16 Water Games And Activities For Kids To Help Cool Off In Summer

Water Games For Families Suffering Through Hot Summer Days

May 5, 2020 Updated April 15, 2021

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Jelleke Vanooteghem/Unsplash

Summer. Is there a single word filled with more warmth, sunshine and happiness? Definitely not. With summer comes heat and with heat comes the near unending quest to cool down. Nothing, of course, is more refreshing them jumping into some cool, clean water. While we all have our preferences between the ocean, a lake or a home pool, the fact of the matter remains that, if you love summer and swimming, you’re probably pretty content plunging into any body of water.

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Even if you don’t have a pool handy (or are concerned about water safety), that doesn’t mean you can’t cool off with some water. There are plenty of water-centric games that are not only absolutely refreshing but also wildly fun activities for the whole family. If you’re looking for some ideas for fun water games, you’re not the only one. In fact, according to the latest search data available to us, water games are searched for nearly 22,200 times per month! We wanted to share a few. (Who knows, you might even get your kids out for some outdoor fun.)

1. Cup-Pass

Set your two teams in a line with an empty bucket at the back of the line and a bucket of water at the front. The idea is to get water from the front of the line to the back. There are two ways you could play this. You could give each one a cup, have the first person scoop water into their cup and then pour it over their head, hopefully into the cup behind them. Then, that person pours whatever water they caught over their heads into the cup of the person behind them. That repeats until the last person pours the remaining water into the empty bucket. You’ll keep doing that until they fill the bucket to a designated line. A simpler and faster version is to let teams pass the same full cup of water over their heads to the next person. This time, the cup transfers, instead of just the water, which (in theory) makes it easier to get the water where it needs to go.

2. Sponge Relay

This game is similar to the cup pass, except instead of using a cup to carry water, teams (or single players) are transferring water using a soaked sponges.

3. Sponge Tag

Water balloons are fun, but they make a mess and create a lot of waste. Playing tag with soaked sponges creates less waste and is less of a financial output in the long-run, because you can reuse the sponges again and again. If you’re feeling especially crafty, there are recipes for making “sponge bombs” using cut up strips of sponges. It’s the same principal, just a little more fun.

4. Sponge Baseball

Baseball practice just got a whole lot more fun! The idea is simple: It’s just like regular baseball, but you’re using a sponge (or sponge bomb) instead of a ball. There are no winners, really… just a lot of soaked kiddos.

5. Pick-up “Sticks” — Mini Pool Addition

You’ll need a kiddie pool for this, but you can usually find small ones at any big box store for under $10. Fill it with water and then drop in things that sink — think old diving sticks, kids’ meal toys, marbles, etc. Next, set a few kids loose at once to stand around the pool and use one foot to retrieve items with just their toes. Whomever collects the most within a certain amount of time is the winner.

6. Water Bottle Relay

Similar to the sponge and cup relay, the concept of this game is to transfer water from one bucket to the other. For this game, though, players on each team must toss an uncapped water bottle from person to person, surely losing water along the way. If it’s too easy the first time, spread the bucket and players further apart. You can even jumble up the field of play so that players from opposite teams toss bottles across the same path.

7. Cup Races

Remember those carnival games where you shoot the stream of water into a target and that moves the boat through the “water?” This is like that. Use string, plastic cups and water guns to set up a similar situation. You can string up the cups between two chairs, ladders or fence posts. Next, have your kids “shoot” their cups with their water guns to propel them forward. First cup to the other end is the winner.

8. Water War

Collect all the sponges, sponge bombs, water balloons and water guns you can find. Split up into teams or declare the game every man for himself and go crazy with water fun. There are no winners or losers, just a ton of fun to be had.

9. Water Balloon Scramble

Relays are fun, okay? In this relay, teams toss water balloons to each other from one end of the yard to the other, hopefully not breaking them along the way. When they reach the other end, the last teammate must break the balloon into the bucket. Keep going until you fill the bucket with water. If you’re noticing a disappointing lack of popped balloons, spread everyone out further.

10. Water Balloon Volleyball

You’ll need two pillowcases or towels, a volleyball net (or something similar) and some water balloons for this game. Have partners hold corners of their pillow case. They’ll use it to catch and throw balloons over the net. If a set of partners or team misses a balloon, catches a balloon and it pops in their pillowcase or if they launch a balloon but it hits the net, the other team gets a point. Keep going until you use up your water balloons and whomever has the most points is the winner.

11. Water Wall

Using your fence or a pallet and any number of old kitchen tools or sandbox toys, create a waterfall from the top of your child’s reach to the bottom. Use hoses, funnels, colanders, etc. so that each step in the water’s progress down the wall is fun and unique.

12. DIY Water Park

Using a tarp, some PVC pipe, a drill and your hose, you can create a whole play area for your kids to run or slide through to get wet. Just assemble the pipes at various heights and drill holes of different sizes, then hook your hose to one end. When your kids run or walk under your new construction, water will drip, spray or dump onto them at varying degrees of pressure. It’ll be like running through a sprinkler… but way more intense. Use a soapy tarp under everything to make it extra slippy, wet and fun or put it at the end so your newly-drenched child can have a slip-n-slide added onto your water park experiences.

13. Build A Rain Gutter River

Believe it or not, gutters are actually fairly cheap — it’s the installation that’s expensive. Buy a stretch of gutter at any home improvement store and properly fix the sides so they’re not sharp. Next, attach them to your fence or shed or just build your own base. Fill the gutters with water and let your kids race boats or bars of soap from one end to the other.

14. DIY Water Table

You can buy one of those super cute, flashy water tables at Walmart or Target and they will totally fill the waterplay void in your life. If you’re feeling somewhat handy, though, you could consider making your own. With just a few PVC pipes (and connectors) and a storage container (keep the lid to ensure bug-free water all summer long), crafting your own is incredibly easy. As a bonus, having some with interchangeable parts (read: You can replace that storage container) means it’ll last longer, and you can do more fun stuff with it.

For instance, how about dyeing your water? Blogger Mama Of Littles offers a dark and sparkly take on a water-table-turn-sensory-bin game. Just imagine how much fun your kids will have hunting for treasure through dark water, where they can’t even see the bottom! Meanwhile, Happy Toddler Playtime has their own fun ideas for things to do in your water table. How many of these can you do in one summer?

15. Water Spray Battle

Think of this as a game of Tag but the player who is It uses a spray bottle to tag other players. This can also be played as Freeze Tag, per Family Education, and the person who gets sprayed must freeze in place.

16. Sponge Bath Game for Toddlers

Fill a large container with water, but not a bucket, and fill with small sponge cut outs in different shapes like hearts, stars, and flowers. Make sure the sponge is big enough for little toddler hands to grasp but not small enough for them to put in their mouth. Let your kid splash around while also going over the names for the different shapes. Bonus if the sponges are different colors so your toddler can practice naming them all.