9 Swimming Pool Games That Are Way Better Than ‘Sharks and Minnows’

They’re certain to make a big splash.

by Alexis Barad-Cutler
Originally Published: 
Two kids playing swimming pool games while diving

Even kids with fins for feet get bored at the swimming pool. By this point in the summer, they’ve likely exhausted their arsenal of swimming pool games, and what was once a surefire day of entertainment in the water, is likely losing its luster. Marco Polo? That’s so early June. But it doesn’t have to. There is still plenty of fun to be had in the pool: games they can play with pool noodles, or pool floats, or even just in the shallow end if they’re still not that strong a swimmer. Bringing back that early-summer excitement to the swimming pool simply means popping open a creative stash of new swimming pool games. And here are nine certain to make a splash.

1. F.I.S.H.

Entertainment Time: 5-10 minutes

What You’ll Need: One adult to serve as a the judge.

This game is similar to H.O.R.S.E. in basketball but with an aquatic twist. After lining up on the pool deck, one player does a fancy jump (or dive) into the pool. The zanier and more elaborate the jump, the better. Each player then takes turns jumping into the pool in the exact same way. Unlike basketball, though, where you know if the shot goes in, it’s up to the judge to decide how close a player came to nailing the original jump. If the child is unsuccessful (i.e. copies the move wrong), they get an ‘F,’ the first letter in the word ‘F.I.S.H.’ and the next player comes up with a new jump. The first person to spell out F.I.S.H with four bad dives loses.

2. Whack-a-Wet-Mole

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.

3. Seagull

Entertainment Time: 5-10 minutes

What You’ll Need: About five players, ideally ages 7 years old and up, and a pool where kids are allowed to jump in.

Players should line up along the edge of the pool while one designated player, the ‘caller,’ gets in. When everyone is in place and ready to jump, the ‘caller’ should come up with a sentence that incorporates the word ‘seagull’ (although really, it could be any word) and say it aloud. For example, the ‘caller’ would yell, “I was at the beach and saw someone feeding a seagull!” As soon as the players hear the magic word, they should jump into the pool and swim to the other side. The last person to reach the wall is out. The game continues as the caller continues to come up with different sentences until only one player remains. That last person is the winner and becomes the caller in the next round. They should also come up with a new ‘key’ word because nobody’s going to want to hear ‘seagull’ any more.

4. Wet Rover

Entertainment Time: 10-15 minutes

What You’ll Need: At least six players.

‘Wet Rover’ is an underwater take on the classic yard game, Red Rover, and it’s more challenging because kids don’t have the added benefit of a running start. Play begins in the same way: Two teams line up facing one another in the pool, and players hold hands with their respective teammates. One team says, “Wet Rover, Wet Rover, send (and then picks a person from the other team) right over!” Here’s a big difference though: The person picked goes to the wall of the pool behind them and uses the wall to push off and get some momentum as they attempt to swim through two players on the opposing team who are hand hands. If the player is unable to break through the other team’s hands, they join that opposing team. If the player is successful at breaking the line, then they choose someone from the opposing team to come over to their side. The game continues until there is only one person left.

5. Catch and Splash

Entertainment Time:10-15 minutes

What You’ll Need: Two inflatable beach balls.

This game can be played a couple different ways but it’s the most fun as a relay race. Divide each team evenly (minimum of two players) and assign one person to be a “thrower,” while the rest will be the “catchers.” Form two parallel lines of catchers on one the side of the pool ready to jump in one at a time. The thrower from each team takes a beach ball and either gets in the pool or stands on the opposite side ⏤ across from the catches. When somebody yells start, the throwers toss the beach balls to their first catchers in line, who have to catch them midair while jumping into the pool (not before they jump). If they catch the ball before hitting the water, that team gets a point. Play continues until there are no more catchers and the team with the most points wins. If you only have two players, or one beach ball, you can also play where each person gets X amount of chances to jump and catch. The one with the most catches out of the number you decide before starting, wins.

6. 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.

7. 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 ‘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.

8. Fish and Fisherman

Entertainment Time:10-15 minutes

What You’ll Need: Five to six players.

Designate one player to be the ‘Fisherman’; all other players are the fish. The fisherman stands on one side of the pool, while the fish line up along the other. The Fisherman then instructs the fish as to how they should get from one side of the pool to the other ⏤ e.g. “All fish must bob in and out of the water” or “All fish my swim underwater” ⏤ and yells ‘go.’ As the fish move across the pool, the Fisherman then tries to catch (i.e. tag) as many players as possible. If a fish is caught, it joins the fisherman in tagging other fish. The last fish “swimming” is the winner.

9. Tug-O-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.

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