kidspalm springsthe great outdoors

the best 15 pool games for kids

This same time of year last year, I posted the best 10 pool games for kids, as named by my daughter.  With a new pool season upon is, I decided to revisit this list and have Savannah modify and update it.  She added 5 more awesome pool games!  This week in Palm Springs, the afternoons are hitting and lingering over 100, perfect temps to enjoy a little sunshine poolside.  Hanging in and around the pool is definitely our “thing” as a family, relaxing and refreshing, but also a great chance to get some more exercise!

We have lived in Palm Springs for about 8 years (I think?) and so it’s fair to say I’m very acclimated to the weather, which is very dry and very hot.  Knowing what lies ahead of us, the 115-120 degree days that melt your lip balm and make your sunscreen explode in the car, you’d think I would be feeling trepidatious.  The thing is, I’m not.  I can’t help but bubble over with love for the warm weather and the fact that I don’t have to heat the pool anymore.

Palm Springs kids know a thing or two about pool games, here are Savannah’s favorites to play with friends, perfect for your upcoming pool parties and play dates:

  • Invisibottle.  Take an empty, clear 2 liter bottle and fill it with water.  Line up all players on deck, with their backs to the pool.  Toss the bottle into the pool and it will sink to the bottom (and be virtually invisible to players).  Once they hear the THUNK! players can turn around and dive in to search for the bottle.  First one to find the bottle wins!  It is a lot harder than you might think.
  • Canon Ball Contest.  Simple as it may be, the canon ball contest is always a crowd pleaser.  Have each participant jump, tuck their knees to their chest and land in the pool.  Player with the largest (or tallest) splash wins.
  • Seahorse Races.  All you need for this game is kids and noodles. Each player gets a noodle to ride like a seahorse (pool noodle between legs and popping up behind them).  On your mark, get set, go.  Players race to the other end of the pool, first on to arrive wins.  This race is more difficult than a straight swim and always gets lots of laughs.
  • Watermelon Polo.  Divide players into two teams and grease a watermelon with olive oil.  Yep, you heard me right.  Line up teams against the wall on opposite sides of the pool.  Float the greasy watermelon in the middle.  When the whistle blows, both teams race to the middle to grab the watermelon first.  The first team to get the watermelon back to their wall wins.  This one is HYSTERICAL.
  • Pool Towel Launch.  Every pool game list needs a water balloon game.  This one is great for large groups.  Split players into teams of 4 and then into pairs.  Each team will have a pair on either side of the pool with a pool towel.  Using the towel like a slingshot, the first pair will toss a water balloon across the pool to their team members.  That pair will attempt to catch the water balloon in their pool towel and sling shot it back.  If the balloon breaks, the entire team must jump in the pool and they are out.  For older kids, you can have the out teams try and block IN teams’ passes!
  • Marco Polo.  An oldie but a goodie, every kid likes this game.  “It” closes their eyes, yells out “MARCO!” and all other players must announce “POLO!”  If “It” thinks one of the players it out of the pool, running to another place in the pool, “It” can yell “FISH OUT OF WATER!” and now that player is “It”.  Busted!  Note* if you have untrustworthy kiddos okaying, you may put blindfolds on them = )
  • Popsicle.  Freeze tag for the pool, when a person is tagged by “it”, they must stand frozen, legs apart and arms up in the air.  They can be unfrozen by another player swimming through their legs.
  • Submarine.  This is a simple underwater race game where players race from one end of the pool to the other.  It just sounds more fun when you call it “submarine”!  This is also known as Mermaid Races.
  • Noodle Joust.  This game requires two easily maneuvered pool floats and two noodles (four noodles if there will be two players per float).  Have the players sit or straddle the floats, floats facing each other on opposite ends of the pool.  Have them kick the floats towards each other, trying to joust the other team off their raft.
  • Categories.  “It” player stands facing the wall at one side of the pool, the rest of the players on the other end.  “It” will call out a category and each player will choose their answer (i.e. if the category is colors, each player picks a color).  “It” will shout out an answer, one by one.  When your answer is shouted, you must try to swim to “It” side and touch the wall without being spotted and touched by “It”.
  • F.I.S.H.  This is like H.O.R.S.E. in basketball and great for older kids who know a lot of tricks (great for pools with a diving board).  The first player will perform something in the pool or into the pool and each other player must replicate.  If they cannot, they receive a letter.  The game continues until all but one player is out.
  • Follow the Swimmer.  Follow the Leader for the pool, the followers must replicate the leader exactly or they are out of the game.  It is usually best to have a parent be the watcher since the leader often can’t watch the followers closely.
  • Scavenger Hunt.  Gather groups of objects that sink (diving rings, balls, anything weighted) and scatter them into the pool.  Call out the scavenger list and have the kids race (can be in teams) to gather all of the objects.  The player(s) who grab the list items first, wins.
  • Seaweed.  This Red Rover-inspired game is really fun for a group of kids, like at a birthday party.  One kid stands in the middle, while the others go to one end of the pool.  The middle kid yells out “SEAWEED!” prompting all kids to try and swim to the other end of the pool without being tagged by the middle kid(s).  Once a player is tagged, they join hands with the middle kid(s) to create a seaweed string.  The last kid to make it past the seaweed is the winner.
  • Relay Race.  You could do a million different types of relay races in the pool: trying to keep things above water as you swim across to the end, push a rubber ducky with your nose (that one seems to be very popular) and you could even incorporate an underwater obstacle course with weighted rings (aka hula hoops).  Kids love to race, so just get creative with what is around you.

Of course no pool party or play date is complete without adequate hydration.  You can’t ever pump enough H2O into your kiddos and sometimes it takes a lot of coaxing.  I have to remind my daughter 10 times a day to drink more water.  She, like most people, only thinks to pour herself a glass when she is thirsty and therefore already dehydrated!


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