Public Pool Games

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Five fun water games your kids can play at the local pool

Australians have always loved the water. So, it’s not surprising to find that one in four Australian families have a swimming pool. If you’re one of those lucky families with a backyard pool, make sure you check out the Swim Kids list of water games that you can play at home.

However, if you don’t have a backyard pool there is still plenty of fun to be had at your local swimming spot. For generations, many Australian families have spent entire summers at their local public pool. Kids play water games with siblings and newfound friends until their fingers and toes are like prunes – or the desire for ice cream calls them out of the water!

As a parent, you’ve probably got your own set of water games from your childhood. But we think you might need a few more to keep the kids extra busy in the pool.


Kids playing water games

SWIM KIDS has worked with the Royal Life Saving Society – Australia to provide you with the games below. Each game teaches your kids a new skill that will help them learn the essentials of swimming:

1. No two entries

Number of players: Two or more

Aim: To practise a range of different safe entries.

Participants line up out of the water, along the edge of the deep-end of the pool. Then in turn, each person performs a safe entry. No two safe entries can be the same and the game continues until all possible safe entries have been done. Play again so each participant tries each safe entry. For an added element, get participants to identify key safety tips.

2. Pinball

Number of players: Even number

Aim: To develop sculling skills and techniques.

Divide the group into pairs. Get each pair to lie on their back with their feet towards each other. The ball is placed in such a position that together they can hold it between the soles of their feet. They then scull – one going feet first and the other head first – to a predetermined mark, keeping the ball in the same position all the time. This can be done as a race or a relay, with pairs competing against each other to get ‘there and back’ first.

3. Horses and jockeys

Number of players: Eight or more

Aim: To develop swimming, sculling and underwater skills.

Organise the participants into pairs with one being the horse and the other the jockey. Form a circle with the horses inside and the jockeys on the outside (still matched up their pair). The instructor gives the following commands:

  • Mount – on hearing this, the jockeys climb on horses’ backs
  • Change – on hearing this, jockeys swim under horses’ legs and they change characters
  • Left – on hearing this, jockeys wade, scull or swim left around outside of circle
  • Right – on hearing this, jockeys wade, scull or swim right around outside of circle

To make it easier to judge which pair is the last to complete the action, both horse and jockey must put their hands on their heads when completed.

4. Safety Simon says

Number of players: Four or more

Aim: To practise a range of personal survival skills.

All the participants get into the pool and spread out. The instructor – or supervising adult – acts as ‘Safety Simon’. ‘Safety Simon’ calls out an action (ie, a swimming or water safety skill). For example “Safety Simon says float on your back”. Participants then do what ‘Safety Simon Says’. When ‘Safety Simon’ gives the instruction to carry out an action without saying “Safety Simon Says” first (for example “Float on your back”) then whoever does it is ‘out’ and has to leave the water. The last person standing in the water is the winner.

5. Kicking tug of war

Number of players: Two or more

Aim: To develop kicking strength and endurance.

For this game, you will need to divide the group into pairs and provide each pair with a kickboard. Participants pair up holding opposite sides of the kickboard; they use the lane line on the bottom of the pool as the marker. On the signal ‘go’, holding onto their end of the kickboard, players kick hard and fast, each trying to propel themselves over the line.

Variation: With a longer piece of equipment such as a water noodle, participants can face outwards and aim to pull the other person across the line with the strength of their kick.

What water games do your kids play at the local pool? We’d love to know, so leave us a comment on Facebook.

If there are any children under five years old, ensure a supervising adult is always within an arm’s reach. For this age group, a suggested ratio for supervision is one adult to two children.

For children five to 12 years, you must be able to see all the kids at all times. For this age group, a suggested ratio is one adult to four children. Ensure you choose age appropriate water games.

It is recommended that you ‘test’ each child’s swimming skills prior to the water games. Perform a simple quick test to gauge their confidence and ability – as well as being able to cope in deep water.

Remember to keep a close eye on the kids at all times and quickly put an end to any inappropriate behaviour. Kids should not be encouraged to engage in dangerous activities or run around pools.