Passionate About Pittsburgh
and the Moms Who Live Here

Leave the Pool Toys at Home!

Gabriel at the community pool, surrounded by and playing with toys that aren’t his.

It’s now the middle of summer and the hot July sun made sure we all but forgot the colder days of winter. I love this weather, and enjoy spending those hot afternoons at the pool with my family! If you don’t own a pool, how many times have you been to your local community pool? Even if you only went once or just a few times, you probably noticed the kiddie pool was practically littered with toys: other kids’ toys. Your kid’s toys. And none of our little ones are very good at sharing yet.

Here’s my question: is it really a good idea to bring your child’s toys with you to the public pool?

Why We Don’t Bring Pool Toys

We always leave Gabriel’s swim toys at home when we go to the pool. Partly because I don’t want to lose them and I don’t want the pool germs on his toys, but mostly because Gabriel, who is 22 months old and like most other kids his age, sucks at sharing and always wants what some other kid has. It can get exhausting pulling toys out of his hands that belong to someone else, and explaining to him that he can’t just walk away with another kid’s toy. You’d better believe the other parents are watching those toys like a hawk, waiting to see if he’ll walk away with the toy or how I’ll handle it if and when he tries.

He’s not quite two yet, so all he understands is that I’m telling him not to play with something that’s right in front of him. It’s confusing for him and almost always leads to one or more tantrums. He’s not the only one, either.

I see the same scenario repeated over again with other parents and their young children. Sometimes, when the child is older and understands the concept of sharing and playing well with others, it works. But even then, kids are bound to get jealous of someone else playing with their stuff, or they want what someone else has. We don’t bring our own toys to daycare, mall play areas, libraries, or the park (usually), so why is it so common at the public pool?

Photo Credit: PMB Contributor Ashli D.

Sharing: There’s an Age for That

It’s estimated that kids don’t truly learn to share until ages three or four. Even then, when they develop a basic concept of give-and-take and understanding of time (“I will get this back later”), kids that age can be reluctant. True sharing and an understanding that mutual play is more fun when sharing usually doesn’t become consistent until ages five or six. Toddlers? They’re just learning how to flex their independence. They’re egocentric and many haven’t developed empathy or a willingness to give and take. Case in point: the “no” and “mine” phases.

Read my fellow contributor Amanda’s post on dealing with the minefield of “mine.”

While we can and should be teaching our young kids the concept and practice of sharing, the public pool probably isn’t the best environment to test those waters (pun intended). But without water toys, what are they supposed to do, you might ask? Play! Use their imaginations! Interact and become comfortable with the water! Interact with each other! Our teenager could use a lesson on that, too. 

Parents don’t have to keep track of their kids’ toys or clean them when they get home. Kids won’t fight over toys that aren’t there. It’s less stuff to carry. Win-win.

Please, leave the toys at home. The kiddie pool and I will thank you for it!

Gabriel’s first trip to the pool in June 2017, age 8 months

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