6 fun pool games for kids that keep them happy and tire them out

May 19, 2021

Do your kids love swimming but become bored after countless hours spent diving for pennies and practicing underwater handstands? Whether you have your own backyard swimming pool or frequent your city or community pool, it's a good idea to have a few pool games for kids locked and loaded. This way you can keep the pool fun going all day long. After all, the more vigorously they play during the day, the more tired they are at the end of it.

Swimming is not only a great way to cool down in the summer, it also incorporates physical activity with fun. Water play activities offer the perfect opportunity to boost motor development while also providing fantastic sensory input, according to Lauren Drobnjak and Claire Heffron, two practicing pediatric occupational and physical therapists, who authored "Cooperative Activities for Kids" and co-created The Inspired Treehouse.

"The resistance provided by the water in a pool is amazing for challenging endurance and strength," adds Anne Zachry, a pediatric occupational therapist, who wrote the book "Retro Baby." "The kids will be having so much fun, they won't even realize how hard they are working their bodies."

Choose fun pool games that are appropriate for your child's age and "address a variety of skills, such as following directions, motor coordination and social skills," recommends Zachry. "This allows a child to have fun while also gaining skills and increasing their comfort level in the water."

Make sure you have a responsible adult watching the kids at all times and then try these fun games to play in the pool: 

1. Catch while riding a noodle

This game can accommodate as many players as you have room for in the pool. Each player straddles a floating pool noodle as they toss a beach ball back and forth. The goal is to stay on the noodle while catching and throwing the ball. If you fall off your noodle, you are out of the game. The last person still floating wins. "This fun game is great for practicing balance and motor skills," notes Zachry.

2. Watermelon relay

Divide into teams of two and give each team a watermelon. Have them push the melon from one end of the pool to the other without ever touching their feet to the bottom of the pool. This activity is a fun collaborative game that can also be turned into a race.

3. Ball toss

This game is suitable for any number of swimmers. Place several upturned Frisbees in the water so they float, each with a number written on it in permanent marker — for example, 5, 10, 20, etc. Take turns throwing balls at the Frisbees to score the number of points written there. The winner is the one who reaches 100 points first.

4. Simon Says

Just as in the land version of the game, the parent calls out an action for the child to complete by saying something like, "Simon says, 'Swim down and touch the bottom of the pool.'" If the parent calls out an instruction without saying "Simon says" and the child performs the action, they must exit the pool or move to the wall. The last person remaining in the game wins.

5. Swimming pool Scrabble

This game from Toddler Approved calls for about two to three players, depending on how many sponges you use. It can be modified to fit your child's reading ability. Write letters on sponges with permanent marker and toss them in the pool. Take turns swimming out to get a letter to put in your pile on the side of the pool. Once all letters are collected, see how many words you can spell with your letters. Younger kids can work on letter recognition or simply alphabetize their letters.

6. Underdog freeze tag

Freeze tag is a childhood favorite, which can be easily translated into the swimming pool. Any number of swimmers can play at once. One swimmer is "It" and must chase and swim after the other players to try to tag them. This game should be played in the shallow end because once tagged, the players will remain frozen in place — with legs apart forming a tunnel — until another player swims through their legs to "unfreeze" them.

When playing these games or thinking up other pool games for kids, be sure to keep water and pool safety in mind. 
 

Tips and stories from parents and caregivers who’ve been there.

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