight floating bean bags made from durable PVC fabric and filled with water-resistant plastic pellets. It also comes with a mesh carry bag to keep your bean bags in one place when stored. The set has a 4.1-star average rating from more than 700 reviews on Amazon.
“Sprint Aquatic's padded bar floats can be very helpful as a swim aid for beginners when used correctly, sparingly and with close adult supervision,” says Brendan O’Melveny, chief aquatics officer at Imagine Swimming. The reason he recommends using these bar floats sparingly is to avoid them becoming a ‘crutch’ for beginner swimmers. This bar float measures 26 inches long and is made from a foam material, which is generally an unsinkable material, according to experts. It can be used by both adults and kids, and is a great tool for young ones to gain confidence in the water, according to O’Melveny.
A classic crowd-pleaser for the pool or beach, these rainbow-colored inflatable balls — which have a 4.3-star rating from over 5,300 reviews on Amazon — are great for a casual game of catch or an in-water volleyball match. They come in a pack of three, with each one measuring 13 inches in diameter. You can inflate them using a hand pump or, if you don’t have one handy, you can just blow them up by mouth.
Great for kids and adults who prefer to casually float and lounge around the pool, this inflatable tube is made of durable vinyl and measures 36 inches in diameter. It’s recommended for ages nine and up. You can purchase the Intex Clear Color Tube, which has a 4.4-star rating from over 2,400 reviews, in a pack of two or four.
For Disney fans, this diving game inspired by the film “Finding Dory” includes a Mr. Ray net and five deep sea characters that all float at different depths. This family-friendly game has a 4.7-star average rating from over 5,800 reviews on Amazon, and it can be a great way to encourage kids to practice their diving skills and help them build their confidence to go underwater, according to the brand.
For a more active pool day, you can swim through these rings underwater in a makeshift obstacle course. Each hoop is 31 inches in diameter and has adjustable air chambers that allow you to choose how deep it should go. They’re also collapsible, which means you can easily store them during the winter months.
This water-resistant remote-controlled car can drive smoothly on land and in water. The car has a 200-foot remote control distance and can reach a maximum speed of 7.5 mph, according to the brand. The remote control is included, along with a rechargeable battery and a charging cable to get you started. This toy has a 4.3-star average rating from more than 2,500 reviews on Amazon and is available in three colors: blue, green and red.
The Intex Wave Rider is a pool float that comes with a wide base and a durable vinyl material, which our experts say is more resistant to wear and tear. The float has an 88-pound weight limit and is recommended for kids ages 3 and older. It’s also highly rated with a 4.5-star average rating from more than 2,900 reviews on Amazon.
You can propel this stingray-shaped glider forward up to 60 feet, according to the brand. Recommended for ages 5 and up, this glider measures 8 inches in length and approximately 10 inches wide, and you can adjust both wings on the sides to customize whether it moves straight or at an angle. It has a 4.2-star average rating from over 3,800 reviews on Amazon.
These toy rockets are another way for newer swimmers to gain confidence in the water, according to O’Melveny. They glide as far as 20 feet underwater and come in a four-pack so the whole family can use them, according to the brand. Since there are no batteries required, you’ll be able to use them straight out of the box.
This floating volleyball set can be a fun multiplayer activity to bring out at pool parties or beach days.. The inflatable net is approximately 8 feet long and 3 feet high and comes with an inflatable volleyball to complete the game. It also includes a repair patch for any unexpected punctures and two anchor bags that you can fill with rocks or other heavy materials to keep the net in place.
Complete with a 3D T-Rex head and tail, this inflatable dinosaur float can be an exciting addition to your pool toy collection. The float — which has a 4.5-star average rating from over 2,300 reviews on Amazon — weighs just over 5 pounds and equips handles at the side of the neck to keep yourself upright.
How to shop for the best pool toys
With so many pool toys on the market, finding the best ones for you and your family can feel overwhelming. Below, we list a few expert-recommended tips to keep in mind when shopping for pool toys.
Inspect toys before buying them. Make sure there aren’t any signs of wear and tear like holes and cracks, which can cause the toy to sink, according to the Hubbard Family Swim School.
Choose durable toys. “We like dense foam or rubber swim-aids, like barbells, kickboards, or training fins, which can help a swimmer focus on gaining comfort, working on their kick, or building strength when used sparingly,” says O’Melveny. He adds that using them too often though, can make a swimmer rely on them, which can lead to a false sense of security.
Check weight restrictions. If you’re buying a float, you might want to check both the weight and age restrictions to make sure the float can safely support you, according to O’Melveny.
Pool toy safety tips
While different types of pool toys can enhance your summer swimming sessions, you should always consider appropriate safety precautions, especially when children are involved. Floats, inflatable toys and even pool noodles “are not safety devices and should not be relied upon as such,” O’Melveny says. “Pool floats and other floatation devices can create a false sense of security for both the children using them and the adults supervising.” He suggests staying on the shallow end of the pool with your float if you’re not an experienced swimmer. Here are some additional expert-recommended pool safety tips to consider once you’ve bought a toy:
- Clean toys. Disinfecting your pool toys can ensure germs and bacteria don’t spread. You should combine about a gallon of water with 16 ounces of bleach and scrub the toy with a brush while wearing gloves and protective eyewear, according to Pool Store Inc.
Securely store toys away after use. Not only does properly storing toys out of sight prevent them from getting damaged due to weather and sun exposure, but it can also prevent a drowning risk if a child decides to play with them at any given moment.
Don’t nap on a pool float. “I strongly advise against this. It's easy to roll off a pool float unknowingly while sleeping, which could lead to potential drowning, especially if you're alone or if there's no lifeguard present,” O’Melveny says. It can also cause you to sunburn without proper protection, according to Ellis Peters, a swim coach and aquatic fitness professional at Physique Swimming.
Can you take your pool floats and toys into open waters?
Pool floats are not built to withstand the open ocean, so it’s important to use them sparingly, if at all. Pool toys like inflatable balls, on the other hand, can be used in open water, as long as you don’t wade past the ocean shore. Peters also suggests wearing a life jacket in all open water situations. “Always stay close to the shore, never use a pool float if the conditions are rough and always have someone watching you from the shore,” O’Melveny says.
Meet our experts
At Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and without undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.
Brendan O’Melveny has over 23 years of experience as a swim instructor and is currently the chief aquatics officer at Imagine Swimming in New York City. In 2020 he founded the New York Water Safety Coalition, which promotes drowning prevention legislation across the state.
Ellis Peters is a swim coach and aquatic fitness professional at Physique Swimming.
Why trust Select?
Mili Godio is an updates editor at NBC Select.
Nishka Dhawan is an associate commerce editor at NBC Select. For this article, both Godio and Dhawan consulted pool safety experts on how to choose the best pool toys, as well as the best pool safety tips to keep in mind for both adults and kids.