What it is: A good kids pool game, maybe not my favorite, but then again it doesn’t involve rough physical activity, either. I somehow tend to like those games better. 😉

Best for: About 4 to 8 players.

What you need: Just a swimming pool, one that you can easily swim across in one direction or another.

How to play: First, choose one player to be It – say it’s Roger. Roger gets out of the pool and stands on the edge, with his back facing the pool. All of the other players line up inside the water, holding onto the edge of the pool beneath Roger, like this:

Now Roger thinks of a category. It could really be anything, but some common categories include fruits, breakfast cereals, candy bars, car types, etc. It should be something that all players will know fairly well.

Roger announces his category out loud, and then all of the other players silently think of an object in that category. So if Roger’s category is breakfast cereals, Beth might choose Cap’n Crunch, and Sam might choose Rice Krispies Treat cereal.

Once all the players have their objects in their heads, they announce they’re ready and Roger can begin. He starts calling out breakfast cereals out loud. All of the other players wait until Roger calls out the breakfast cereal that they’ve chosen. Say Roger calls out Cap’n Crunch, Beth’s cereal. That’s her cue to begin swimming to the opposite end of the pool, away from Roger. Her goal is to make it to the opposite end without being tagged, and Roger’s goal is to tag her before she does. If he does tag her, she’s the new It. If he doesn’t, Beth gets to stay where she is and Roger gets out and continues to name items in the category.

So, because Roger’s back is turned, he won’t know to turn around unless Beth makes some noise. Being perfectly silent as you swim across a pool can be hard, but still, that’s her goal. (The best is if you can take one big breath, dip quietly under the water, and shoot across the whole pool without coming up for air.) If Roger ever hears a splash or a noise, he can turn around and check if anyone’s swimming across the pool. If anyone has left the wall, he can jump in to tag them. But if Roger turns around too often without cause, the other players can call him out on it.

Sometimes you might choose speed over silence: if you think you can get away from Roger quickly enough, forget being quiet and just go for it. Or, you might choose silence over speed, and ever-so-slowly work your way along the edge of the pool, hoping you can get far enough away without being heard.

Finally, more than one person might have chosen the same object in the category, but that’s okay; they’ll all just swim across at the same time.

The round ends either when Roger tags someone (then that person becomes It) or when all of the players make it to the other side of the pool untagged (then Roger loses and plays another round as It). For the next round, choose a new category and play again!

Variations: If you’re playing with young kids, you could play in the shallow end only, swimming (or walking) across the short end of the pool. Just be careful jumping in!


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.


What it is: Basically the same game as watermelon, just with different equipment. A rough-and-tumble, physically active game played in the pool with big groups. Best for teens and older.

Best for: About 10 players to however many you can comfortably fit in a pool.

What you need: First, a swimming pool. Second, a clear plastic 2-liter soda bottle. Finally, at least, oh, I’d say ten people to play.

How to play: First, get your equipment ready. Make sure your 2-liter soda bottle is actually clear (not tinted green) and empty. It’s also best if it has a white cap. Rinse out the bottle and remove the label as completely as you can. Finally, fill it to the top with clear water.

Optional: Find two pool floaties (the small, simple ring kinds).

There, now you’ve got your equipment. Out by the pool when you’re ready to play, divide your players into two even teams and your pool into two equal sides. Each team gets a side. If you have pool floaties, put them right outside the pool at each team’s end. (The floaties will make the goals.) All of the players get into the pool and hold onto the edge of their side of the pool, with their backs facing the middle.

Then someone who’s not playing (or one player who volunteers to sit out at first in order to start the game) stands outside the pool and tosses the 2-liter bottle into the middle of the pool. As soon as everyone hears it splash, the game begins.

The object of the game for each team is to get the bottle into the opposing team’s goal (which is the floaty, if you’re using floaties, or just the outside edge of the pool, if you’re not). To do this, players simply find, grab, and swim with the bottle. Which isn’t quite as easy as it sounds, because for the defense, almost anything goes—
except no biting, kicking, scratching, drowning, otherwise hurting, or getting out of the pool. Other than those things, players are pretty much free to do what they can to score, or to keep the other team from scoring.

The twist in this game is that a clear 2-liter soda bottle filled with water is halfway buoyant and very hard to see under water, so finding it becomes as much of a challenge as maneuvering it. Multiple times within a game, the bottle might become lost, and everyone will focus on finding the bottle. (When you do find it at that point, try to refrain from shouting “I found it!,” which will only get you tackled, and instead see if you can quietly sneak it into the other team’s goal to score.) Teams are free to set up their own strategies as they see fit, if they want a strategy at all. You might pick at least one designated goalie. (But the goalies can’t park it too close to the goal and refuse to move all game long.)

Once a team scores, switch sides and start again. Play for a designated amount of time or to a certain score. Caution, though: this game can get exhausting, especially if you’re a go-getter about it.

Variations: Of course, watermelon is a fun, somewhat sillier variation. But I have great memories of playing bottle with my hardcore friends in high school in my family’s pool during summer nights. Ah, memories.


What it is: A rough-and-tumble, physically active game played in the pool with big groups. Best for teens and older.

Best for: About 10 players to however many you can comfortably fit in a pool.

What you need: A swimming pool, a watermelon, and at least, oh, I’d say ten people to play. (Don’t worry, it will all make sense soon.)

How to play: First, divide your players into two even teams and your pool into two equal sides. Each team gets a side. Then toss the watermelon into the pool (it will float).

The game is basically like football, but in the water, and with a watermelon in place of a football. (Doesn’t this sound hilariously fun already?) The object of the game is for your team to move the watermelon through the pool and place it on the outside edge of the opposing team’s side, all while keeping the opposing team from doing the same to you.

Rules include: no biting, kicking, scratching, drowning, otherwise hurting, or getting out of the pool. But basically, other than that, anything goes. You can push the watermelon, keep it above water or push it under, pass the watermelon to teammates, tackle opposing team members, grab onto the watermelon for dear life – anything to score. As you can imagine, it often turns into a pretty rough physical contact game, but also a pretty funny one (because, come on, how hard/entertaining is it to maneuver/watch other people maneuver a wet watermelon in a pool?).

Variations: I think I’ve heard of covering the watermelon in Crisco, to make it even harder to hold onto. You can also play basically the same game with, instead of a watermelon, a clear 2-liter soda bottle, with the label removed, filled with water. Then it’s a little more challenging and less silly, because it’s a lot harder to locate the non-floating bottle, but a lot easier to maneuver it around the pool.

Dibble dabble

What it is: A pool game my siblings and I loved to play (my mom taught it to us; I think she used to play with her siblings when she was a kid).

Best for: Group of 3 to 8 players.

What you need: A pool, probably at least 4 players, and a small white whiffle ball (one the size of a golf ball).

How to play: All players stand outside the pool, with their backs turned towards it. One player takes the whiffle ball, places it somewhere on the bottom of the pool, and then resurfaces. As soon as the other players hear the player resurface, they turn around and start watching for the ball – the goal is to be the first to find and grab it. A small white whiffle ball floats, but slowly, so it will take a while for it to come up to the surface. The players on the side don’t know where the ball might be, so they all watch for it carefully. The first player to spot the whiffle ball jumps into the pool to grab it. But as soon as he or she jumps in, the other players can jump in, too, and then whoever grabs the white whiffle ball first and yells “dibble dabble” (no matter if it’s the person who first spotted it or not) wins. The winner gets to hide the whiffle ball for the next round.

If you’re playing with a big group, chances are more than one person will spot the whiffle ball at the same time, but that’s okay. The rule just says that players are allowed to jump in the pool either when they see the whiffle ball or when they see someone else jump in.

A small white whiffle ball is very hard to spot in a pool (especially if people are jumping in and splashing around), so a lot of the game is usually spent searching for the ball, but still splashing around a lot to keep others from finding it, too. And that’s all part of the fun. :-)

Strategies: If you’re the one to see the ball first and jump in, it could be smart to jump away from where the ball is (if you’re fairly certain you’re the only one who’s seen it), because most likely the other players will be watching to see where you jump so they can jump in after you and grab the ball. While they’re splashing and searching, you make a break for it, grab the ball, and yell “dibble dabble!” Or, if you’re the one hiding the ball, you can get sneaky and place it by an edge, or even on the surface of the pool, just to throw the other players for a loop. You could also, when all the players are in the pool looking for the ball, pretend to see it on the far side of the pool to distract your opponents while you’re still searching.

Variations: We always played with a whiffle ball, but you can play with anything small, hard to see, and buoyant-but-not-too-buoyant, like a toothpick, a popsicle stick, a golf tee, a toothpaste cap, or 2-liter soda bottle cap.