On a hot summer’s day, nothing cools you off quite like a jump in the water. And with school being out, the pool is a great place for kids to let loose and have fun. Nowadays, it may seem difficult to coax your child or grandchild off of the couch and get them to play outside. But what kid can resist fun games in the pool? Here are some tips on how to make the most of pool playtime with the grandkids.
Benefits of Swimming Pool Games for Kids
There are tons of positives to getting the kids to have some fun in the sun. Playtime has been shown to not only improve a child’s physical health but also their social interaction skills. Especially for young kids, playing games can help develop motor function, problem-solving, and teamwork. 90 minutes of physical exercise and playing a day can also lead to reduced stress and better sleep for kids––which will also mean some well-needed rest for their parents.
Playtime in a pool has the obvious benefit of teaching a child to swim. For those who are a bit water-shy, playing in the shallow end will help them get used to being in the water. And let’s face it––the pool is also simply a great way to beat the heat in those grueling summer months.
Kids and pools can be a fun combination––but it can also come with risks. Before the fun begins, it’s important to have safety measures in place. To make sure nobody gets hurt and every child is taken care of, follow these safety guidelines.
- Sunscreen. Generally, kids should always wear sunscreen when they go outside––this applies to the pool as well. Contrary to popular belief, UV rays can actually penetrate up to two feet underwater. Make sure to avoid burns by applying generous waterproof sunscreen every two hours.
- Provide Supervision. Children should never be left in the pool unwatched. Unfortunately, drowning is the number one cause of injury-related death for young kids. If there is no lifeguard present, designate an adult to watch the kids in the water. Rotate watch so that every adult gets a break and can stay properly vigilant.
- Swimming Ability. A child doesn’t necessarily need to be able to swim in the shallow end or kiddie pool. However, knowing how to swim is vital to a child’s safety, especially as they venture into the deep end. Make sure you know every child’s swimming level. Always keep younger children within arm’s reach.
- Provide Water. This sounds obvious, but we’re actually talking about drinking water. When splashing around in the sun, it’s easy for a child to not realize when they’re thirsty. Make sure they stay hydrated by offering them something to drink frequently.
- Eye Protection. A lot of pools have chemicals that can irritate a child’s eye. Goggles are a great way to prevent this. Many also have UV protection.
- Establish Rules. When a lot of kids are playing together, things can get out of hand pretty fast. Make sure to create clear rules so that nobody gets hurt. This can include no running by the pool, no pushing others, and no swimming without supervision.
What You’ll Need
A lot of these games require nothing more than a pool and a willing player. However, to make the most out of your pool day, it’s a good idea to stock up on some toys and other pool equipment. Not all of these are required, but this list can help give you an idea of what to have handy.
- Swimsuits. This one is a given. If the kids are coming to grandma’s house, make sure to remind them to pack their bathing suits. If you’re getting in on the fun, make sure you have a swimsuit of your own!
- Goggles. This was mentioned in the safety guidelines, but goggles are often vital to underwater games. Some kids insist on swimming without them, but their eyes will thank you for good quality goggles.
- Pool Noodles. These don’t even need to have a game attached. Especially for kids just learning to swim, a pool noodle is a helpful tool.
- Pool Rings. You might remember these if you’ve ever taken swimming lessons. Pool rings are great for diving practice and games that involve collecting items.
- A Whistle. Being underwater or splashing around can make it easy to ignore someone speaking. A whistle is good for getting everyone’s attention.
- Beach Ball. A beach ball can provide endless fun in the pool. Whether it’s used as a flotation device or for a simple game of catch, this will definitely come in handy.
- Arm Floats for Kids. This is important for kids who are just learning to swim or having difficulty swimming. Arm floaties make sure that they can still get in on the fun while still staying safe in the pool.
- Swimsuit Cover-Up. This can mean swim shorts, a swim shirt, a sarong, or a towel poncho. Kids get tuckered out and regain their energy pretty quickly, and breaks for snacks and bathroom trips are sure to be a part of the schedule. Make sure you and the kids have something to throw on in these instances.
Swimming Pool Games for You and Your Grandkids
Now that we’ve gotten safety and equipment tips out of the way, let’s get to the good stuff––here are some great games that will entertain your grandkids in the pool.
1. Marco Polo
This one is a classic that few will need an explanation on. But, in case you’ve missed out on this game, don’t worry––we’ve got you covered. You can play Marco Polo with two or more people. One designated player––the tagger––closes their eyes and counts to ten, while everyone else scatters around. At ten, the designated player keeps their eyes closed and shouts “Marco!”; the other players must respond with “Polo!” Using only their ears, the closed-eyed tagger must try to tag someone. Whoever is tagged becomes the next tagger.
2. Watermelon Ball
This game is a fun twist on water polo. But beware––there might just be some mess involved. Get a whole watermelon and cover it with butter, grease, or slippery soap. Set up goals on each side of the pool––these can be marked by a hula hoop or pool noodle. The object of the game is to pass the watermelon around and throw it into the other team’s goal. But with the watermelon being extra slippery, there’s sure to be a lot of laughs while you try.
3. Diving for Treasure
This game is great for kids who are looking for a bit of extra spending money. Have the players line up at the edge of the pool and close their eyes. Then, toss some coins––silver dollars are great if you have them––into the water. On your command, the players must open their eyes, put on their goggles, and dive for the coins. As a reward, they can get to keep the coins they collect! For a more challenging game, have the players dive without goggles.
4. Off to the Races
This is another classic pool game, but it can be extra helpful to sharpen a child’s swimming skills. Have the players start at one end of the pool and race to the other––or to a marker, such as a pool noodle. To add a twist, hand out beach balls or kickboards and instruct them to only use their legs to kick.
5. Sink or Float
For younger kids just learning how the world works, this is a fun and educational little activity. Gather up a bunch of objects from the house––that you don’t mind getting wet. Hold them each up and ask the kids if they think it’ll sink or float. After they give their answer, drop the object in the water and see if they were correct!
6. Outdoor Bubble Bath
If all you’ve got is a kiddie pool and the little ones are starting to get tired of it––well, it’s time to get creative. Get some bath bombs and bubbly soap and create a giant bubble bath! The kids will love playing around in the suds. It’s also a sneaky way to make bath time more fun.
7. The Pizza Game
This game involves a lot of players. One of them is named the “chef.” The chef stands in the middle of the pool, while the other players stand on one side. All the players shout out their favorite pizza topping and group themselves based on their answers.
The chef then calls out a pizza topping––that group must head to the other end of the pool. If you’re caught by the chef, you have to go into the pizza oven––outside the pool. This game can also be varied with other categories––colors, for example.
This game is sort of a variation on Simon Says. The leader of the game does a certain motion––spinning in the water, making a big splash, jumping in the air, for example––and the others must repeat the action. If you don’t, you’re given one letter. The first player to spell FISH is out.
You might recall a version of this game from gym class––again, it requires multiple players. One person is named the octopus. The octopus has to tag someone—once tagged, a player must link arms with the octopus. They continue tagging until the octopus chain grows bigger and bigger. The last player standing unattached wins!
10. Seal Nose
Seal nose is a great game for swimmers and non-swimmers alike. It’s simple––grab a beach ball and try to balance it on your nose like a seal. The player who can balance the longest wins!
This game usually requires more than one adult––or a few older kids and teens––to get going, but when it’s done right, it’s a ton of fun. Grab a couple of kickboards and have the adults stand in a large circle. The kids gather in the center.
The circle of adults starts pushing the kickboards up and down in the water, creating a bunch of waves. Kids will have a lot of fun riding the waves in the middle. Just make sure everyone is safe while doing so!
12. Dance Party
Not every game needs a clear objective––sometimes it’s just fun to groove! If you’re using a personal pool, bring out a jukebox or stereo and play some (kid-friendly) music. You and the kids can dance and splash around to your heart’s content.
13. The Question Game
A diving board comes in handy with this game––just make sure it’s played in the deep end because there is a lot of jumping involved. Players line up at the edge of the pool. One person—the question asker––shouts out a question. The first person in line has to immediately jump into the water and answer the question. If they don’t get an answer out in time, they become the question asker.
14. Hot Potato
Most of us know the rules for hot potato, and the pool version isn’t much different. Two or more kids face each other in the pool and pass around an item––a beach ball, for example. Another player turns their back and starts counting. When they stop and turn around, whoever is holding the item is out and is the new counter. You can also play this game with music instead of a counter.
Have you ever heard of dolphins swimming through hoops? That’s exactly the idea of this game. Using hula hoops or specially made underwater hoops, have the kids practice their swimming by diving and seeing if they can swim their way through. You can even have the kids race each other!
There is endless fun to be had in a pool. Remember to keep these ideas in your back pocket for the next time that pool time is on the agenda. Kids are naturally creative and curious, so it’s more than likely they will come up with some variations of these games themselves.
While it’s important to have an adult present to supervise, don’t be afraid to get in on the fun yourself––throw on a swimsuit and join in on the games! You and your children or grandchildren will have a great time bonding and creating lasting memories.