Backyard Water Games to Keep the Family Cool all Summer Long

There are few summer activities more fun and refreshing than backyard water games. Sprinting barefoot through sprinklers, filling up an inflatable pool with cold water from your garden hose...it’s often the simplest things we remember most.

Below we’ve outlined a handful of games that will keep the whole family active and cooled down in the backyard this summer. Best part about these games? They’re all super wallet-friendly and require little more than a working sprinkler system. Enjoy!

Slip ‘N Slide into a cooler summer

The Slip ‘N Slide, I think we can all agree, is an absolute staple as far as backyard water games go. First sold in the early 60s, all these years later it’s still beloved by kids and parents alike. It helps keep you cool during the hottest summer days while letting your kiddos burn off necessary energy as they run, slip, slide, and woo! down a sheet of plastic that’s been hosed down with cold water. (You can also make your own DIY Slip ‘N Slide with just a few key materials).

Slip ‘N Slide’s rubberized vinyl is generally safe for children. Just remember to keep it clear of obstacles and make sure the slide is wet before anyone attempts to use it!

Pro-tip: Sliding head-first is tempting -- and for older kids, it’s pretty much the only worthwhile mode of sliding -- but for the little ones, it’s best to start with sliding in a seated position.

Beat the heat with water gun games

This is another throwback, but one the whole family will love on the hottest days of summer in states like Colorado, Texas, New Mexico, and Nevada. Most of you will remember the super soaker water guns from the 90s, but there are plenty of other fun, wallet-friendly water guns you can buy these days.

Below are three family-favorite water gun games and a quick breakdown on how to play each of them:

Cool off with water gun freeze tag

Think: Freeze tag, but with water guns. To start the game, you’ll select one player to be ‘It.’ Whoever is ‘It’ will be equipped with the very best water gun in your possession. By chasing and spraying other players who are not ‘It,’ you will freeze them in place, preventing them from moving, until another player crawls between their legs to unfreeze them. By freezing all the players on the lawn, a new player will become ‘It’ and the game will start anew.

Pro-tip: Put a shot clock on this game to keep the fun moving right along. Three minutes is plenty of time!

Play capture the flag with water guns

You’ll remember this one from summer camp and birthday parties growing up. Divide players into two teams and designate your playing area with cones, tape, or landmarks on the lawn to mark the boundaries. Place water balloons on opposite sides of the lawn; these should be visible to the other team. The goal of this game is to capture your rival team’s water balloon, carrying it into your half of the lawn, and make it burst.

Once you’ve set up everything, make sure all participants have water guns and that everyone starts at a neutral location before letting the game commence.

A few finer details: When a player is squirted with a water gun while on the opposing team’s territory, they will be frozen in place, same as in water gun freeze tag. A player can be unfrozen when a teammate sprays them with a water gun.

Pro-tip: Players shouldn’t guard their water balloon too closely, as this can make it near impossible to win the game. If this proves to be the case, consider disallowing players from being within ten feet of their own water balloon. 

Keep it fun and carefree with a water gun battle

Let your kiddos run around the lawn, hosing each other down with refreshing streams of water, as you sit back in your lawn chair with your neighbors and enjoy an adult beveragino.

Pro-tip: Get the sprinklers going for a cooling and dramatic effect. 

Play a game of pickle in between sprinklers

This might be the most no-frills game you can play in your backyard. All you need is a ball -- a tennis ball, wiffle ball, or baseball will all work just fine -- and two working sprinklers on your lawn. For the baseball fans out there, this is also known as a rundown or hotbox. It’s where a runner is caught between bases and must make it to a base without being tagged (or pegged)! Need more of a challenge? Try playing with a water balloon.

Pro-tip: Obviously a sprinkler head could pose a bit of a safety hazard, especially when kids are running around barefoot. Use a towel next to your sprinkler as a homebase, rather than the sprinkler head itself.

Water balloon baseball, anyone?

This is your summer cool-down substitute for a game of whiffle ball in the backyard. Instead of using a plastic ball with oval holes, you’ll be playing with water balloons.

Here’s how it works. A batter will be pitched a water balloon. If the batter swings and misses, it’s a strike, as always. If the water balloon is hit but doesn’t break, that counts as a foul ball. Only a water balloon that is struck and broken counts as a hit. After, the player must run to first base as the pitcher attempts to ‘tag’ them with a water balloon. A pitcher can also toss the water balloon to a teammate at first base.

Pro-tip: Keep a bucket of fresh water balloons at the pitching mound to avoid stopping the game.

Compete against friends and family in a water balloon toss

Divide your crew into teams of two and give each pair one water balloon. Partners should face each other, starting just a few feet apart. With each successful balloon toss -- without bursting the balloon -- both partners will take one step backwards. Remember, everyone must step together, at the same time and the same distance.

If your balloon hits the ground, but doesn’t burst, you’re still in the game! The last team to be tossing a water balloon to each other wins.

Pro-tip: The natural course of events following this game is to have a giant water balloon fight. Be sure to have dozens of water balloons filled and stored in a tub nearby.

Invest in inflatable sprinklers and/or a pop-up pool

Sometimes a small investment can make a world of difference for your backyard fun. From giant inflatable watermelons to cactus sprinklers, there are lots of  very affordable options for creating sprinkler fun. Almost all of these glorified sprinklers can simply attach to garden hose.

A new trend you might have seen, especially in states like Texas and Colorado, is turning galvanized stock tanks into pools. While these are by no means substitutes for real swimming pools, they are great for taking a refreshing plunge and relaxing on sultry summer days.

Pro-tip: Investing in a good stock tank will give the family relief from the heat for years to come. Looking for inspiration? Check out this Country Living article.

Duck, duck, splash

This one’s pretty self-explanatory. It’s the game of duck, duck, goose, but instead of tapping someone on the shoulder, you splash a cup of water on their head and make a run for it!

Pro-tip: Make sure the water is nice and cold ;)


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