20 Simple but Fun Beach and Pool Games For Kids to Play This Summer

Catherine Delahaye | Getty
Catherine Delahaye | Getty
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It's summer break, and you want to beat the heat by bringing the kids to the pool or beach to splash in the water. You're feeling optimistic, and even bring a copy of your new beach read along with the sunscreen, snacks, towels, swimsuits, and goggles for your day. But a few minutes after you arrive, you hear those dreaded words: "Mom, I'm bored!"

Beach and pool days sound great, in theory. Realistically even the beach and pool can get a little boring for energetic kids. The good news? Some of the best games are easy to play and have simple rules but will keep kiddos busy and active all day. Depending on your kid's attention span, it can be as simple as providing a shovel and a bucket for a sand castle competition or something that will burn more energy, like pool basketball.

We've gathered 20 fun games you can teach your kids to play at the pool or beach this summer — from DIY favorites to classics you probably played as a kid yourself. Most of them are best suited for slightly older kids, but little ones can get in on the fun as well. All in the hope that soon you'll hear the satisfying cry of "Marco! Polo!" as you recline in your favorite beach chair for some uninterrupted bliss. (Assuming, of course, that you've got a diligent lifeguard on duty.)

Pool Games For Kids

Pool Games For Kids

  1. Sharks & Minnows. In this version of tag, the "shark" hangs out in the middle of the pool while the rest of the "minnows" line up at the end of the pool. The minnows have to successfully swim by the shark without being tagged, or they become the shark for the next round.
  2. Pool Basketball. Basketball doesn't have to happen on dry land. If you want to make it interesting, try this Floating Water Basketball Hoop ($36) instead of using a stationary poolside hoop.
  3. Animal Polo. Like Marco Polo, but with animal sounds! Instead of Marco, the "searcher" calls out an animal name, and the "hiders" call out the animal's sound.
  4. Beach Ball Race. Give each child a beach ball and see who can make it from one side of the pool to the other first while pushing their beach ball along in front of them. Go with a classic Novelty Beach Ball ($9, originally $13) that comes in a 3-pack.
  5. Water Balloon Towel Catch. Each player gets a towel to hold and must use to toss water balloons to the other players, who must catch and throw the balloon with their own towel. Any child who misses their balloon — or breaks one in their towel — is out. The last player standing wins. (This is one better played poolside, since broken balloon bits can mess up a pool's filtration system. Or opt for Reusable Water Bomb Balloons ($36) instead.)
  6. Diving Games. Gather up a bunch of items that sink and throw them into the pool for your kiddo to retrieve. These Torpedo Bandits ($11) glide underwater, and they're so fun to swim after as they sink.
  7. Invisible Water Bottle. Go DIY by filling an empty water bottle without a label and throwing it into the pool while the kids look away. When they hear the splash, they can jump into the pool to look for the camouflaged bottle.
  8. Freeze Tag. Like out-of-water freeze tag, one player is "it," and anyone who gets tagged must freeze in place. Unfrozen players can swim underwater through a frozen player's legs to unfreeze them.
  9. Float or Sink. Play by throwing items into the pool and having your kids count how many items floated and how many sank. You can also have them guess beforehand if an item will sink or float. It's basically a science experiment.
  10. Categories (Pool Edition). One person stands at one end of the pool and chooses a category, such as "colors." The other players huddle to share their color choice with each other, and then the solo player begins calling colors one at a time. If their color gets chosen, they must jump into the pool and try to swim to the other side without the other player catching them.
Beach Games For Kids

Beach Games For Kids

  1. Build Sand Castles. Whether it's a competition or just for fun, see who can make the most creative sand castle.
  2. Cornhole. There's nothing wrong with bringing your favorite lawn game to the beach. The collapsible and portable Cornhole Game Board ($24, originally $30) comes with ground pegs so you can ensure it's secure on the sand.
  3. Musical Towels. It's the same as musical chairs, but you've got to sit on a towel. Use your phone or the radio to play tunes.
  4. Bucket Fill. Each player gets an empty bucket, which stays by their towel. The kids then run back and forth from the ocean and try to fill the bucket to the brim with water, using only shovels, seashells, or their hands to transport the H20. The first player to fill their bucket wins.
  5. Body Board. Surfs up, brah! Bodyboarding is technically a fun alternative to surfing, perfect for younger kids. These Inflatable Surf Body Boards ($16, originally $27) are beginner-friendly with handles to grip on tight.
  6. Beach Pictionary. The regular rules of Pictionary apply — except instead of a marker and paper, you draw in the wet sand by the water, and the players must guess the picture before the waves wash it away.
  7. Scavenger Hunt. Send the kiddos on their way to find items related to the beach. Print out lists before you leave the house, or make it up as you go.
  8. Boomerang. If your kids love tossing a frisbee around, they'll love playing with boomerangs. Refresh Sports' Ultimate Beach Boomerang ($15) is made with safe yet rigid foam making it kid-friendly.
  9. Categories (Beach Edition). Stand 15-20 feet away from everyone else on the sand. The solo player throws a ball behind them as they scream a color, and the child the color "belongs to" must grab the ball and run past the other player without being tagged. If a child gets tagged, they're the new "it."
  10. Spike Ball. An easy to learn 2x2 volleyball-style game for older kids where teams have to spike the ball using a circular net. GoSports Slammo Game Set ($35) is an inexpensive version of the game that includes three balls and the net.