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7 family-friendly games to play in the pool this summer

Keep cool and carry on

African American father teaching his young daughter how to swim in swimming pool at a resort in Calistoga, California.

Sure, you might be happy to float aimlessly in a swimming pool, potentially with a beverage in hand, your kids might need a little more structure to make pool time as enjoyable as possible. Helping them with that is also a great way to get them into some healthy family activities without them being aware of it — and to build a lasting bond between you and your children.

Because we take your pleasure seriously, and aim to make your life less hard, we sourced some pool-based healthy activities for family time from an expert: Rochelle Baxter, a triathlete, parent, and trainer for our favorite fitness app, Aaptiv. (A no-cost subscription is available through Haven Life Plus, a bonus rider for eligible Haven Term policyholders.)

She gave us four great ideas for fun swimming pool games, and we added a few favorites of our own. Whether you’re headed to your neighborhood public pool, splashing away at a pool party in someone’s backyard, or enjoying a hotel pool on your summer vacation, these have you covered for a long summer of safe, healthy fun.

Let’s dive in, shall we?

In this article:

Ring toss

“Get some water rings that sink in the pool,” says Baxter. “Depending on the swimming level of the child, you can throw the rings in the shallow or deep end. This will help the child learn how to hold their breath, reach for the ring and, importantly, learn the feeling of achieving a small goal.”

The game also helps kids get used to opening their eyes underwater (and/ or using goggles). Swimming while holding your breath and fighting your natural buoyancy is great exercise, too.

Water relays

“I would say this activity is more for children who are experienced in swimming,” says Baxter. It also works for various numbers of children: If there are more kids, just have more teams or more lengths per race.

You, the adult, set up teams and choose a start and finish line, then the kids race. Someone needs to say “Ready, Set, Go,” and then judge who won the race, so this is a good one for when you want your kids to exert themselves while you sit by the pool.

Treasure hunt

And by “treasure” we mean “inexpensive pool toys.” “Get some little kids’ water toys that either float or sink. Place the toys on the steps in the shallow end. Tell the kids to find the water toys and reach and grab them,” she says.

“If the child is a beginner swimmer, make sure you’re close by to help and supervise them. This activity really helps young kids get comfortable with the water,” says Baxter.


“Get some kickboards and even some fins (optional). Have your child lay on the kick board and move the board through the water while they kick. Since you’re holding the board it will give them confidence to kick on their own,” Baxter says.

It also makes for a solid parent-child activity. “Fins are a very helpful tool with this activity as well,” she says. “Tell the kids to kick fast or slow,” depending on their ability level and how much energy you want them to burn off before dinner.

Sharks and minnows

This is basically a version of tag in the water. The kid who is the shark is “It,” and moves to the middle of the pool. When he or she says (or, more likely, shouts) “go,” the other children jump in and try to get to the other side of the pool while the shark tries to tag the other players. Each kid who is tagged becomes a shark (and also, then, “It”), and the game continues until there’s only one minnow left.

That minnow is your winner — and the next round’s opening shark. (More advanced kids might also enjoy freeze tag or Marco Polo.)


This is also an aquatic take on a well-known land game. The children spread out around the pool and pass a beach ball to each other, trying to keep it out of the water. Encourage them to count how many times they can pass the ball before it hits the water. It’s good exercise, builds coordination, and it’s fun.


It might not be the most dignified name for a children’s game, but it’s an honest one. This is great for younger kids, including children without a pint-sized playmate on hand. You sit on the edge of the pool and throw whatever you have on hand that will float (even your pool slides) past your child, then they go and collect it. Small kids love this, and it helps them learn to swim while carrying objects, thus helping them become more skilled and confident in the water.

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About Michael Davis

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Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our content is created for educational purposes only. Haven Life does not endorse the companies, products, services or strategies discussed here, but we hope they can make your life a little less hard if they are a fit for your situation.

Haven Life is not authorized to give tax, legal or investment advice. This material is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or investment advice. Individuals are encouraged to seed advice from their own tax or legal counsel.

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Haven Term is a Term Life Insurance Policy (DTC and ICC17DTC in certain states, including NC) issued by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), Springfield, MA 01111-0001 and offered exclusively through Haven Life Insurance Agency, LLC. In NY, Haven Term is DTC-NY 1017. In CA, Haven Term is DTC-CA 042017. Haven Term Simplified is a Simplified Issue Term Life Insurance Policy (ICC19PCM-SI 0819 in certain states, including NC) issued by the C.M. Life Insurance Company, Enfield, CT 06082. Policy and rider form numbers and features may vary by state and may not be available in all states. Our Agency license number in California is OK71922 and in Arkansas 100139527.

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