Introduction: Sploosh

About: Science museum exhibit design and fabrication manager, stagehand, ballet shoe maker, theatre production manager, project manager and art director of the Beijing Aquarium rainforest exhibit, film extra, archite…

Sploosh is a self contained, outdoor toy that lets children create and play with moving water. It's ideal for urban gardens, decks, patios, courtyards and balconies.

Many water toys just plug a hosepipe into one end and waste the water once it hits the ground. Summer hosepipe bans and other water use restrictions in many countries mean that it is getting harder to let kids splash around with lots of moving water. Sploosh recycles its water again and again - and it operates entirely on kid-power, not electricity.

Sploosh in action:

Step 1: Background to Sploosh

We have designed Sploosh to be fun, simple to use and durable and to recycle water to give as much fun as possible with minimal water use. It was originally designed for racing boats down the chutes and waterfalls but by adding Lego baseplates into the chutes kids can design and add their own rocks, dams, bridges, channels, waterwheels, whole towns for flooding and even science projects.

Here we attach the design we used. We live in Shanghai, China, where some of the industrial sized parts are relatively easy to find in shops. We have provided information for online suppliers for these parts in other countries wherever possible.

The original Sploosh design was intended to fit onto a garden wall in London, England. However, we moved into a high-rise apartment with no garden. Consequently, Sploosh developed as a stand-alone unit. This also allows the toy to flat-pack into the base for storage in winter.

All the dimensions for building this toy depend on the size of the base and chutes - and these vary from one supplier to another. We recommend you get the base, guttering and pump first, then build your Sploosh frame accordingly.

If your garden is suitable you can take the "Sploosh DIY - Design It Yourself" route. The chutes and pump can be attached to a house, garden wall, "Jungle-Gym", treehouse - whatever - and we have attached a few ideas here to get you thinking.

Special thanks is owed to the Sploosh Test Dummies: Alex, Caleb, Ryan, Jack, Cameron, Olivia, Eleanor, Isaac, Izzy, Alice, Oliver, Libby, Tom, Saskia, Matthijs, Casper, Anna and all in Mrs. Mills' 2006 Reception Year class at the British International School, Pudong, Shanghai.

nb: sand and pumps don't mix so better to keep it clear of the sandpit!

Children must be supervised at all times when playing with water. The writers cannot accept any responsibility for injury caused while playing with any item described here.
Sploosh name and trademark and the design described below are the property of Mr Jonathan Robson. They may be copied and adapted by individuals for use by their own children and their friends. For all commercial adaptations, uses or variations please contact

Step 2: Parts List

Base : A large plastic tub approx. 1.0m x 0.5m x 0.25m
Frame: 3.0cm x 3.5cm timber x 7m
Chutes: 15cm wide, flat bottomed plastic guttering x 3.8m; End pieces x 5 ; Right angle 90 degree bend piece x 1
Pump: RP90P Plastic rotary hand pump x 1.
Pump fittings: 32mm dia. Stop valve x 1 ; PVC piping 25mm dia. x 0.7m ; 25mm PVC right angle bend joints x 2 ; 25mm screw threaded connector x 1; 25mm PVC pipe clamp.
Fixings: M12 double ended threaded shaft with nuts and washers x 6 ; M6 hex bolt with wing nut and washers x 4 ; M6 hex bolt with wing nut and washers x 3 ; plastic hooks x 20 ; round elastic x 2.5m
Other: Lego baseboards ; glue ; toy boats etc.

Step 3: The Base

We got ours from an industrial manufacturer supplying the tanning industry and cut it down to size. Large household or garden storage tubs should also work. Choose one that allows all the parts to flat pack inside for winter storage so nothing gets lost. Cut holes in the sides, positioned according to your frame. Slide the frame cross pieces through the holes as shown. This holds the frame firmly in place without the need for other fixings. The weight of the water in the tub makes the whole unit very stable.

Step 4: The Chutes

Choose the largest, flat-bottomed guttering you can find. Cut to length as shown and glue Lego baseboards (usually sold separately in toy shops) into the bottom of the gutters. Putting end stops at the high end of each chute helps cut down splash and the "canal" section that sits flat onto the frame cross pieces.

Chute 1 is 80cm long with 1 end piece
Chute 2 is 1m long with 1 end piece
Chute 3 is 1m long with 1 end piece and 1 90 degree bend
Chute 4 (the canal) is 1m long with 2 end pieces, one of which is cut down by 2cm to let the water flow out.

Step 5: The Frame

Use heavily varnished hardwood, because the timber will be sitting in water for several months of the year. We used reclaimed elm and the frame still fits neatly together, well into its third year.

The attached drawings show the dimensions we used. The angle of the chutes is approximately 10 degrees and we added locating holes at 2 points for the pump. This allows the pump to be fitted in a lower position for younger children and a higher position for older ones. The frame design gives solid support to the chutes but also allows maximum access to the chutes during play. Two cross pieces hold the frame firmly into locating holes cut into the sides of the base and provide a flat platform for the final canal section of gutter to sit on.

To connect the two sides and provide a solid seating for the chutes we used M12 threaded shafts as shown. These were easy for us to have made in a local machine shop but simply using wooden dowel would do the same job, and would weigh less.

4 sets of M6 bolts with wing nuts are used to attach the cross pieces.

Step 6: The Pump

The RP90P Polypropylene rotary hand pump (sometimes called a barrel pump) delivers 6 gallons per minute - plenty of Sploosh for your buck! Being made entirely of plastic it doesn't rust, is lightweight and can be operated by a three year old. This model is also easy to open up to replace the pump vanes in case sand gets in there and to remove any small Lego parts that get past the intake grille. Places to get one include: US$80 (UK) (no price listed) (Taiwan manufacturer) called HC25P in their current catalogue

The only problem we had with this model was the nut on the handle, which was not designed for the wild abandon employed by children and tended to unscrew itself during play. We replaced it with a locking nut on each side of the arm (wwe had to replace the bolt with a slightly longer one to fit the extra nut) and have not had any trouble since.

Remove six bolts from the pump casing (three front and three back) as shown. The remaining bolts are perfectly adequate to keep the pump watertight and removing these bolts provides ideal three fixing points for attaching the pump to the frame.

The pump comes with three sections of 32mm intake pipe and an intake grille which screws into the bottom of this pipe. You also need to but a non-return or "clack" valve to fit onto the bottom of the intake. These come in many shapes and sizes and will prevent the water draining out of the pump during pauses in play. Keeping the pump filled (primed) means that it will immediately pump water again when the handle is turned and doesn't require kids to pump like mad to get water back up into the pump body. Some valves use a spring to keep the water from returning down the pipe and others use gravity and the weight of the water itself. We found that the spring type could make pumping harder for younger children but removing the spring solved this problem and the valve did a perfectly good job with just gravity to seal it. If you are lucky your local hardware store of garden center will have one with a screw thread that fits into the bottom of the pumps intake pipe. We had to resort to duct tape for ours but it still works fine. Fit the intake grille into the bottom of the valve if it didn't come with one of its own and cut the pipes to fit. The frame dimensions shown have been calculated to fit the length of intake pipes from this model with minimum wastage for both the upper and lower pump positions.

Use the 25mm PVC pipe and fittings to make the out pipe and 180 degree bend at the top to shoot water into the top chute.

Step 7: The Bungees

The chutes held onto the frame using mini bungee cords. We found round ended, plastic hooks that fit over the gutter edges in a camping supplies store (Decathalon) but hobby stores will probably have something similar. Size is dependent on the style of guttering you are using for the chutes.

Step 8: Put the Frame and Pump Together

Build your frame according to the drawings provided or according to the size of gutter and base available to you.

Fit the pump onto the frame in the preferred upper or lower position depending on the age of the children who will be playing with it. Use the 12.5cm bolts through both front and back parts of the pump casing and hold in place with wing nuts. This is much less fiddly than removing only the bolts on the rear of the pump. Hold in place with wing nuts.

Fit a pipe clamp onto the frame to hold the longer of the in and out pipes (this will depend on which pump position you are using). This will keep the pipes attached firmly to the frame if kids pull on them. As you can see from the photos we didn't find quite the right size and used a couple of cable ties to help hold it all together.

Step 9: Fit the Base and the Chutes

Fit the chutes into the frame and hold in place with the mini bungee cords.

Fill the base with water to a depth that covers the clack valve. About 10cm is usually enough.

At the start of each play session the pump may need priming - filling the pump body with water. If it doesn't suck immediately, take off the 180 degree bent and pour water down into the pump and turn the handle a couple of times. Once the water is pumping put the bend back on and the clack valve will keep the pump primed unless the unit is left unused for several hours.

If you need to remove the water from the base after play, simply turn the 180 degree bend to the side so that it sticks our over the side of the base and pump the water out onto the ground.