Water games are an easy way to keep the kids entertained—and cool—this summer. From a simple water balloon toss to fancier DIY fun like sprinkler Twister, these outdoor games are sure to please all ages.
One year, I found myself home with both kids for a whole summer due to a shift in my career path, so we got pretty creative with the water games. There were 10 weeks to fill after all! Read on for our favorites—and you can also download this free printable with all 25 top water games for kids.
Need more free and cheap activities for the kids this summer break? Our family started a Boredom Busters jar: a painted Mason jar full of ideas to keep them busy (and tired out). 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 Free Summer Fun Ideas. But their absolute favorites are the water games for splish-splashy, low-key summer fun.
1. DIY Slip n’ Slide
Grab a plastic tablecloth from a discount store and pin it to the ground using tent stakes. Add water, and, with a running start, slide down the lane.
2. Water Bucket Race
Add a water bucket race to your next backyard party or play date. Line up the kids into even-numbered teams across from each other. Every person gets a bucket (or 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. Sponge Bulls-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 in this water game.
4. Sprinkler Twister
Roll out the giant plastic mat from regular Twister, but 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.
A batch of water balloons can quickly be turned into a batch of water games.
5. Water Balloon Toss
Water balloons are sort of the original water game. Thankfully, there are now water balloon kits that come with DIY pumpers or multi-fittings for your hose or faucet, making it easier and faster to fill them. Between tossing, squishing, popping and bobbing, water balloons can provide hours of fun.
6. Squirt Blaster 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 too.
7. Water Limbo
Do the limbo rock, but avoid getting hosed! Have one person hold the hose while participants limbo underneath. Feel a splash 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 on the ground. 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. Sponge Toss
Cut up cheap sponges into strips and use rubber bands to hold them together, forming a ball-like 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. Tinfoil 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 a set of inexpensive spray bottles, 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: All kids wear white T-shirts. Add two different food colors to the water to create two teams. Last color standing, wins. (We love these mini spray bottles available on Amazon for toddlers and younger kids.)
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 to start the excavation process.
15. Jug Catch
Cut plastic milk 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 toss and catch gently or expect a....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 (or stones) 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.
RELATED: 100 Awesome Craft Ideas for Indoor Fun with Kids
Why not take bath time to the backyard for a toddler-friendly water game. Photo courtesy of Richard Lee via Flickr
18. Backyard Bath
Take tub time for babies and toddlers outdoors with a kiddie pool, lots of bubble bath, and toys. The kids will enjoy the change of routine and scenery, and you probably will too.
19. Ping-Pong Pool
Throw an inflatable inner tube into the pool. Try to toss small balls into the center of the ring.
20. Blind Taste Test
Most water games involve getting soaking wet, but this one is more refreshing than sopping. Blindfold the kids and have them taste and guess at the flavors of summer. Hold up various flavored waters—lemon, lime, strawberry, raspberry—or fresh fruits and veggies to see if they can identify each taste. Bonus: This keeps them hydrated (and healthy) on a hot, summer day.
21. Toy Wishy-Washy Station
Fill up a deep tray or plastic storage bin with warm, soapy water and another one with clear water for rinsing. Haul over a bin of water-safe toys and put the kids to work! Use cleaning utensils such as toothbrushes, nail brushes, sponges, and bottle brushes. Kids might actually enjoy the chance to try an adult activity while scrubbing away the season's grime and grit that built. Bonus: Clean toys!
22. Frozen Fingers
Separate the neighborhood kids into two teams. In this water game, 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 bat or fallen branch at the balloons until they all explode.
24. Sink or Float Science
Work some science experiments into your water games with this educational activity. Get a deep, clear plastic bowl or bin, and then gather various items (penny, bottle cap, plastic lid, Lego, plastic doll shoe, and so on). Create a chart with "Here's What I think It Will Do" (circle SINK or FLOAT) in one column and "Here's What It Did" (circle SINK or FLOAT) in a second column. See if your child can accurately predict what will happen. This can also be done in a wading pool.
25. Spell Your Name or Squirt the Letter
Have your kids squirt the alphabet onto the pavement using a squirt bottle or water blaster. Try spelling their names or other words for the older ones.
This article might contain an affiliate link or two, which means that we may earn a small commission if you make a purchase. There is no extra cost to the reader, and we only recommend products and services that we have personally used or have thoroughly researched.
A version of this article first published in 2014.