35 Water Games for Kids To Play All Summer Long

A cheap roll of tinfoil, an incline of some sort, and water are all you need for a tinfoil river. Photo by Ally Noel
A cheap roll of tinfoil, an incline of some sort, and water are all you need for a tinfoil river. Photo by Ally Noel
6/30/22 - By Jaime Sumersille

Water games are an easy way to keep the kids entertained and cool this summer—even in the middle of a heat wave! From a simple water balloon toss to fancier DIY fun like sprinkler Twister, these water games for kids are sure to please all ages. 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 vacation? 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. For inspirational ideas for your own jar, check out our ultimate summer bucket list ideas with 100 (mostly) free games and activities for kids or our list of 100 things to do when kids are bored.


Water Games That Kids Can Play Solo (or With a Grown-up)

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.

Quick Tip: If you'd rather buy a backyard water slide, and not assemble your own, the Jambo Premium Slip Splash and Slide is a Mommy Poppins favorite: it allows for three kids to play at the same time, is a great price, and comes with inflatable body boards.

2. 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.

RELATED: 40 Classic Outdoor Games for Kids

Ready, set, aim! Photo by Rose Gordon Sala

3. Ping-Pong Pool

Throw an inflatable inner tube into the pool. Try to toss small balls into the center of the ring.

Need an inflatable pool for the backyard? This mini inflatable pool has been a Mommy Poppins favorite for years, landing on our list of Best Inflatable Pools, Bounce Houses, and Backyard Toys.

4. Ultimate Sprinkler

Make a giant square out of four pieces of equal-size PVC pipes, four corner connectors, and one hose connector. Have a grown-up 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.

Quick Tip: If you'd rather buy a plug-and-play sprinkler, the Spinning Splash Sunflower Summer Spray Toy is adorable and under $20.

5. Pint-Size Picasso

Use slate remnants (or stones) as a canvas and a cup of water and a paintbrush as your medium. The wet brush will allow your little one to create a masterpiece, which will quickly dry, allowing for infinite drawings.

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. 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.

RELATED: Crafts for Kids: 100 Awesome Art Projects for Creative At-Home Fun

Why not take bath time to the backyard for toddler-friendly water games? Photo courtesy of Richard Lee via Flickr

9. 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. It's one of our favorite summertime mom hacks.

10. 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.

11. 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. Bonus: Clean toys!

12. Spell Your Name or Squirt the Letter

Have your kids squirt the alphabet onto the pavement using a squirt bottle or water blaster. Older children can try spelling their names or other words.

13. Tinfoil River

Using a roll of tinfoil, 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.

Water Games for Kids To Play Together

14. 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.

15. 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.

Need another game of Twister? Get one on Amazon or Target now.

16. 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.

Get a 4-pack of water blasters so you can have a good race! Buy on Amazon or Target.

17. Sponge Toss

Cut up cheap sponges into strips and use rubber bands to hold them together, forming a ball-like shape. Soak and toss!

RELATED: 10 Outdoor Party Games for Kids' Birthdays at Home

Spray bottles, buckets, water guns...it's all fair in a water battle.

18. 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.)

19. 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.

20. 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.

21. Sprinkler Limbo

It's a different wet take on limbo. Set up your limbo stick near a sprinkler in the back yard. The water that might spray in your face as you see “how low you can go” makes it extra tricky—and extra fun!

22. Sprinkler Red Light Green Light

Get a sprinkler going in the middle of the backyard. Have your “Red Light Green Light” caller on one side, and all the other kids on the other. Green light means run, red light means stop. Lots of opportunities to stop the runners right over the sprinkler!

23. Jumping Rope with Water

You need at least three people; two to hold the jump rope and at least one to jump! Give each jumper a cup filled with water, and see how much water is left in the cup after 3 or 5 jumps. Whoever finished their turn with the most water wins.

RELATED: 20 Jump Rope Workout Games and Songs for Kids

A kiddie pool and some buckets equals tons of backyard fun!

24. Cup by Cup

Separate into teams. Have each team sit down in the grass in a straight line, facing forward. The last person in line faces backward. At both ends of each line place a large bowl or bucket. Have the first person in line fill a plastic cup with water from the bucket in the front of the line. Then have them pass the cup to the person behind them by passing it back over their head. The last person in line pours the water into the bucket in front of them and afterward, passes the cup to the start. Whichever team fills their bucket first, wins!

25. 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!

26. Toe Diving

Fill a kiddie pool with water and toss in some diving rings or small pool toys. Say "Go!" and everyone has to fish out as many toys as possible...using only their toes!

Water Balloon Games for Kids

27. 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.

28. 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.

29. Water Balloon Dodgeball

Play dodgeball using water balloons instead of a playground ball. Not only are you out if you get hit, you’re wet!

30. Water Balloon Hot Potato

Toss the balloon to each other as quickly, but gently, as possible. Because if it bursts when you’re holding it, you’re out!

31. Water Balloon Relay

This is simply a relay race using a water balloon instead of a baton. The more teams you can have, the more fun it is.

32. Water Balloon Tag

It’s tag, but instead of tagging someone with your hand, you tag them with a water balloon. You don’t have to get as close, but everyone does have to pay attentionbackyard because you can get tagged even if you’re not standing anywhere near “it.”

33. Water Balloon Baseball

Use a water balloon instead of a ball. If you hit the water balloon and it bursts, you get a home run. If you miss, you get all wet!

34. 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.

35. 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!

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A version of this article first published in 2014.