Got pool? Got fun! Few things signal summer fun like a backyard swimming pool. Whether it's an in-ground chlorinated haven or a plastic wading wonderland, kids everywhere will agree: Pools are cool!
Even better, pool play is a great way to get fit this summer. Don't fret if your backyard is without a pool; you're bound to have access to one at some point this summer, and you'll be the life of the party if you remember these classic pool games. Always remember to supervise kids when in or around water, and only allow those who know how to swim to play these games.
Marco PoloWho plays?
At least three people are needed to play this game effectively. Even more players make for even more fun.
How do you play?
Pick a person to be "Marco" and place him in the middle of the swimming pool. Cover his eyes with a blindfold or a pair of goggles stuffed with paper towels (or trust him to keep his eyes closed!). The remaining players spread out around the pool. To begin play, have the most skilled swimmer spin Marco about five times. (Afterwards, the player can silently slip away from Marco's side.) Marco tries to find a player to tag using only his senses of touch and hearing. He moves throughout the pool calling out, "Marco!" When he does, players are obligated to call back, "Polo!" This gives Marco the opportunity to hone in on a player. Once someone is tagged, he or she becomes the new Marco.
- Players are allowed to move. Just keep in mind that movement will often lead to noise, and that gives Marco a target!
- Getting out of the pool is not advisable. Games like Marco Polo tend to cause excitement, and excitement in the pool environment can lead to running – a very dangerous poolside action.
- Older players can have the number of calls ("Marco") limited so that younger players get a fair shake.
- Ducking under the water to avoid a tag is OK if you are certain the skill level of those playing is appropriate.
- Blindfolds aren't completely necessary, but they do eliminate the classic complaint of "You're peaking!"
Sharks and MinnowsWho plays?
This game is best played with three players, but two can play with a slight variation (see Quick Tips).
How do you play?
One player is named the shark. The other players are minnows. The shark takes up residence in the middle of the pool. The minnows flock to the wall. With the minnows lined up, one hand touching the wall, the shark yells, "1, 2, 3 minnow!" or "Lunchtime!" or "I'm hungry!" or whatever else you please. On that signal, the minnows race past the shark to the other side of the pool. If a minnow touches the other wall, he or she is safe. However, if the shark tags a minnow before he or she makes it to the other side, then the minnow becomes a shark and joins the original shark in the middle of pool. The game goes on until only one minnow is left. That minnow is declared the winner and can choose the next shark.
- Underwater swimming can be an unfair advantage when you're playing with children who can't swim under the water. Forgo the underwater swimming unless everyone can participate.
- Older players can close their eyes while being the shark to increase the difficulty for them and to level the playing field for younger minnows. This also creates a game that can be played with only two participants.
- Watch for fear in the youngest players. It can be scary to be pursued by a "shark" – even if it's only Daddy. Keep things light and fun. Skip the roars and scary faces.
This game is suitable for one or more players.
How do you play?
You'll need objects that are pool safe (non-breakable, not sharp) and heavy (sink to the bottom). Any number will do. Simply toss the objects into the pool and retrieve them from the bottom.
- Underwater swimming is necessary for this game.
- Timing the retrieval process is a great way to make the game competitive. Simply use a stopwatch (or a watch with a second hand) to keep track of how long it takes the player to retrieve all the objects.
- If you have objects of the same color (three red rings and three blue rings), you can play head-to-head. A player races to retrieve all of his objects before the other player retrieves all of her objects.
- Pennies and coins aren't the best items to use. If left on the bottom of the pool, they can – at the very least – discolor the liner or cause other problems.
- Adult supervision is an all-time must.
- Be aware of the swimming abilities of each player. Never allow anyone to participate in an activity that is beyond his or her skill level.
- Avoid the deep end. In fact, rope it off for maximum safety.
- Teach good pool manners. No running, no splashing, no pushing and no holding heads under the water. While these rules might seem like common sense, many children get caught up in the excitement and forget. It's up to you to remind everyone of how to be safe and have fun in the pool.