When You’re Tired of Marco Polo: 9 Pool Games to Entertain Kids

My kids LOVE when the community pool finally opens for summer. But by the second week of the pool being open, and the ninth game of Marco Polo, the kids are suddenly staring at me wondering what there is to do … at the pool! The same pool they couldn’t wait to open!

Part of me wants to just pack it all up right there, take them home and make them do chores all day. But part of me was really looking forward to enjoying some sun and maybe even starting the new book I downloaded months ago.

My children’s boredom could derail my entire afternoon of relaxation, and that’s not what’s best for mom! So now I come prepared. Here are nine pool games to entertain the kids:

  1. Invisi-Bottle

Take an empty, clear two-liter bottle with the wrapper removed (and preferably with a white cap) to the pool with you. Fill it up with pool water and have the kids in the water turn their backs so they can’t see you. Throw the bottle out into the water, let it sink and then unleash the kids to find it. It’s harder than you might think, because the bottle is camouflaged with the pool floor and becomes almost invisible. Set it up so that the bottle-thrower will rotate, letting you get back to that tan. 

  1. Octopus

Choose a person to be the octopus, who stands in the center of the pool. All the other players stand at one end of the pool and try to swim to the other side without being tagged. If anyone is tagged, they join the octopus at the center of the pool and hold hands for the next round, moving as one unit to try to tag the next round of players. Keep adding your octopus arms until all the players have been tagged.

  1. S-E-A-H-O-R-S-E

For less than $20, invest in a floating basketball hoop and have the kids play a game of Seahorse, played exactly like the classic basketball game of Horse. Here’s the bonus: additional letters mean this game lasts even longer, so don’t be afraid to make it a game of Loch Ness monster instead!

  1. Human Whirlpool

This game works best with lots of kids and can only work if all the kids are tall enough to stand in the deep end. Have them line up single-file along the edge of the pool. They must walk in a line along the edge for a few minutes; it will be a little hard at first, because the water will provide resistance. Just as it starts getting a little easier to walk, because the kids are creating their own current, have the kids start to run along the edge for a couple minutes.

By the time they stop running, the water should be moving fast enough to carry them when they pick up their feet! When the current starts to slow down, it’s time to start walking/running again.

You probably won’t be able to take your eyes off them for this one, but the promise of wearing the kids out and having a quiet night later is reason enough to help them create a human whirlpool!

  1. Duck Races

This is a game that would be frustrating for younger kids, but it’s the perfect amount of challenge for kids 7 and up. Get some cheap rubber ducks (or some other little floating toys) from a discount store and some of these inexpensive “Have the kids stand on the pool deck at one end of the pool and drop their ducks in the water just at the edge in front of them. On the count of three, have them load their water blasters with pool water and squirt the ducks to push them to the other side. Just make sure the water blasters stay pointed at the ducks. May the best duck win!

  1. Ping Pong Points

Ping pong balls are cheap and sold in mass quantities, and you can basically find them anywhere. Buy as many as you can, number each one with a permanent marker, either from 1-10 or in multiples of two, five or 10 (depending on how old your kids are and how much they can add).

Bring your ping pong balls to the pool, along with a bucket for each kid who’ll be playing. Dump all your balls into the water, and give them time to disperse and float around a bit. (If you want to get really crazy, you can jump in and spread them out yourself!)

When you’re ready, have the kids jump in with their buckets and collect as many balls as they can. Once all the balls are gathered, let the kids add up their points (you may have to check their work), and the one with the most points wins. This game is best on days when the pool is not crowded, like weekday mornings, or at private pools.

  1. Diving for Treasure

(If you’re going to a public pool, make sure to check with a lifeguard about this one first, to make sure this follow’s the pools rules.)

If you have loose change hanging around in couches or jars like we do, this game will be perfect. Just put a couple handfuls of coins into a baggie and bring it with you to the pool. Toss in the coins at different spots all over the pool and let the kids dive for them. Let them do their own math and count up how much money they have.

You can play several rounds, keeping track of the winner each time. After a set number of rounds, if you want to be really generous, you can give the change to the best “earner.”

  1. Jumping Contests

This game is as simple as they come, but my kids can play it for as long as an hour! Pick one kid to be the judge. Have the kids stand on the pool deck and take turns doing creative things when they jump, whether it’s a twist, doing the chicken-dance or yodeling mid-air. The judge gives each kid a score, and the highest score wins. To avoid the kids playing favorites, rotate the judge each round.

Again this is probably one you’re going to want to watch to ensure everyone’s staying safe, but it will definitely keep them occupied for a while!

  1. Categories

My kids LOVE this game, so I saved the best for last. Choose one kid to be “it” – let’s call him the “caller.” The caller stands out of the water with his back to the pool. The other kids are in the water, holding on to the edge of the pool right beneath and behind him. The caller thinks of a category – it could be anything – colors, candy bar types or fruits.

He calls out the category, and the players in the pool come up with their answer (keeping it to themselves). Once everyone has their answer, the caller starts calling out items in that category. So if he chose “fruits,” he would begin naming fruits like bananas, strawberries and blueberries. If he calls the fruit type chosen by one (or even more than one) kid in the water, that kid takes off from the side of the pool. The goal is to get to the other side before the caller can jump in, chase and tag the swimmer.

If the caller tags the swimmer, the swimmer becomes the new caller. If the caller doesn’t catch the swimmer, he has to get out of the pool and choose a new category. It’s helpful for the kids in the water to take off from the side of the pool as quietly as they possibly can, making it difficult for the caller to hear their departure.

You don’t have to endure the “I’m bored” whining at the pool this summer with these nine simple games, and you don’t have to pack the kids up and make them do chores all day either. It would be nice to get those chores done, but save that thought for a rainy day.

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