We have spent the first week of our summer vacation at a hotel in the mountains with a golf course and a pool. This is the kind of camping my wife appreciates, apparently.
Our sons have been in swimming lessons since the beginning and take to the pool like, well… fish to water. While there are many options in the Columbia Valley for us to go hiking, sight seeing, boating, fishing, etc. the gang has been content to hang at the pool.
I’m guessing this will be a common occurrence for many families this season, and whether it’s a backyard pool, a community pool, a lake, or a resort, there are dozens of fun swimming pool games you can teach the kids to make the pool experience more than “HEY MOM! WATCH THIS!”
It’s not all cannonballs. Check out these options:
1. Mermaid Races
Some call them dolphin races or submarine races. Call it what you want, this is a “hold your breath and see who can swim the longest underwater race.” My brother always beat me at this one.
Take an empty clear 2 liter plastic bottle. One with a white cap, or the same color as your pool tiles is also a good idea. Fill the bottle with pool water and line the players up on the pool deck, backs to the water. When they hear the splash they can turn around and try to find it. It’s harder than it seems as the bottle camouflages to the bottom.
3. Noodle Jousting
Instead of riding horses for this battle, the players line up on inflatable rafts. Then, just like medieval gladiators, they try to knock each other from their mount with pool noodles.
4. Shark in the Pool
This is another variation of tag where the players are allowed to hop in and out of the water. The shark, “it”, tries to tag them when they are in the water. If the shark tags someone, they become “it.” You can add variations by giving the shark a mask, a snorkel, even fins so they can swim quickly to catch the players. Players can only stay out of the water for 5 seconds at a time to give the shark a chance to catch them.
5. Ping Pong
Just as it is fun to collect things that sink to the bottom, you can do the same with things that float. Ping pong balls make a great floating thing to catch since they’re light and hard to see. You can put numbers on them for point values, initials on them where players need to find just their own, etc. The more you toss into the pool the more fun it is.
6. Treasure Hunt
When I was a kid it was simple. My dad or grandpa would toss coins off the deck next to my uncle’s pool and my brother and I would dive in after them. For hours we did this. HOURS.
Freeze tag in the water. When someone is tagged, they stand straight with their hands above their head, like a popsicle. The added twist in this game is submarining. When a player is under water, they cannot be tagged by “it,” but they can swim past a “popsicle” and unfreeze them. (No licking involved, please.)
It’s like Red Rover. Players try to get from one side of the pool to the other without getting tagged by “It.” When “It” tags a player, they join them in the middle and hold hands. Subsequent players join in as well until you have a long line (an octopus) in the middle. Play until 1 is left, and then start again.
9. Atomic Whirlpool
Have everyone start slowly moving around in a circle, then move faster and faster and faster until a whirlpool is created and you can float on it. (Works better in a smaller pool.)
Grab an odd number of diving sticks (7, 5, 9) and place your players on opposite ends of the pool. Toss the sticks in the middle, and the first pirate to come back with the majority of the sticks (treasure) wins. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
11. Mr.Wolf / Mr. Shark?
The same as “What Time Is It Mr. Wolf?” that your kids would play at recess, except in the pool it is “What Time Is It Mr. Shark?”
The basketball game HORSE has people taking stunt shots, miss a shot get a letter. First to spell HORSE loses. For FISH, you can play with a poolside basketball net, or you could just have players go back and forth doing dives, splashes, and other acrobatic pool maneuvers.
13. Scavenger Hunt
Get a collection of items that will sink in pairs. (2 coins, 2 pool rings, 2 dive toys, etc.) Toss them about the pool and then have the teams try to collect one of each item. First to collect them all, wins.
14. Belly Flop Contest
Honestly, with some kids you don’t even need to have a contest, they just do it naturally. Last time at the pool with my boys, even the lifeguard gave a groaning“oooohhh!” when my son flopped in.
15. Marco Polo
This classic is basically tag in the water. “It” closes their eyes and yells “MARCO!” the rest of the players respond with “POLO!” while they move around the pool and try to avoid being caught. Be careful which kind of pool you play this in, you’ll want to make sure it’s shallow and the players are mindful of “It” not being able to see where they are going.
16. Chicken Fight
Okay, this is for the older kids, and maybe even for the parents. Ahem. Ride piggy back on the shoulders and then engage the other team. First one to fall of their ride’s shoulders loses. All sorts of age appropriate punching, kicking, and hair pulling is encouraged.
17. Bobbing Heads
This is whack-a-mole in the pool. “It” must try and pluck off the bobbing players when they pop up with a pool noodle, or soft ball. Once they’re all plucked off, trade places and bob again.