We’ve cooked up nine wacky water games that will cool your kids off. Round up the troops, crank up the hose, and have a blast getting soaked!

By Shaun Dreisbach
Updated May 13, 2020
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Little Girl Playing in Sprinkler Green Grass
Credit: FamVeld/Shutterstock

Sizzling hot summer days call for clever ideas that can keep you cool. To beat the summer heat, check out these nine fun water games for kids. Some of them need minimal supplies like water balloons, sponges, or jump ropes—but others require nothing more than your garden hose. Prepare to get soaked! 

Water Games Girl Swings at Water Balloon Pinata
Credit: Gretchen Easton

Water Balloon Piñatas

Fill large balloons with water, knot them, then use a short length of string to tie them to tree branches or a clothesline, suggests Michelle Bachman of Little Miss Party, a party-planning firm in New York City. (Note: Cheapie balloons work best for this; they’re easier to pop.) Then grab a Wiffle ball bat and take turns being the blindfolded hitter. Instead of candy, you’ll all get a nice, refreshing shower after this water balloon game!

Kids holding water balloons
Credit: Cultura Photography/Veer

Water Balloon Relay

For this silly race, fill up a bunch of water balloons and split them between two buckets at your starting line. Then put two beach chairs at the opposite end of the lawn. Ready to relay? Break into two teams and have the first person in each one grab a water balloon, run to the chair, and sit down on the balloon until it pops. Then dash back to the starting line and tag the next person to go. If a player drops the balloon before sitting on it, he must go back and get a new one. The first team to pop all of their balloons wins.

Ready Steady Jump Rope Game
Credit: Kinzie & Rieh

Ready, Set, Jump

Our simple spin on jumping rope turns it into a fun water game for kids! Provide each player with a full cup of water. One at a time, each player must jump rope for ten turns while holding his cup. The player with the most water left wins.

Girl with sponge bombs
Credit: Dane Tashima

Sponge Ball War

Water balloons are fun, but sponge balls are a total blast! “These spiky guys are easy to make, don’t hurt when they hit their target, and ‘refilling’ them is as simple as tossing them into a bucket of water,” says Meredith Sinclair, author of Well Played: The Ultimate Guide to Awakening Your Family’s Playful Spirit. 

Here’s how to make them: Pick up a bunch of sponges from a dollar store. Stack three on top of one another, and cut them lengthwise into three strips. Cinch them in the middle with a rubber band, then fan out the strips to create a ball shape. Fill up a bucket of water, dunk them in, then fire away! 

Or make a game out of it by placing two buckets throwing-distance apart. Divide into teams, and stand behind the buckets, taking turns chucking sponge bombs into the opposite one. The team that gets the most in the bucket wins this water game! Whether your kids get a direct swish or miss, they’re bound to get wet in the process.

Freezy Tees Contest
Credit: Kinzie & Rieh

Freezy Tees Contest

The chill factor in this fast-paced race makes it much cooler than your average dress-up game. Before the contest, prepare a T-shirt for each participant by soaking it with water, wringing it out, and folding it. Placing waxed paper between each one, stack the folded shirts on a baking sheet and freeze them. When they're stiff, hand them out to the players. The first to get into his frozen tee wins!

Homemade sidewalk chalk
Credit: Courtesy of Lynn Lilly

Watercolor Chalk

When you get regular sidewalk chalk wet, it transforms into a watercolor-like paint. Start by drawing circles of color on the driveway or sidewalk with the chalk, and then swirl a wet paintbrush into it to create the “paint.” After the kiddos are done admiring their work, all you have to do is hose it—and your little Picassos— down. When has painting ever been this mess-free?

Little Girl Playing in Sprinkler Green Grass
Credit: FamVeld/Shutterstock

Water Olympics

There's no end to the competitive possibilities involving a little H2O, and you don't even need a pool. Think sponge tosses, sprinkler dance contests, water-gun target practice, and shooting baskets with water balloons. Gather a bunch of buckets and tubs and set up an obstacle course. This is a great activity to build kids' confidence, leadership, and creative ingenuity. Encourage them to take the creative lead on devising the games and playing judge.

Water balloon pop
Credit: Heather Weston

Water Balloon Ball

Nothing makes a splash like water balloon ball. This handheld water game can be enjoyed by four players or more, says Len Saunders, a children's fitness expert and author of Keeping Kids Fit. Here's how:

Gather supplies: You'll need 25 to 50 small balloons, a Wiffle ball bat, two bases, a garbage can, and a basketball.

Fill the balloons with water. "It takes only about 10 minutes," says Saunders. Keep them in a trash bag or large bin.

When a batter hits a water balloon, it'll explode—cue squeals of delight—and the batter runs from home base to the second base, placed wherever you like.

Meanwhile, a player from the opposing team tries to shoot the basketball into the garbage can, placed behind home base. "A shooting line designated by both teams must be respected," says Saunders. "If a player misses the shot, she can chase the ball and throw it back to one of her teammates waiting on the shooting line, so she may take another shot." If the shot is made before the batter returns to home plate, he's 'out,' and the opposing team gets a point. If not, the batting team gets a point.

Girls in Bathing Suits
Credit: Priscilla Gragg

Curvy Wet Balance Beam

Lay the garden hose in the grass in any creative, curvy shapes and patterns you want and see if kids can walk on the "curvy balance beam" without falling off, suggests Randy McCoy, curriculum director at The Little Gym. Increase the challenge by trying it with your eyes closed, he says, or with a sprinkler attached at the far end of the hose. "With the water turned on, the hose will be much more firm and more difficult to balance on—and the closer you get to the sprinkler, the wetter you'll get," McCoy says. Next, make a totally new pattern with the hose and try again!


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