Beyond Marco Polo: 35 Fresh Swimming Pool Games for Summer

pool2002

Above: Retro Photo – “Dinky Tumblina” & “Boo” – July 2002

It’s that time of year again…SUMMER. And summer in Florida is best survived by keeping cool — by means of either air-conditioning, or water play.

We don’t like to be stuck indoors for most of the year, so on any given day you may find us hanging out at the neighborhood pool, where the children enjoy splashing around and playing various games with their siblings and friends. Most of us are familiar with the old favorites: “Chicken” and “Marco Polo”, so (with the help of my boys and various internet sources) I have compiled this list of 35 *new* games to try at the pool:

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Butterfinger ball

Perfect for the younger children, this game can be played in the shallow end of a pool.

Needed:

  • suntan lotion
  • beach ball
  • a group of 2 or more players

How to play:

Butter each child’s hand with suntan lotion and then wet a large beach ball. The kids throw a ball back and forth to each other and have a fun time trying to hold on to it.

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Treasure Toss Pool Game

Needed:

  • A bunch of pennies (or other coins)
  • Any size group of players

How to play:

Toss all of the coins into the pool. Either allow a certain number of children to go and get a coin at a time; or all at once.  The coins are the prize!

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Watermelon Relay

Needed:

  • One watermelon per team
  • Two or more groups of players

How to play:

Each team lines up in the pool behind a floating watermelon. The first person in line pushes the watermelon to the other side and back, but must not have their feet touching the bottom of the pool when they are pushing. They then pass it to the next person. The first team done wins.

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Battleships and Submarines

Needed:

  • Two “teams” of players

How to play:

Divide a group of several people into two teams. Each team has a “base” against the wall of the pool, opposite each other. When the game starts, the battleship team comes off the wall and taunts the submarines into chasing them. The submarines push off when ready, swimming underwater and tries to touch/tag the battleships before the battleships reach base. If the submarine is successful, the battleship switches sides (and the submarine gets a free walk/swim back). If the submarine is unsuccessful, the submarine must swim back to its side. However, if the submarine has to come up for air and the battleship splashes the submarine, then the submarine switches sides! The point of the game is to try and get everyone on your team.

Variation: For advanced swimmers and to  make it harder, the battleships can grab the foot of the retreating sub, hoping to make them come up for air, but be careful, if the sub has enough air, they can turn around and touch the battleship, capturing them!

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Bumper Boats

This is like “Bumper Cars” at a fair or carnival, only in the water.

Needed:

  • 5-6 sturdy tubes (or small, donut shaped flotation devices) – “Bumper Boats” – for as many players as you have in the pool
  • several players

How to play:

Tell players kick off the sides of the pool and try to knock as many people off their “boat” as possible. Last one floating wins.

Obviously, no hitting, scratching, pulling hair, biting, etc. allowed

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Duck Thrust

Needed:

  • several rubber duckies
  • 3 or more players

How to play:

Put 3-4 players at one end of the pool and give them one rubber duckie apiece. When you say go, they must use their nose to push the duck to the other end of the pool. They can also “blow” the duck forward; they just can’t bite the duck and swim to the other end with it in their mouths; nor can they touch their duck with their hands or feet.

Further, the players can “distract” the other players by splashing water in their faces or splashing water toward their ducks to knock them backward. They just can’t actually TOUCH the other players or the other players’ ducks.

The first one to get his duck to touch the other end of the pool (obeying the rules) is the winner.

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Gator/Sharks & Minnows

Needed:

  • a fairly large group of players

How to play:

Have one person designated as the “gator.” He or she treads water in the DEEP END of the pool while all other participants are standing on the side. The leader will then yell “gator!” and at that point, the players standing on the side of the pool have 30 seconds to successfully jump in, swim to the other side of the pool, and get out without being tagged by the gator.

Anyone who is tagged in the first round has to join ranks with the “gator” and try to tag the swimmers in the next round(s). The game goes until there is only one person who has not been tagged.

No jumping on the “gator.”

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Monster’s Ball Bonanza (Water Dodge Ball)

Needed:

  • a group of 4-2o players
  • several (3 or more) beach balls

How to play:

Have at least 4 players, but no more than 20. The number of beach balls you will need will depend on the number of players. If you have just 4 players, 3 balls will work. Try to maintain a “3 balls” to “4 players” ratio for this game. (For example: 6 players = 4 balls, 8 players = 6 balls, 12 players = 9 balls, 16 players = 12 balls, and 20 players = 15 balls.)

Now, have everyone except one player, called the Monster, go to the same end of the pool. The Monster gets a certain number of beach balls (depending on how many students are in the pool).

The objective is for the players in the pool to make it to the other end of the pool without getting hit by the balls the Monster is throwing. On “go,” they must swim to the other end of the pool. If they choose to swim underwater, they must surface at least twice. This gives the Monster a fair chance as he/she throws balls at the other players.

Once the Monster throws all of the balls, he can’t get them out of the pool until everyone gets to the other end of the pool. When the Monster hits one of the swimmers with a ball, he/she must get out of the pool and become a Monster in the next round, and help him/her in the next round. Play until there is only one player left in the pool, and that person is the winner.

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Pirates and Sharks

Needed:

  • a fairly large group of  players (10 or more)
  • pool mats/floats
  • various small pool toys

How to play:

Have the players divide themselves into two groups. When this is done, designate one of the groups as “Sharks”, and divide the other group; the “Pirates” into smaller groups. Each pirate group claims a “ship” (one of the pool mats), and gets into the pool and climbs aboard.

Split up the “treasure” (the various pool toy) between the pirate ships.
After the pirates are all ready to go, let the sharks into the pool.

The game works as follows:
The pirate ships move around the pool (swimmers use their arms and legs to paddle), trying to steal an enemy ship’s treasure. While this is happening above water, the Sharks in the water try to pull the pirates into the pool – once a pirate is pulled in they become a shark as well.

There are two ways to win this game. The first is if one pirate ship claims all of the treasure before all of its “crew” is pulled into the pool, that team wins the game. The second way is if every pirate is pulled into the pool and made a shark before one ship can control all of the treasure. In this case, the original sharks (whoever started as a shark at the beginning of the game) wins the game.

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King of the Tube

Pool game where teams compete for best time.

Needed:

  • any number of  players (2 or more)
  • pool tube/donut
  • timer/stopwatch

How to play:

Each team selects a champion who can stay on a tube the longest.

One at a time, a champion sits in a tube, and when the timer starts, the opposite teams all try to tip over the champion WITHOUT TOUCHING HIM, only the tube.

Time each champion, see who stays on the longest.

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Water Frisbee

Needed:

  • four or more players
  • Frisbee
  • two laundry baskets

How to play:

This game is played in water with as many people as you want. You will need a Frisbee and two laundry baskets for the goals.

Split your group into two teams. One side defends, and one tries to score. Toss a coin to see which team goes first.  You will need someone positioned outside of the pool to retrieve the Frisbee as needed.

Once the scoring side is chosen, one person from their team throws the Frisbee from outside of the pool to a fellow team member.  The thrower may then join their team in the pool.  Once someone catches the Frisbee they have to hold it like they are a waiter. They can have NO grasp on the Frisbee!  It must be resting on the tips of their fingers. They also can’t swim once in possession of the Frisbee. They can only walk or pass it. The Frisbee can be thrown when passing.  Repeat this until you score a goal by getting the Frisbee into your team’s laundry basket. Then it’s the next team’s turn.

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Pass-the-Ball-Relay

Needed:

  • two teams of players
  • two balls

How to play:

Two teams each form a line. At “Go,” the player at the front of each line passes a ball over his head to the player behind him, who then passes it between his legs to the person behind him, who then passes it over his head, and so on. When it reaches the last player, he swims the ball to the front of the line (either through the legs of his teammates or next to them) and starts the relay again. The first line of players to return to their original order wins.

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Hide-the-Balloons

Needed:

  • 12+ inflated balloons
  • any number of players

How to play:

Place a dozen or so inflated balloons in the shallow end of a pool. Players compete to see who can grab and hold the most balloons under their bodies in 30 seconds. Our bet? It will be hard not to laugh as the balloons come flying out of the pool! But we’ll let you make the call on whether stuffing balloons into bathing suits is cheating. (When the game’s done, be sure to pick up any popped pieces.)

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Bottle Brigade Race

Needed:

  • two or more players
  • two or more empty plastic bottles

How to play:

Contestants race across the pool while pushing an empty plastic bottle with their feet.

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Piranha Ball

Needed:

  • three or more players
  • a ball

How to play:

Players hold hands and form a circle with a ball, the piranha, floating in the middle. The goal: to evade the piranha’s bite. When a player is bumped by the ball, she’s out. Those remaining rejoin hands and play again. Blowing the ball or pulling another player toward the gnashing fish is fair game — but lowering arms or ducking underwater to let the ball out of the circle isn’t.

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Ultimate Ball

Use a ball instead of a flying disk in this wet version of the fast-paced game

Needed:

  • four or more players
  • one ball

How to play:

As in the flying disk game known as Ultimate, the goal here is to move an object across a playing field (in this case, a pool) to score a point. Sounds easy, right? Did I mention that players can’t swim or run with the ball? The only way to advance it is to throw the ball to a teammate within 10 seconds of catching it. If it’s intercepted, falls into the water, or is held too long, the opposing team takes possession. A point is scored when the player with the ball touches the opposing team’s end of the pool.

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Crocodile Crossing (aka  “Colors” or “Color Blind”)

Needed:

  • three or more players

How to play:

All players but one huddle together. Each picks a type of fish (goldfish, perch; younger kids may want to pick colors instead), then lines up along a wall of the pool. The remaining player, the crocodile, stands in the middle of the pool with her back to the others and begins to call out fish in quick succession. When players hear their fish, they begin to swim — underwater or above, but as quietly as possible — to the other side. If the croc hears or feels someone moving (no turning around to look), she tries to catch him before he reaches the safety of the other side. If he’s caught, he becomes the next hungry beast.

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What time is it, Mr. Sharkey?

Needed:

  • three or more players

How to play:

One person is Mr. Sharkey and stands at the end of the pool while the rest of the kids stand at the other end. The kids call out “What time is it Mr. Sharkey?” and Mr. Sharkey says a time, such as 4 o’clock. Then all the kids take four swim strokes toward him. This continues until Mr. Sharkey answers: “It’s lunch time!” and the kids all turn and swim back to the starting end of the pool. If Mr. Sharkey tags one of the kids, he or she is now Mr. Sharkey.

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Island Contest

Needed:

  • pool mattresses/floats (one per player)
  • two or more players
  • swim noodles (one per player)

How to play:

Each player stands on an air mattress. The goal is to knock down your opponent with a lance (swim noodle or other soft covered stick like object).

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Water Ball Relay

Needed:

  • two or more players
  • a ball or balloon

How to play:

A ball or a balloon must be transported back and forth. Hands may be used or to make it more difficult, players can only use their heads.

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Air Mattress Relay

Needed:

  • four or more players
  • two or more pool “mattresses”/floats

How to play:

The smallest player on a team must be transported back and forth on an air mattress.

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Island Mail

Needed:

  • two or more teams of players
  • pool mattresses/floats (one per team)
  • several water balloons

How to play:

Water-filled balloons are tossed island to island (mattress to mattress). Which team gets the most balloons to the goal?

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A Different Kind of Leapfrog

Needed:

  • 4-8  players

How to play:

2 teams (max. 4 players each) compete against each other. One team is on each side of the pool, standing in chest-high water with their legs spread apart. The last player must dive and swim through the legs of his teammates, stand and spread his legs. Then the next player goes. The winning team is the team that reaches the other side first.

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Long Jump

Needed:

  • three or more players
  • pool noodle

How to play:

Each player jumps as far away from the pool ledge as possible. A judge holds a water noodle to mark a spot. Each player tries to jump over the noodle. If he can’t or touches the noodle, then he is out. After each round, the noodle is moved farther away from the ledge.

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Turned to Stone/Statue/Freeze

Needed:

  • three or more players

How to play:

Gather players in the shallow end. Define the boundaries of play so that everyone can stand up. (Adults, on your knees!) One person is “it.” At the whistle, “it” has one minute to tag as many other players as he can. Once tagged, a player must stand frozen or “turn to stone” and raise his hand. Before a frozen player can return to action, an unfrozen player must thaw him out by submerging and swimming through his legs. A player cannot be tagged and frozen if he is underwater. At the end of the minute, blow the whistle and designate an unfrozen player as “it.” Keep going until everyone has been “it.” The winner is whoever has the most frozen players at the end of his stint as “it.”

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Canon Ball Jumping Contest

Needed:

  • two or more players

How to play:

Who can make the best canon balls? Take turns making “canon balls”. (Hold knees up to chest so that body is small and rounded like a ball and jump into the water.)

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Diving

Needed:

  • three or more players

How to play:

Who can swim underwater the farthest distance? The diver sits on the poolside to mark the spot that he came out of the water so it can be seen who went the farthest.

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Silent As A Fish

Needed:

  • three or more players
  • blindfold

How to play:

In the middle of the pool stands one player who is blindfolded. The other players try to swim from one side of the pool to the other without being touched or cut off by the blindfolded player.

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Raft Races

Needed:

  • whistle
  • inflated rafts or tubes (one per player)
  • two or more players

How to play:

Have the racers line up on their rafts at the pool’s shallow end. When you sound the whistle, they must kick, paddle and otherwise propel themselves to the deep end and back. The first racer to touch the wall back at the shallow end wins.

For a greater challenge, set a few rules before the race: Racers can only kick or only paddle; they must sing as they race; or they must retrieve a quarter from the edge of the deep end and carry it back to the shallow end. Another game involves seeing who can glide the farthest simply by pushing off with their feet from the shallow-end wall.

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Scavenger Hunt

Needed:

  • a variety of objects: dive rings, spoon, coins–anything that doesn’t float, isn’t made of glass and has no sharp edges.
  • four or more players, divided into two teams
  • lists of items to retrieve

How to play:

Strew the various objects at the bottom of the pool. Make sure there are two of everything (one for each team). Designate the shallow end for little kids, the deep end for bigger ones and grown-ups and give each team a list of items to retrieve. The team that collects the most things on its list in the allotted time wins; the other team has to scour the pool for the remaining stuff.

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Duck

Needed:

  • four or more players, divided into two teams
  • soft rubber balls or beach balls

How to play:

Assemble two teams, one offensive and one defensive, at opposite sides of the shallow end, plus a referee with a watch on the deck. Armed with soft rubber balls or small beach balls, the offensive team tries to hit the defensive players. An offensive team member can retrieve balls, but he must return to the starting position before throwing again. Defensive players must get out of the pool when hit. After all have been hit, the referee notes the elapsed time, and the teams change roles. The team that stays in the water the longest before being wiped out is the winner.

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Ping-Pong Scramble

Needed:

  • two or more players, divided into two teams
  • numbered ping-pong balls
  • whistle
  • two buckets

How to play:

Divide a group into two teams and line up the swimmers in the water on either side of the pool. Dump a basketful of numbered Ping-Pong balls in the center of the pool. At the whistle, both teams scramble to collect as many balls as possible and carry them back to a bucket on their side of the pool. No team member may collect more than one ball at a time. When all the balls have been collected, the numbers on the balls are added up, and the team with the highest score wins.

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Sharks & Jets

Needed:

  • three or more players
  • whistle

How to play:

Two teams, the Sharks and the Jets, line up opposite one another in the middle of the shallow end, with 5 feet of open water between them. A referee on the side blows the whistle and yells, “Sharks!” or “Jets!” That team must turn and sprint toward its side of the pool, with the other team in hot pursuit. A player tagged by a pursuing Shark or Jet joins the other team.

The referee can let the chase continue all the way to the end of the pool–or he can sound the whistle anytime, shout out the other team’s name, and turn the pursuers into the pursued.

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Centipede Crawl

Needed:

  • four or more players, divided into two teams

How to play:

Two teams form separate lines in the deep end of the pool, with the strongest swimmers in lead positions. Each swimmer holds onto the ankle of his teammate ahead with one hand, leaving his other arm free for a modified sidestroke. At the whistle, the two “centipedes” wriggle to the other end of the pool and back, each swimmer tagging the far wall with his free foot. If anyone’s hand slips, the rest of the centipede has to wait until the link is reestablished.

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Fruit Hoops

Needed:

  • five or more players
  • two plastic dishpans
  • two each of several different types of fruit
  • whistle

How to play:

Two teams spread out along the gutter at the deep end. Float two plastic dishpans at the shallow end corners. In the middle of the pool, distribute two of every fruit from the produce department: bananas, apples, oranges, grapefruit, pears, mangoes, cantaloupes, whatever. At the whistle, both teams collect one of each fruit and deposit it in a dishpan.

While it may seem a simple game, Fruit Hoops presents an intriguing strategic choice: should a team assign each player a specific fruit to collect and carry to the fruit pan? Or should it designate a team member to swim ahead and be in position to catch and dunk fruit tossed and retrieved by teammates? At any rate, the first team to collect a complete fruit sampler wins; the other team has to prepare fruit salad for lunch.

Comments

  1. Chailyn W says

    We need more games for just 2 players here! I am going to my best friend’s house to swim and there are always nothing to do for fun.

    However, there were a few games that helped! THANX!

    [Reply]

  2. Jessica says

    Thanks so much for this article. I am having an end of the year party for my daughters kindergarten class. We will definitely be using a bunch of these games!!!

    [Reply]

  3. says

    this website did no help me out a bit well just a little but not how i wanted it to help me i think you should make better games without that much equipment and players THANKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    [Reply]

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