The 6 Best Games Kids Can Play With a Pool Float

Whether raft, donut, or pool noodle, the humble float can provide hours of entertainment.

by Alexis Barad-Cutler
Originally Published: 
Kids playing with pink pool floats in a swimming pool

For kids, a swimming pool is the ultimate in summer entertainment. They could spend hours splashing and swimming and never would you hear the words “I’m” and “bored” uttered in the same sentence. It’s a parent’s dream. And while kids rarely need help entertaining themselves in the company of chlorinated water, one surefire way to amp up the fun is by tossing in a few rafts, donuts, or pool noodles. Together with a touch of imagination, these humble inflatable or foam floats can serve as the secret weapon for any number of creative water games, including these six they won’t want to stop playing.

Surfin’ USA

Entertainment Time: 20–25 minutes.

What You’ll Need: A raft-type pool float or something you can stand on top of; and ideally, a watch or something you can use as a timer or stopwatch. There are a couple of ways to play this game of balance and skill, depending on the number of rafts you have. If you have more than one raft, divide the players into teams and assign several to each float. When somebody says go, one player from each team should climb aboard their raft, stand up, and fight to see who can balance the longest before falling off, while the other players in the pool splash water around them and try to make waves. The last person standing gets a point for their team and the team with the most points after all the surfers have gone wins.

If you only have one raft, you can play using a timer to see how long each player can stay afloat. For more advanced (i.e. older) players, you can also have somebody pull the raft through the pool to make balancing on the raft even harder.

Shark Fight

Entertainment Time: 15–20 minutes.

What You’ll Need: Multiple players, and a noodle or a small raft. After designating one person as the “shark,” the other players scatter around the pool (preferably in a shallow end where they can stand) and pick a spot. While holding onto the raft or wrapping a pool noodle around their body, the shark begins to hunt for its prey. The players aren’t allowed to move from their spots, but when the shark approaches, they must try to steal or wrestle the raft/noodle from the creature’s grasp. If the prey is successful at ‘fighting the shark’ and stealing the floatie, if even for a moment, they are safe. If unsuccessful, that player is out of the pool. The last prey standing gets to be the next shark.

Raft Relay

Entertainment Time: 10–15 minutes.

What You’ll Need: Two pool floats, and at least two players, or more. Optional: An object to drop in the pool. Two players will race each other on their respective floats (by paddling, kicking, or using their arms) to the other side of the pool and back. When they return to the starting end of the pool, they tag another player, and then that player takes the float, and joins the race. The relay continues until each player has paddled on lap. The first team to make it to the starting line wins the relay. To up the ante, players can drop an object at the bottom of the pool that the next player has to first retrieve before beginning the race.


Entertainment Time: 5–10 minutes.

What You’ll Need: A pool noodle or other inflatable, and optional variety of inflatables for the other players. One player holds a pool noodle while the others stand a few feet in front of them in the shallow end. Holding either their own noodle or inflatable ball to help with buoyancy, each player repeatedly bobs up and down, dunking underwater and popping back up, as the player with the noodle attempts to whack them (gently) on the head. It should look like a pool version of the arcade game. The player “whacked” last gets to be the mole-hunter in the next round.

Jump & Dive

Entertainment Time: 5–10 minutes

What You’ll Need: A pool raft and a sense of humor. As the name suggests, ‘Jump & Dive’ is a game in which players take turns doing their fanciest, silliest, or craziest jump/dive off an island float in the middle of the pool (just make sure the water is deep enough). Obviously, the raft makes things challenging because it’s difficult to stand on. One person (ideally a grownup) is designated the “judge” and rates each dive on multiple factors, including ‘height reached,’ ‘silliness,’ ‘best use of raft,’ etc. with extra points being awarded for showmanship or introductory dance moves.

Float Tag

Entertainment Time: 15–20 minutes.

What You’ll Need: A couple of pool floats, rings, or noodles. It doesn’t matter what you use, as long as each person has one float. ‘Float Tag’ is a classic game of tag played in pseudo-slow motion, since everyone is dragging a floatie through the water. As always, one person is ‘it’ and tries to touch the other players, who are doing their best to elude capture while making it back to a separate safety raft. The final survivor gets to be ‘it’ in the next round.

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