Ice chest as kiddie pool

Cooler Lia's spur-of-the-moment idea for keeping the kids cool:

There are relatively few days to use a swimming pool here in Alaska.  We hit 72 and needed to cool off desperately.  I found a Rubbermaid container to use as a kiddie pool for my six month-old, but needed something a bit deeper for my 21 month-old.  I found a large cooler in the garage and it was wonderful.  It kept the water warm (important in Alaska) and I was able to close the lid and keep bugs out when he ran around between dips.

I love this idea, but I can't post this without passing along a few obvious safety tips: supervise at ALL times (due to water play and accidental lid closure), and pack the ice chest way out of reach during non-playtime so toddlers can't climb in.

Related: Save your grass and put the kiddie pool on the patio


  1. Steph says

    Great idea, but waaay too small for my kids. They are crazy with “swimming” and splashing. Just all around wiggleworms…

  2. says

    This seems like an incredibly stupid idea, has a lot of potential for a kid to associate “fun” with an activity that could easily result in death if the opportunity presents itself later with another ice chest filled with liquid where the owner had no idea that your kid likes to play “swimming pool” this way.

    Follow the supplied link by the way
    “Anaheim Tot Drowns in Ice Chest”

  3. Alex N. says

    I looked up that story. A family with a number of kids put an ice chest of water out as a kiddy pool and the 11 month old drowned. This is not a story about the hazards of making your kids think an ice chest is a toy. This is a story about watching your baby around a pool-like area.

    I get the fear. I know someone whose kid drowned in a bucket. But we still use buckets. I just don’t leave my child unsupervised around buckets of water. Your made-up disaster story has several conditions that never happen in our lives.
    In my life, there are never open ice chests lying around, and if we’re by water, someone is always watching the toddler. I know lots of people are less attentive in a situation that involves big coolers of beverages, but never using a similar big container for a kiddy pool or water table or sand pit or something to float toy boats around because of an extremely unlikely hypothetical situation just seems excessive.

    If you disagree, please have the courteousy to refrain from leaving anonymous comments in which you call people names.

  4. Momof2 says

    I happen to agree with Concerned Parents. Seriously, it is really not a good idea to have any small child associate the idea of a cooler or any other container that can shut air tight as a play place. Do we really need to argue over this? Kids also do this in refrigerators left in friends yards. And car trunks and other air tight spaces, no excuses-let’s not encourage this.

  5. Joe in Boulder says

    I think this is great! I also love the idea of bringing up kids who are wise enough to understand danger vs be careful. It’s so funny how people are unable to look back on their own life, and realize that there were WAY more dangerous things that we did as kids. Some of these commenters are going to be great helicopter parents;unfortunately, their kids will grow up meek and scared of shadows. It’s to bad that later in life, these same sheltered kids will need therapy. Try reading ‘Free range kids’, or ’50 dangerous things to do with your son’.
    I lived in Alaska (Cordova) for a year, and now live in the mountains of Colorado. Our daughter is one and; Walking and running, Knows the wood stove is ‘no touch’ (we don’t even have a gate around it,GASP) and has never burned herself. She knows how to crawl out the dog door, and will go into our fenced yard and entertain herself (we look out the window every 10 or 15 minutes), she wrestles with our dog,unsupervised; and now she will play in ice chests filled with water. When shes older, she’ll go to school and wonder why some of the kids are so afraid of life.

  6. Alex says

    I hate to be the one to say this, but a child who chokes on something is completely gone in 6 minutes. Putting something in his/her mouth isn’t just something a child does or doesn’t do, period. It can start and stop due to teething and other stuff. If you can’t constantly hear your toddler moving around, please don’t leave her unsupervised around rocks, sticks, leaves, etc for long enough for her to choke and die the first time she picks up some nature and puts it in her mouth. You can’t listen for a cry because there won’t be one. The difference between watching from a distance constantly, peeking every minute, or checking every 10-15 minutes isn’t the level of confidence and independance your baby will gain. The difference is only in how much freedom you have to do other things while supervising your child.

  7. says

    Wow, what a great discussion!

    I agree with both Joe AND Alex!

    I believe that kids need to be exposed to all sorts of things (dangerous, safe, fun, and weird), and allowed to learn how to decide for themselves whether to do or not do something. Like Joe, I think that overparenting is abundant, and we are so concerned with all of the potential dangers around us that we artificially limit the things that our kids can do, which robs them of the ability to develop a sense of what’s OK and what’s not OK.

    I allow our own one year old daughter to choose her own playthings around the house, wrestle with our two dogs, chase our old cat, and generally get into “trouble” on her own, without interfering, as long as she’s safe. I’m always watching her though, since she is teething and does have a tendency to test out various objects with her mouth. Plus she’s very dexterous, and has figured out how to remove the outlet covers, so there’s a safety item that’s now a choking hazard (how’s that for irony). As Alex mentioned, it only takes a few minutes for a child to choke to death, so we always watch what she’s doing (often from a distance, so she is able to develop a sense of independence from us, which is key around this age) and intervene when she gets into REAL trouble.

    Thanks for posting this, Asha! Such a unique idea, and lively comments!

  8. Joe in Boulder says

    As a fire fighter and EMT I am well aware of how long it takes to choke; interestingly, my daughter has ALREADY learned NOT to put things in her mouth.Crazy, huh? Please don’t tell me how to parent

  9. Momof2 says

    Wow, harsh! I said airtight containers, big difference from letting my kids play outside or with pets? My kids also play outside freely, I have no gates indoors, they play with the dog, same stuff. I also know that even if I tell my 4 and 2 yr old daughters “no” and “dangerous” that they aren’t going to listen every single time-and if you are going to tell me yours does, I’m not going to believe you.

  10. Beth says

    Yep, I’ll second the people who say this is not a good idea. All you need to do is turn around or space out for one minute and the lid can be down and the kid face down inside. And 21 months old is too young to understand the physics of how a lid could fall down.

    A wading pool with shallow sides and no lid costs $20. Surely a kid’s safety is worth that.

  11. oh, really. says

    regardless of the safety issues, I don’t see the problem as a problem in the first place.

    Gosh, something to put cool water in so the kids can play and cool down? Without spending any money/storage space?

    How about the bathtub? It’s there, hooked up to the plumbing, has a handy drain. It’s probably even big enough to hold at least two small children. (one old apartment I rented had a tub long enough for my 6’5″ brother to lean back and then stretch his legs out full length and just barely touch the end of the tub with his toes. this tub held 5 cousins under 5 years old, when their dad/uncle wasn’t hogging it.)

    OK, it’s not outdoors, but I doubt the kids care. Splashy water is splashy water.

  12. Kristen says

    This is a terrible idea and should not be encouraged even with disclaimers. I will NOT be following this blog anymore.

  13. ctalley says

    Damn, people need to relax! Yes, for most of us, this is very dangerous, but in Alaska; where they have very few days to swim…with correct supervision, I would think this is fine. Chill out people…different strokes for different folks.

  14. Alex N. says

    Look, parenting isn’t a contest. It’s an 18 year experiment and there are a lot of results that people just don’t anticipate.
    Is your pride so important you are honestly willing to bet your kid’s life on it?
    It is guaranteed that as a parent you will be wrong about SOMETHING.

    When my daughter was 1 I thought that my amazing parenting made us immune to what is basically normal human development too. 2 1/2 years later I can tell you I was hilariously WRONG!

    I’VE taught hundreds of other people’s small children. I should have known better, as I’ve seen lots of kids display behavior away from parental supervision that surprised their parents. Most if not all ADULTS do things that they know are dangerous and/or that they aren’t supposed to do, so it’s just really unkind for us to expect more from small children. And that’s not even talking about kids normally trying out undesirable habits on the way through childhood.

    I have a pretty independant kid. She regularly plays for hours so far away that I’m pretty much watching for the color of her hat. But no matter how much I trust her I ALWAYS have a plan B that is completely unlikely to involve death. Would I hear screaming? Can another kid run and get me? Can we get stitches? Blood and broken bones, that’s all fine by me. But there are ALWAYS multiple precautions regarding things that do actually regularly get involved in accidental death of kids. I stay between her and the street. She is never in the garage alone. She is never by water without being unsupervised. If she is eating, I never leave the room for more than one minute to grab something.

    Acting this way around a 12 year old might be overkill. Acting this way around a toddler is simply kind, responsible parenting.

  15. says


    I have loved our kiddie pool for the past two summers. But, I realized it was hard for me to run in the house to get a snack or change out the laundry because I could not leave my daughter unattended.

    This summer we decided to fill our pool with play sand. Our daughter is just as happy and I have a lot more peace of mind!