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Top 10 Swimming Pool Games

For a lot of pool owners, nothing beats a steamy afternoon more than floating leisurely around the backyard pool. For most kids, however, nothing could be more b-o-r-i-n-g! That is why pool games were invented. But even eight-year-olds can take only so many hours of Marco Polo. What is the solution, you ask? The exciting ideas that follow go well beyond Marco Polo, and they will help keep kids entertained all season long.

1. Dolphin Race or Relay

If there are just two players, this game is a race. With four or more players, it can be a relay. Each team has a beach ball that the players must move from one end of the pool to the other using only their noses to push the balls along as they swim. If anyone uses his or her hands to move the ball, he or she must return to the starting position. The first person or team to finish wins.

2. Bobbing Heads

One player is it while the other players bob in and out of the water at one end of the pool. Without crossing the center line, the person who is it tries to hit one of the bobbing players with a foam or soft rubber ball. Bobbing players should come up and submerge at an irregular pace to keep the person who is it from knowing exactly when they will emerge again. If the person who is it misses, he or she must retrieve the ball and return to the throwing side. If he or she hits one of the bobbing players, the person who was hit then becomes it.

3. Cardboard Boat Race

Supply teams with large cardboard boxes, packaging tape, colored paper, markers and stickers, and allot them one hour to build the best seaworthy boat. (Note: An adult should be on hand with scissors to cut the boxes). To add to the fun, encourage creativity in design and decoration, and, of course, every boat must have a name. Each team (one member at a time) must race the boat from one end of the pool to the other side and back again, using his or her arms as oars. The team that does this in the fastest time wins. If the boats are not sturdy enough to be raced, the contest can be based on which boat stays afloat the longest.

4. Crocodile Hunter

Purchase some large plastic lightweight rings or hula-hoops and one or two inflatable crocodiles. Set them adrift in the pool and line up kids in the shallow end. Let each player take a timed turn trying to capture the croc by "ringing" its head or tail. Once someone snares the reptile, he or she should climb onto its back and race to land (designate one end of the pool as the place to store captured crocs before they are sent off to the leather factory).

Whoever completes the stunt in the least amount of time, wins. This game can be even more amusing if kids verbalize what they are doing, a la the Crocodile Hunter, himself. You can even subtract a few seconds from a player's time if he or she can imitate an Australian accent.

5. F-I-S-H

Just like the basketball game P-I-G or H-O-R-S-E, the first player performs a task that the others must repeat. For example, if the first player does a handstand in the water, the other players take turns attempting handstands, too. If someone cannot perform the task, he or she earns the first letter in the word fish. Whoever "spells" fish first, loses. To keep things fair, you may want to make a rule that players can only select a particular task once so that someone doesn't keep repeating tasks that no one else can do. You might also need an objective judge to determine whether one's stunt earns him or her a letter.

6. Numbers Crunch

Divide the players into two teams and have each team line up on opposite sides of the pool with a plastic bucket. Then scatter about 25 - 30 numbered ping-pong balls around the pool. The numbers represent the point values for each ball. With an On Your Mark, Get Set, Go! both teams jump in and try to retrieve the balls and place them into their team's bucket. The catch is that players are allowed to retrieve only one ball at a time. When all of the balls have been collected, each team adds up the numbers on their balls to determine their score. The team with the highest score wins. This game can be made more interesting by allowing teams to win extra points for collecting sets of consecutive numbers.

7. Popsicle

This is a modified version of freeze tag. Define a playing area where everyone can stand with his or her head above water. One person is it and tries to tag the other players. If a player is tagged, he or she must stand frozen like a popsicle (with hands straight in the air) until another player thaws him or her by swimming between his or her legs. A player cannot be tagged while underwater. After a minute or two, have someone else be it and continue the game until everyone has had a chance to be on the offensive.

8. Splash Dance

Have individuals or teams choreograph water ballets to their favorite pop songs. Suggest using waterproof props and costumes to make the "show" more creative. Then invite family, friends and neighbors over to watch the premiere. An evening show complete with lots of pool lights and spotlights can make a dramatic presentation. If the kids would like to compete, make up different performance categories, such as Funniest, Most Original, etc., so that each child or team can win.

9. Treasure Hunt

Throw a variety of treasures into the pool-from coins and seashells to beaded necklaces and gold-painted rocks. Just make sure the items are not sharp, that they are not made of glass and that they will not stain the pool surface. Be sure to "bury" some treasures in the shallow end for the little kids. Then give the youngsters a set time limit to see who can collect the most treasure. The game can be made easier for small children by providing swim goggles and fins.

10. Water Hoops

Buy a poolside basketball hoop or improvise with a plastic trash can. If you have two hoops, you can play "full court"; otherwise, just play "half court" games. You might want to have a rule that players can only hold onto the ball for five seconds before they have to either shoot or pass.


Article originally written by Dirk Stenner for Pool & Spa Living magazine.





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