Ball pits are fascinating to kids. I don’t know weather it is the odd sinking-and-swimming sensation, if it is the brightness of colors, if it is the chance to throw the balls, if it is all of the above… neither I care what is the real reason. I care about the fact: whether it is a little baby, or a big kid – they all can’t resist the urge to submerge in the sea of colorful balls. So, our family went through a variety of homemade versions of the ball-pit. At every age our kids played differently in it. There was one thing in common: they dove right in.
The first thing that you need is a large quantity of balls. They are usually sold by hundreds in toy stores or online. If you insist on a homemade version, you can reuse old socks, rolled into tight balls, but that means really a lot of socks, and they wouldn’t retain the slippery swimming sensation. For older ones we’ve used packing peanuts, but they are choking hazard for the younger ball pit lovers. Balls are worth it.
Now you need a container.
1.Cardboard Box. The easiest. Leftover from some appliance purchase.
Pros: The cost! I.e. – none. You can let the kids decorate it. Use some wrapping paper, stickers, duck tape. Cut any shape you please. Makes fitting it into a particular place easier.
Cons: Durability and rather hard sides. Splashing in the ocean of balls is never gentle, so cardboard tend both to rip fast and cause an occasional ouch.
2. Storage Box. More upscale version. Large. With rather high sides. If you already own a rather large box, that can fit the bill nicely.
Pros: Durability! Oh, these last long, and you can reuse it for storage of the balls or other items later!
Cons: If don’t already have one, a box large enough can be quite costly! The hard edges increase the “ouch factor.
3. Old Crib, Bassinet, Co-Sleeper, or even some Baby Bathtub. For the smallest ball pit lovers. Most likely you already have such an item and you can reuse it nicely!
Pros: it is probably already soft, already nicely cushioned, already decorated! You can put the balls in and take them out after you are done playing, to reuse your item.
Cons: Kids can’t get in/get out of it by themselves (sometimes it is a good thing!), but considering its size, you probably can use it only for the little ones anyway, who don’t venture much yet. For them – it is an excellent solution.
Playpen. As the baby gets bigger, you can upgrade them for a bigger ball pit.
Pros: You probably already have this item, so the cost doesn’t come into a picture! It is already decorated/geared for the little ones.
Cons: Again, getting in/out by themselves.
4. …or even bigger: Baby Gate! If you have some left-over pieces after childproofing, or the baby-gates that can be connected together in a circular fashion like a playpen, you can connect a few together for a portable ball pit!
Pros: The most portable one, the easiest to custom fit into a desired space. Put together as few or as many pieces as you wish. It is surely durable, yet some of the baby gates are quite hard.
Cons: While this one fits a greater variety of ages, getting in/out by themselves is still fairly hard due to the height. This could be a good thing too: while the baby is inside, the older ones wouldn’t just start jumping on top of his head – takes more effort to climb inside.
Pros: very cute! soft! collapsible and easy to put away/take out/reuse as needed!
Cons: You need a lot more balls (they tend to roll out through the opening), doesn’t work for the little ones – you can’t see them when they need help, balls rolling out.
6. Inflatable Kiddie Pool. Our favorite solution!
Pros: The sides are soft and bouncy – a dream come true! The outside – is as colorful and pretty as you wish. If you catch the end of the year sale, the gorgeous inflatable pools are selling as cheap as it gets. Blowing it up and deflating doesn’t take long. During the summer, goes double-duty as the actual baby pool for water splashing.
Cons: Durability is questionable: after a couple of months of rigorous ball-splashing, they start developing holes, just like all inflatables. Still, since there is no need to fill them with water, we just patch it up with duct tape and continue using it for quite a while! Besides, they are usually have different inflatable sections, so if one gives in, the others still keep the shape.
While mommy could really enjoy a long bubble-bath with nice smelling candles, now she can keep dreaming about it while lounging in the midst of the ball-bath with sweet-smelling babies.