In my work as a teacher, I get to talk to a lot of kids about their lives. It’s one of my favorite parts of the job and I make it a point to get to know them because I genuinely enjoy hearing about their lives. One of the things they love to talk about is vacations they take with their families. When I ask about the highlight of the trip, they almost always have the same response, regardless of where they went: swimming!
The fact that kids love to swim is no surprise to any of us who spend considerable time around them. There is something about the cool water on a hot day and how weightless you feel as you glide through the water. Mix that with the smell of sunscreen, time with people you care about, and the high that comes from physical exercise and it’s no wonder why swimming is a popular past time.
Most kids I know can spend hour after hour playing in the pool; in fact, it’s often their favorite activity. So if you want to really connect with your child by doing something they enjoy, I highly recommend spending time in the pool with them.
As you splash and play together, your bond will deepen and you will create lasting memories. In my experience, it is much easier to play with kids in the water if we have a designated game. Having rules and an objective helps keep me entertained just as much as it does for them.
I suspect many adults reading this can relate, so I’ve compiled the absolute best swimming pool games to play with your kids. Some of these games are quite simple while others may take a few minutes to figure out, but I’m confident your family will have a great time playing all of them!
1. Marco Polo
Let’s begin with a favorite from my childhood. This classic pool game is timeless. I’m convinced it will never go out of style even as fashions, technology, and music changes over the years. Part of the appeal is that this is a straightforward game that doesn’t require any equipment and is easy enough for young children to understand.
All you do to setup for Marco Polo is designate one person to be “it”. This person is instructed to count to ten while closing their eyes as everyone else swims away. Whenever the person who is it calls out “Marco” everyone else must respond “Polo.”
While keeping their eyes closed, the person who is “it” swims or walks around trying to figure out where the others are only using sound and touch to find them. As soon as they make physical contact with another player, they are no longer “it”. That pleasure goes to whoever got tagged. As you can see, it’s a lot like the schoolyard favorite tag with the twist of closed eyes and a swimming pool, of course.
Note that our family deems it against the rules to get out of the pool, but other than that you can go wherever you like. Personally, I find it hilarious to hang out right behind the person who is it and tease them by shouting “Polo” right behind their heads.
Number of Players
I’d say that at the bare minimum you need at least three participants for this game. However, it’s one of those games that can accommodate a crowd. With a big group of people spread across the pool, “Marco” will have plenty of options of people to tag. Therefore I’d recommend 3-12 people for this game.
Marco Polo can take a few minutes up to an hour, depending on the skill of the players involved. Obviously the faster the person who is “it “tags someone else, the sooner the game is over. You can make it take longer if you want to give multiple people a turn being it, and in my experience each child will demand a turn.
This game will most likely take up the whole pool. For that reason, it is best played if you are in a private or empty pool so you don’t bother or bump into anyone other groups. It’s just easier and more fun if you have room to spread out.
2. Sharky, Sharky
I first discovered this game watching my children’s swimming lessons. At the end of every lesson, their sweet teacher rewarded them for their hard work with a game she called “Sharky, Sharky.” It has since became a favorite of my family’s anytime we’re at a pool and I think you’ll see why!
Similar to “Red Light, Green Light,” this game has one person, temporarily dubbed “Sharky”, standing away from the rest of the group. Everyone else collectively asks, “Sharky, Sharky, what time is it?” Sharky responds with a time and everyone must take that many steps towards Sharky.
As they step forward, I encourage my little kids to practice rotating their arms as they did in swimming lessons. Then they ask the same question again and again. At some point Sharky responds by saying, “Lunchtime!” Then they madly swim after everyone else trying to tag someone before they reach safety at the edge of the pool.
I know it’s an elementary game, but trust me: kids will love it! Suspense and adrenaline builds as they wait for Sharky to chase them and there is nothing better than being the one who gets to pick when it’s lunchtime.
Number of Players
Again, this is an ideal game for a big family or a group of kids. There’s really no defined limit on how many people could play, but I suspect if you had more than 12 people playing it would feel too crowded. Like Marco Polo, you could have as few as 3 but as many as 12 participants in this pool game.
I’ve found that Sharky, Sharky only lasts a few minutes. It’s just too hard to wait to chase everyone at lunchtime when you’re Sharky. I like to play this game with my kids when it’s almost time to go. I’ll tell them, “We can play one more game then we have to go, but I get to pick.” I always pick Sharky, Sharky because it only takes a few minutes.
You could play this game in a corner of a pool. It shouldn’t interfere with anyone else.
If you haven’t tried playing F-I-S-H yet, I bet it will be an instant hit with your family. If you’ve ever played the basketball game H-O-R-S-E before, I bet you’ll catch onto F-I-S-H right away since it’s the same concept.
Just like in H-O-R-S-E, everyone has to try to imitate whatever the first player does. The options are endless: they could choose to cannonball, do a handstand, or tread water for a whole minute. If anyone can’t repeat the trick, they earn a letter in the word F-I-S-H. As you can probably guess, whoever earns all the letters in F-I-S-H first loses the game.
Number of Players
Again, this is a dynamic game that accommodate just a few people or a group. However, in order to give everyone plenty of turns picking a stunt, I suggest keeping the number of players low. Note that it may be nice to have one person designated as a judge so they can objectively determine if stunts are accurately replicated. So ideally you’ll only want 2-6 players in my opinion.
The duration of F-I-S-H will ultimately depend on what type of tricks everyone picks since some will take longer than others. The number of players will also determine the length of the game. But in general, I would plan for it to take about 15-30 minutes to play.
The beauty of this game is that you can make it fit anywhere. Even if you are in a crowded pool, you can still play it by picking tricks that don’t take up much space. F-I-S-H really is a super fun game that is sure to love!
4. Atomic Whirlpool
Here’s another pool game to the next time you go swimming. What I love about it is that it burns energy while having fun! Plus it serves as an opportunity to teach your children about currents and whirlpools. And kids will beg to play it over and over again once they play it.
To play Atomic Whirlpool, gather all the players along the edge of the pool and instruct them to line up single file. Start by telling them to walk around the perimeter of the pool. The first time you play this they may wonder what is going on, but encourage them to have an open mind.
After they’ve walked around the pool, tell them to start jogging. This will generate a strong current that pushes them around. Finally, tell them to turn around and try walking the opposite direction. As you can imagine, it will be next to impossible!
Number of Players
This is one of those games where the adage “the more the merrier” is true! If you think about it, the more people walking around the pool, the stronger the whirlpool will be. For this reason, Atomic Whirlpool is a perfect game to play at a party!
The beauty of Atomic Whirlpool is that it is a quick game. It should only take a few minutes to create enough energy to form a whirlpool, making it a great choice if you’re short on time.
Out of courtesy to other swimmers, you may not want to play this game in a crowded pool. And I think it would work best in a smaller pool.
As you can see, there are many great ways to keep kids entertained in a swimming pool. Try getting in with your kids and playing some of these games. You might just be surprised at how much fun you have, and your kids will love spending time making memories with you!
What makes a good swimming game for kids?
A good swimming game is exciting, easy to learn, and doesn’t require much (if any) equipment. Games that require movement or paying attention are great choices. Be sure the chosen game doesn’t splash or disturb other swimmers.
How many people can play a game in a swimming pool?
The number of people who can play really depends on the size of the pool and how many other swimmers are there. Some games could include all swimmers if they are interested. If only a few people want to play, choose a game that doesn’t require a lot of space.
What ages can play swimming pool games?
Swimming pool games can be enjoyed by swimmers of most ages. Even grandparents can get in on the fun. If an adult is helping, a young child can even join in. Non-swimmers and young children should be closely supervised when playing in a pool.