There are so many fun swimming pool games to play with kids! What are the developmental benefits of some summer favorites?

Learn more about the motor, sensory, play, executive function, and communication benefits of these classic swimming pool games for kids.

Remember, safety first! Even if your little swimmer has spent hours in the pool, they always need to be monitored by a responsible adult at all times.

Marco Polo

How to play: One person is Marco and closes their eyes. The rest are Polos. When Marco yells out “Marco!” the Polos respond with “Polo”; Marco tries to find them based on how close or far away they sound. Marco wins when all the Polos have been tagged.

cute child swimming in pool with swim ring

What this helps with:

  • Motor skills: Using motor control to move quietly around the pool.
  • Sensory: The Marco listens and feels for the Polos; The Polos try to remain silent and avoid touch from the Marco.
  • Play: Marcos have an opportunity to find creative and spontaneous ways to sneak up on Polos. Polos can also get creative in how they make sounds.
  • Communication: Although there are only two words said during the whole game, all players must listen carefully and respond to cues.
Try an animal sounds version! The “Marco” can yell the animal (for example, “COW!”), and the rest of the players can respond with the sounds (“MOO!”). You can even change the animal every time.

Sharks and Minnows

How to play: One person is the shark and stays in the pool. The rest are minnows, and stand outside the pool, at one end. When the shark says “Go!”, the minnows jump in and race to the other end of the pool—but they can’t get tagged by the shark, or they’ll be out!

What this helps with:

  • Motor skills: Both the sharks and the minnows must move quickly to avoid being tagged!
  • Play: Both sides need to be creative to avoid getting tagged. They also need to stay engaged so they always have an eye out for the other!
  • Executive Function: The minnows need to figure out how to get from one side to the other without getting tagged—and need to be ready to quickly change their plans if a shark is heading their way!
Try this extra challenge: Add a second shark!

Air Ball

How to play: Stand in a circle in the pool and toss around a ball. The objective is to never have the ball hit the water.

What this helps with:

  • Motor skills: Constant motor movements in the arms, legs, and hands keep the ball in the air.
  • Play: Creative and spontaneous movements are needed to keep the ball in the air.
  • Sensory: The proprioception and visual senses allow for better hand-eye coordination.
A fun variation: For an extra motor challenge, have everyone sit on a pool noodle while they toss the ball!

Pool Noodle Race

How to play: Have your players line up on one end of the pool, and sit on a pool noodle like a horse. Race to the other end of the pool. First to make it to the other side without falling off their “noodle horse” wins!

What this helps with:

  • Motor skills: Racers will work their arm and leg muscles to wade through the water as quickly as possible, and use their core to stay on the noodle.
  • Play: This race is a great way for your child to exercise healthy competition.
  • Executive Function: Racers will need to vary their movements and plan of action depending on what place they’re in.
  • Sensory: Balance is important for staying on the noodle!
An extra challenge: Ask trivia questions while the racers race! Give extra points to the racer who answers the most questions.


How to play: Go underwater and have someone hum a song for 10 seconds. If everyone wears goggles, you can also watch the “singer” dance for a few seconds, which could provide extra clues. Then come up and guess the song.

What this helps with:

  • Communication: While the “singer” can’t actually sing underwater, they’ll use humming and non-verbal clues to help players guess the song.
  • Executive Function: Players need to watch for all communication cues and rely on their memory to solve which song it is.
  • Sensory: Listening is key! Clues will also be picked up by watching the “singer” underwater (with goggles on, of course!)
Double up! Try a duet for an extra, fun challenge.


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