What it is: I know there are a lot of games called chicken, but this one is the one we always played in the pool growing up. It’s a fun and rough (and therefore slightly dangerous) pool game.

Best for: 4 to about 8 players.

What you need: Just a pool and some people to play. It’s best if you have people of varying sizes/ages.

How to play: The game is played in the shallow end of the pool with at least four players (but up to, oh, like eight or ten, if you wanted). Players form pairs and try to eliminate the other pairs from the game.

In this game, let’s say there are four players: Jim and his younger sister Susie and their cousins Leo and Travis. Jim and Susie are one pair. To get ready to play, one of them (probably Susie, assuming she’s smaller) will sit on the other’s shoulders. Jim would stay standing in the shallow end. Leo (say he’s smaller) would also get on Travis’s shoulders, like this:

Then someone yells “go!” and the game begins. The point is for each pair to knock the top player off of the other pair. This is done primarily by Susie and Leo grabbing, pushing, shoving, and pulling each other (but no hitting, kicking, or biting). Travis and Jim also play strategic roles in maneuvering around each other and could even try to trip each other if they were really aggressive.

As you can imagine, it’s a pretty rough game. (We played with my cousins a lot, and I don’t think our parents ever liked it, but we played anyway.) It’s kind of one of those anything-goes games. And I guess not much of a game for strategy…the biggest or toughest players usually win. But it’s fun because different combinations of pairs can lead to different outcomes (for example, say Travis is really strong, but Leo’s kind of a wuss, or the other way around.)

The game is over when one of the top players falls off their partner’s shoulders and into the water. (It’s debatable whether a team getting dunked, even if the top player stays on top of the bottom player’s shoulders, counts as losing or not.) We also had some pretty fun ongoing games with lots of pairs (where anyone could attack anyone else), and then if you fell down you got right back up again and jumped back into the fray.

Disclaimer: Though I’ve never personally known anyone to become injured in a game of chicken, please be careful when you play. Letting especially big or aggressive kids play with smaller kids might be dangerous…so make sure everyone is safe, aware, and kind.


  1. It was lots of fun. It wasnt always the rule that the smaller person was on top, I always made my younger brother carry me on his shoulders and he hated it.

Leave a Reply