Fun pool games teach serious swim skills

Having a noodle race. From left: Tommy Hinks (9), of Phoenix, Katie Greenwell (9), of Cincinnati, Sara Hubbard (13), of Phoenix, Allie Greenwell (15), of Cincinnati and Kevin Sunderhaus (7), of Phoenix. Photos by Rick D'Elia.
Photos by Rick D’Elia.

For kids growing up in metro Phoenix, pool time extends way beyond time spent in lessons. We asked the experts at Hubbard Family Swim School to share some of the games they teach to keep pool time fun for kids—while helping them build strength and endurance in the water.

And an obvious (but important) reminder: Even the strongest young swimmers need adult supervision at all times. Designate one water watcher at all times. When everyone is watching, no one is really focused on watching.

Atomic Whirlpool

Get your kids in the pool and have everyone start moving in a circle. Move faster and faster until a whirlpool is created and the swimmer in the middle feels like he or she is in a whirlpool.

pool games, swim skills, Hubbard Family Swim School, Phoenix, Arizona
Follow the Yellow Brick Road.

Follow the Yellow Brick Road

Kids swim underwater, following a trail of rings at the bottom of the pool and picking them up. You can change the pattern from a straight line to a crooked one as skills improve.


Give your kids inflatable inner tubes. Line them up and let them try to knock each other from their tubes with pool noodles—similar to the jousting knights of old. Make sure swimmers can get back to the wall or can swim safely if knocked off.

Mermaid or Aquaman races

Swim underwater, keeping  your legs and feet touching without using your hands, like a mermaid or Aquaman. This creates great flexibility and a rhythmic kick.

Noodle race

Version 1: Kids straddle a noodle and race to the finish line by paddling with their arms.

Version 2: Kids place the noodle across their bodies and under their arms. Then they race to the end of the pool, kicking and paddling with their arms.


One of the kids gets to be “It.” Swimmers try to get from one side of the pool to the other without getting tagged. Anyone tagged stays in the middle and holds hands. Eventually, that long line of hand-holders will look like an octopus. See who’s last to be tagged.


Similar to Octopus, but when players are tagged by It, they stand “frozen” in the water, like a popsicle. Players who swim underwater can’t be tagged, but they can “unfreeze” frozen players.

Scavenger hunt

Toss dive toys, pool rings, etc., into the pool. Divide the kids into teams that will race to be first to retrieve one of each item. Or, if you have floating balls of mixed colors, you can have one team collect all the red balls before the other team collects all the blue ones.


Four kids are divided into two teams. Both teams grab opposite sides of a wide pool toy or float. The object is to push the other team to the side of the pool by kicking.

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