25 Water Games for Kids To Play All Summer Long

Outdoor splash activities - water play for children in summer

Due to a recent shift in my career path, I'm staying home with my kids this summer—all 10 weeks of it! There will be no camp to tire them out or nanny to occupy their time. But one thing that really works for summer play is water; those kids are going to want to get wet!

Our family started a Boredom Busters jar: a painted Mason jar full of ideas to keep the kiddies busy. Anyone complaining of boredom can open it and pick out an activity. Many of the ideas come from the Mommy Poppins' 100 Summer Play Activities List and a few from the list of '70s Outdoor Games. And many more are water-based, like the 25 cool and splishy-splashy water activities below.

  1. Water Balloons – Sounds like an obvious first choice, but water balloon kits now come with DIY pumpers and/or nozzle fittings for your hose, making it easier for tiny hands to fill. Between tossing, squishing, popping and bobbing, these aquatic bubbles can provide hours of fun.
  2. Water Bucket Race - While hosting a play date or party, line up the kids into even-numbered teams across from each other. Every person gets a bucket (or even a big red Solo cup). Start each team with a bucket full of water and have one player carefully dump the liquid into an empty one, trying not to spill any. At the end of the line, whoever has the most water wins.
  3. Bull's-eye! – Paint target circles and point amounts on the ground. Using large, soaked sponges, attempt to hit the targets. The wet spots show your score.
  4. Sprinkler Twister – Roll out the giant plastic mat from regular Twister only add a sprinkler to the mix. The slippery surface will make it more challenging and fun to get from left hand yellow to right foot blue.
  5. DIY Slip n’ Slide – Grab a plastic tablecloth (commonly found at the dollar store) and pin it to the ground using tent stakes. Add water and, with a running start, slide down the lane.
  6. Squirt Gun Races – Place rubber duckies or other plastic bath toys at the beginning of a lane made from PVC rain gutters. On your mark, get set and start squirting until your piece gets to the other side! Tip: You can use Matchbox cars on the pavement and squirt them from behind as well.
  7. Water Limbo – Do the limbo rock, but avoid getting hosed down! Have one person hold the hose while participants limbo underneath. Feel a splashdown and you’re out until the next game.
  8. Drip, Drip, Drop – This is a watered-down version of Duck, Duck, Goose. Have the kids sit in a circle. One person holds a large cup of water overhead, using his fingers to drip water on people’s heads. When he chooses whom to "dunk" he pours the water on that person’s head. The dunkee has to get up and chase the dunker.
  9. Make Your Own Water Sponge – Cut up cheap sponges into strips and use rubber bands to hold them together, forming a ball-shape. Soak and toss!
  10. Ultimate Sprinkler– Make a giant square out of four pieces of equal-size PVC pipes, four corner connectors and one hose connector. Have mom or dad use a small drill to punch a bunch of small holes in the pipe to create a sprawling sprinkler feature. Hook up the hose and get set to get wet.
  11. Tin Foil River – Using a roll of tin foil, create a long river, angled downward. Gather some boats or rubber duckies. Turn up the sides of the foil so that when items pass down the river, they can hit the sides and keep on floating.
  12. Spray Bottle Tag – Armed with spray bottles that feature both a spray and stream function, let the kiddies have at each other for a water battle royale. You're out when your shirt is wet, and the clothes don't lie! Variation: have everyone wear white T-shirts and color the water with two different food coloring choices. Then it's one color versus the other until there's only one person left standing.
  13. Balancing Act – Have the kids grab all four corners of a sheet. Try to bounce a water balloon on the sheet. Don’t let it drop or you’ll have a splashy surprise at your feet.
  14. Excavating with Ice – Freeze some of your small toys, plastic bugs and other small treasures in large ice cube molds or bowls. Once frozen, get some (safe) digging tools and a spray bottle and start the excavation process.
  15. Jug Catch – Cut plastic gallon jugs or cartons in half. Holding the handle with the open side facing up, place a water balloon inside and lightly toss the balloon to another person to catch. Remember to use a little give when catching the balloon or—splat.
  16. Hit the Mark – Float a few Frisbees upside down in a small kiddie pool. Have your little ones try to aim sponges at the Frisbee targets.
  17. Pint-Size Picasso - Use slate remnants as a canvas and a cup of water and paintbrush as your medium. The wet brush will allow your little one to create a masterpiece, which will quickly dry, allowing for infinite drawings.
  18. Backyard Bath – Take tub time outdoors with a kiddie pool, lots of bubble bath and toys. The kids will enjoy the change of routine and scenery!
  19. Ping-Pong Pool – Throw an inflatable inner tube in a pool or kiddie pool, and then attempt to toss Ping-Pong balls in the center of the ring.
  20. Blind Taste Test – Blindfold the kids. Flavor water with different fruits and veggies—lemon, lime, strawberry, raspberry—and then see if they can identify each taste. Bonus: This keeps them hydrated on a hot, summer day.
  21. Wishy-Washy Station – Bring toys outside that can get wet. Fill up a deep tray with warm, soapy water and another one with clear water. Using cleaning utensils such as toothbrushes, nail brushes, sponges and bottle brushes, have the kids scrub away the grime and grit that built up over time. Bonus: You won't have to do it yourself.
  22. Frozen Fingers – Separate the kids into two teams. Each team passes an ice cube down the line. The first group to totally melt the ice cube wins!
  23. Water Piñata – Fill water balloons of varying sizes and tie them to a string. Blindfold the kids and have them take turns swinging a plastic Wiffle bat at the balloons until they all explode.
  24. Sink or Float? – Work some science into summer vacation with this educational activity. Get a deep, clear plastic bowl and various items (penny, bottle cap, plastic lid, Lego, plastic doll shoe, etc.). Create a chart that says Here's What I think It Will Do, circle SINK or FLOAT; and Here's What It Did, circle SINK or FLOAT. See if your child can accurately predict what will happen.
  25. Squirt the Letter – Have your kids squirt the alphabet onto the pavement using a water gun, squirt bottle or pumper. Try spelling their names or other words for the older ones.

Photos via Bigstock