Recently I bought my daughter a Nickelodeon Dora/Deigo Ball Pit. The balls that came with the package were few and under inflated. They wouldn't cover 1/4 of the pits floor. It was rather easy to blow up without a pump, took a total of 10 minutes max. Very good size for a child aged 1-3. However the durability was very poor. Within the first hour the trap door on the top of the pit ripped off. The entire thing popped a seam within a week and was not able to be patched. There were peekaboo holes on one wall to allow the child to peek out- not the best safety design here. A child will stick their head out, and will slip on the balls, and will result on a cut, mark on their neck. Poor design feature. This design will tip over when the walls are leaned on so if you do have these models place them in a carpeted area away from furniture. The concept is wonderful. Children absolutely love ball pits and bouncers but here are some things I have learned through research and other owned ball pits and bouncers.
An average ball pit will require approx 200-300 balls. They can be purchased rather cheap and are of good quality. Usually sold in 100 count bags. The larger the pit obviously require, you guessed it, more balls. So before you have your child see the package and get excited, make sure you have an extra supply of balls beforehand. Ball pit balls are soft. They shouldn't be squishy, but they shouldn't hurt you if one hits you in the head. And they will :o)
These toys lose air over time. If you find after one week with normal play that its lost a lot of air, its not a good pit. However pits will need an occasional refill approximately once a month, more if there are several kids using the toy.
If you want to keep these toys working beyond one week- do not let your child bring anything other than a stuffed animal into the pit. Its very easy for a toy to rip, snag, pop, or slice open the plastic. Also restrict your children from diving off furniture into/onto these. They are not made for intense/extreme sports. Kids can dive into them, they can usually jump in them- but the impact from a furniture dive is not recommended for any home toy. But I would hope that most of you already know that:)
Ball pits often can be doubled as a pool in summer. In fact some of the best pits were sold as inflatable pools. Be sure to read all manufacturers information before using for an alternate activity.
Don't trust the picture. Always ask for measurements. Many companies like Banzai alter their pictures to show more kids playing with their toys than possible. You will save a lot of grief and disappointment by finding out the size of your unit before getting it home.
Here are some great and not so great pits I have found to make your searches easier.
Toys R Us My First Gym out of 20 reviews all owners gave 4.5-5 stars. Durable and excellent price. $19.99 at Toys R Us. Doubles as a shade pool in summer. This is the pit we purchased and currently use with no problems. Best for ages 9 months to 2.5 years. Excellent price, and value. This thing is large- both my 1 year old and my 7 year old play in this together with room for two more large kids. *Newer models have holes in the bottom to prevent from becoming a pool, still a great indoor/outdoor shaded play area. We suggest a pump- pretty big to blow up with lung power.
Bubble Gum Playland its small but fun. Center funnel allows children to watch the balls swirl back down into the pit. All reviews gave 4-5 stars. Great for ages 9 months to 3. Kids truly adore this one.
Good with few flaws:
Jump-O-Lene Castle Bouncer- Tons of Fun! (not the jump-o-lene yellow and blue bouncer)A pump is a must have- no lung power for this one. Its good size 85"Lx76"Wx45"H. You will need to buy additional balls as with most pits, but this one only has 25. Common complaint of tipping over. This is a big pit and needs proper space. DO NOT LET YOUR KIDS JUMP FROM THE SIDE WALLS. This will blow and will not be able to be repaired with patch. If used as intended this product is pretty durable and is the most fun a kid can have with a bouncer/ball pit.
Ball Toyz Li'l Fun Boat Ball Pit- Be prepared and buy extra balls before opening this pit. The balls that it comes with will be dented, deflated, and upsetting for the kids. Other than that fairly good deal. Can approx fit two kids under 2. Great for imagination. As with all pits inspect before inflating. Some reports of holes upon purchase. This one averages 4 stars. Ages 9 months to 4
Slide and Splash Whale pool. This is a perfect example of get your measurements before purchasing. The manufacturer intentionally alters their pics and description. This is not a big item. It will not fit many children at the same time. Recommend for ages 3 and under, the company says no one under 3 should use- but all reports from consumers say that no kid over 3 will use it. Slide down the whales tale to the pool/pit below. Pretty durable as both pool or ball pit. Its sold as a pool so purchase 200-300 balls before you inflate this.
Worst: (Or what I like to call the do not throw your money away choices)
Sesame Street Slide and Play Ball Pit average rating of 1-3 stars. Many drawbacks. Not durable- usually comes with a hole in it. Most people purchase this due to the larger size and the fact that its sesame street, sadly it does not last as long as a higher quality pit.
Jungle cruise canopy pool average rating 1-2 stars. Poor construction. Pool sprinkle system always malfunctions. If used for just a pool or a ball pit without the added canopy then will work. Cheap plastic makes popping and deflating a common occurrence.
Ball Toyz Play House- cheap cheap cheap. Poor quality- picture the cheapest plastic mattress you can find, and that is the quality of this set. The balls arrive flat. The comment on the box will say "leave them in the sun" Wrong. these balls will never "pop" back to life and the set itself will deflate after first use, if it already wasn't full of holes.
Nickelodeon Dora/Diego Ball Pits as you read from above this is poor quality, and design.
Hope this helps;)