Our Water Pump

I doubt anything brings me more questions than when I share with other educators and parents our outdoor water pump.  I truly wish every school and park and backyard would have this available.  I have to thank my husband for having the vision and the know how to make this happen. It's basically a pump connected to a rain barrel that we buried.  It won’t cost you as much as you think, I would guess less than $300. Many cities are giving away or selling rain barrels. Which even alone, is a great way to bring water play into your play space.  It will bring you countless hours of busy child time and you will never regret that you put this in your play area.  Research shares that water is the magic that can increase your child’s social skills, language and vocabulary skills. Think of it like the puddle in the grocery store parking lot.  Kids can't resist.  Water unites all children regardless of age or developmental level.  That creates a lot of mentoring, sharing, talking, waiting turns, and countless hours of problem solving and creativity. This pump does all that and more.  Trust me…you need this! 

So when my friend, Chantelle at Under the Oak Tree, found a hand pump at a yard sale, we were so excited to make this happen for her!  After countless conversations with educators across the country, I decided the time had come to document it visually and with a few tips. The photos below show my green pump and Chantelle's red pump. Some were taken after mine was installed.  So, join us on our journey, and we will show you how easy this is to add to your classroom or your own backyard!


Hand/Pitch Pump (Amazon, Farm and Hardware Stores)

Rain Barrel – We went with the square Suncast 50 Gallon.  That made less digging for depth and it fit in the flower bed we already had.

PVC pipe and adaptor to fit the pump you get-  We bought five feet of PVC but it will depend on your rain barrel and placement of your pump. Below, is a picture of the adaptor that you will need to attach the pump to the PVC pipe.  One end will screw into the pump, and you will cement the adaptor to the PVC pipe. 

PVC cement and Joint Compound. You will find these in the same aisle as the PVC supplies.


We started with a flower bed.  My husband had the vision of emptying this out and dropping in the rain barrel and attaching the pump.  I will admit it.  I couldn't see it. But I was over these flowers. So what the heck.......

There are so many reasons I love to have five year olds in our program. They love to work, and enjoy seeing a project through to the end.

Rokia and Joshua are now ten year olds and we don't get to see them nearly as often as we would like! To this day, they both have a great work ethic!

For those of you that have worm gardens or digging areas in your outdoor classrooms,  this is a great little shovel!  We have two of these from Craftsman.

Finally, we had the dirt gone and we were ready to drop the rain barrel into the hole.

You will need to drill a hole in the rain barrel lid and in your trim board if you are adding a ledge like we have. I love my ledge, by the way.  They use it to stand on, sit on, walk on, and hold their buckets or pots of soup on.   So, here is what it looks like when you drill your holes.  You will drill one in your rain barrel lid also.

Okay, so here is where we pick up with Chantelle. We took Chantelle's pump to Lowe's where we took the pump into the store to make sure we bought the right size of adaptor.  This piece is going to join your pump to the PVC pipe.  We purchased five feet of PVC pipe for Chantelle because she hasn't built her base yet and that gives her enough room to play with.  Grab the PVC cement and pipe thread or pipe dope. They are sold in the same aisle.

Chantelle's pump was old and rusty.  So the husbands were more than happy to use some tools and machinery to knock that rust off before applying the cement and connecting the PCP.  If you are using an older, used pump, you may need to do the same to get a good fit.

I don't have the actual pictures of connecting the pump with the adaptor and the PVC. Mine was completed and Chantelle took her's home to finish, but it's pretty simple. You will glue the adaptor onto the PVC pipe and then screw the adaptor onto the galvanized pipe.  Now, you just need to assemble the pump onto the base of your rain barrel. Slide that PVC pipe down into your rain barrel.

Screw the pump down to your base and you are ready for the test.  Fill your rain barrel with enough water for you to test mechanics.  You will need to prime your pump the first few times of use. 

So priming the pump, means you will pour a bit of water down from the top into the pump and at the same time, start pumping the handle. This will create the suction needed to get the pump flowing. We haven't had to prime our pump for weeks this spring.  However, there are times when it gets "cranky", where we need to prime it fairly often. Trust me, your four and fives will be priming the pump without any help at all in just a few weeks. 

AHHHH!  SUCCESS!  Now is when the fun begins.  I didn't want to just look at the top of the barrel.  Under that plastic lid is a piece of screen that will come with your rain barrel.  It will keep your leaves and hopefully, a bit of the sand and dirt that your children will undoubtably bring over, out of your water source.  

I am a bit of rock hound and this gave me a chance to display my rocks and add beauty to our outdoor classroom. 

So, yes the children have been spotted walking across the rocks. It is strongly discouraged but I have to tell you the lid hasn't wavered.

Our original plan was to run a downspout to this rain barrel It still hasn't happened.  We usually let the rain fill it. We also have another rain barrel a few yards away that has a garden hose hooked to it. When the pump runs dry we refill it from that rain barrel, which does have a downspout hooked to it. We also allow the children to take that garden hose anywhere in the play yard. It is used to fill a stream in the sand, water flowers, or "clean the street" patio, a favorite pastime here.  When all else fails, and we have had a week of 90 degree days, we fill the pump with the garden hose attached to our house.

That's it!  You can do this! I promise you, this will bring you hours of joyful, creative, problem solving, learning, fun! What are you waiting for...get digging!

Ha!  Remember that little five year old dirt digging, Joshua? That blue shirt belongs to Joshua. The same Joshua who was one of our original dirt diggers!  You're never to old to play with sand and water!