The 5 Best Swimming Games to Play With a Pool Noodle

From seahorse races to tug-a-noodle, there are no limits to the fun can you have with a simple foam float.

by Alexis Barad-Cutler
Originally Published: 
A kid playing with a Pool Noodle

The pool noodle is more than just a foam float for kids who can’t swim. Today, people use pool noodles in all kinds of inventive ways, from arts and crafts and obstacle courses to insulating pipes and safety-proofing their home. But for as much out-of-water utility as they have, pool noodles still belong in the pool ⏤ and not just to teach swimming and save lives. Foam noodles are the ultimate pool toy. They lend themselves both to imaginary and physical play and are the perfect instrument for any number of creatives swimming games for kids, including these five they’ll want to play all summer long.

Seahorse Races

Entertainment Time: 5-10 minutes

What You’ll Need: At least one pool noodle and one kid. After fashioning the pool noodle into a “u” shape, riders should straddle it between their legs. Using both arms as paddles, they then move around the pool as if riding the seahorse. After establishing a starting point and finish line, kids can either race against one another, as relay teams, or even individually against the clock. The races won’t be fast but they’re guaranteed to be exciting.

Noodle Pop

Entertainment Time: 5-10 minutes

What You’ll Need: Pool noodle and bubbles. This game can be played competitively with two players or as a solo game, but in both cases, you’ll need a third person to blow the bubbles. The play is simple: One person stands on the side of the pool and blows the bubbles while the remaining player(s) in the pool uses their noodle(s) to pop them as fast as possible ⏤ ideally before the bubbles have a chance to hit the water. The player to pop the most number of bubbles wins the round (the bubble blower can also keep score) and play continues for as long as is agreed upon.

Target Practice

Entertainment Time: 5-10 minutes

What You’ll Need: At least two pool noodles and a floating target (ideally, a raft or a donut float). Each player gets a noodle. Place the target in the pool or, if you don’t have a floating target, pick something on the pool deck that you don’t mind getting wet, like a beach chair. Players line up next to one another in the pool and hold their pool noodles under water so that one end fills, creating a noodle “squirt gun.” Once filled, hold the noodle so that both ends point up until you’re ready to fire. Then, position the noodle against your mouth like a horn instrument or blow gun, aim the other end of the noodle and fire! Players should blow as hard as they can and try to hit the target before their opponent does. Admittedly, it can be tricky for smaller kids to generate enough air to launch the water so you’ll have to give it a test run before playing. You may also need to adjust the starting line so that hitting the target isn’t an impossible task. One alternate way to play is to use the pool’s jets to fire the water out of the noodle.


Entertainment Time: About 5 minutes

What You’ll Need: A pool noodle and at least four players. Enjoy Tug-of-War without the rope burn! Using a pool noodle as a substitute for the “rope,” have an equal number of players line up on each side of it. Once everyone has a firm grip, yell “Go!” and let the players fall and splash as they may.

Pool Snake

Entertainment Time: 10-15 minutes

What You’ll Need: At least a half-dozen pool noodles, multiple players, and a big pool. Create a daisy chain of pool noodles and swimmers (noodle, kid, noodle, kid, etc.) so that you have one long connected “snake” in the pool. The player at the “head” of the snake will start swimming (or walking if in the shallow end) while all of the other players try to keep the snake intact. The first person to let go of a noodle and break the snake is out of the game, at which point you can either reconnect and continue or start over with a new leader. The goal can either be to make it around the pool as a team without breaking the snake or, if you have enough players and enough noodles, to have two separate snakes race from one end of the pool to the other. You can also just connect the snake in a circle and play a good old-fashioned game of Ring Around the Rosie.

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