I grew up spending each summer day at the pool. My best friend (who also happened to be my next door neighbor) and I would make plans for our parents to drop us off at the pool and we’d swim for a couple hours, charge some lunches to our parents’ accounts (it was worth the lecture we got each month) and swim for a couple more hours. We turned brown as berries, our hair was an awful shade of green and our eyes stung for days thanks to the chlorine. I must say, though, my summer memories trump every other childhood memory hands down.
But we didn’t just swim. I mean, do kids really do that? Just swim laps while their friends swim laps beside them? I’m guessing not. Pool games are the way to go and we’ve come up with a pretty good list to get your kids’ wheels a-turning to make the most out of their summer afternoons.
- Sharks and Minnows. One person is the shark and stands with their back to the water on one of the pool ends. Each minnow in the water, holding on to the edge by the shark, has a number (1-5) that they’ve thought of and holds that number of fingers up in the air. The shark randomly calls out numbers and if that’s your number, you swim like lightning to get to the other side. The shark can turn around and dive after you at any moment and if you’re cheating and don’t swim when your number is called, you’re automatically out.
- Mermaids. This is my favorite. Sure, it’s a variation on the age-old game of ‘house,’ but mermaids are magical and live underwater and sometimes boys don’t like being mermen so they get to be the sharks who threaten the mermaid kingdom. Believe me, this one is gold.
- Quick Tricks. This one requires kids who aren’t afraid of a belly flop now and then. Form a line at the diving board (or edge of the pool) and as the person who is “it” is jumping, call out a move they have to do just as they jump. Ie: “Pencil” or “Cannonball!” or “Dive!” Most kids have their own names for special jumps (we had jackknife and twisty-twirly) so use those, too.
- Get Rich. Check with the pool owner before you do this one, but round up enough coins for everyone in the group, all nickels except for one quarter. Wearing goggles (because that chlorine can really sting!) everyone dive in at the same time, a safe distance apart, for the coins that have been randomly thrown by an adult sitting on the side. The one who finds the quarter wins.
- Olympics. There are lots of water sports that can be judged – dives, races, and best of all synchronized swimming. Parents, I know the worst job ever when going to the pool is judging your kids (why do kids always want scores on headstands and splashes?!) but tell yourself that just ONCE you’ll do it.
- Underwater Telephone. This can be played with any number of people. In the shallow end, take turns being “it.” The person who is “it” says a three word phrase under water while the others take turns guessing what was said.
- Marco Polo. Duh.
- Pirates and Sailors. Two teams (any number of kids) on different sides of the pool. The first team who can steal the other team’s pool noodle and take it to their side without being tagged wins.
- Follow the Leader. Take turns being the leader and doing tricks off the diving board or slide (or pool edge) while everyone follows.
- Dive for Treasure. Have one person throw a bunch of treasure (diving sticks, toys, etc) at the bottom of the pool and count how long it takes the other person to collect them all.
Regardless of what game you play, make sure you’re safe! Never let children swim without an adult present and even if an adult is present, lifejackets or floaties are a must for young children who can’t swim or who wander.
Prasil is a Clarkston mom of six who survives on stale goldfish crackers, spontaneous adventures, drinks with the neighbors and Bravo programming. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org