Family-Friendly Pool Games and Activities To Help You Stay Active

Four smiling family members in a pool float side-by-side on a pool noodle wearing sunglasses and posing for a picture.

Summer is a time for family, fitness, and fun. Some may spend the break from school indulging in lazy days in front of the television, but for many of us, the warmer weather invites us outdoors. It’s important to find a balance and encourage your entire family to get outside an be active. One of the best ways to accomplish this during the simmering summer days is to plunge into the cool water of a swimming pool.

Regular activity not only helps your children develop healthy habits that last a lifetime but can also prevent a slew of health concerns, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Benefits of physical activity for children include:

  • Improving cardiorespiratory fitness;

  • Building strong bones and muscles;

  • Controlling weight;

  • Reducing the symptoms of anxiety and depression.

What better way to encourage your children — and the whole family — to get active than by combining exercise and fun. This is precisely what makes swimming one of the top strategies the CDC recommends for improving physical activity in youth.

Some people use club and community pools, but if you have your own pool, hiring professionals to help you design, build, and maintain your own pool house will help your entire family access the health benefits of pool activities during the summer and beyond.

Best Pool Exercises To Get You in Shape

While swimming is a fun way for children to spend their summer days, the entire family can benefit from pool exercises that promote health and wellness. According to the CDC, less than a quarter of children between ages 6 and 17 get the right amount of exercise each day. 

Inactive children and adults are more likely to get sick, the CDC says, and lack of activity contributes to one in 10 premature deaths. By instilling a love of exercise into your children now, you can help them grow into healthy adults.

Adults and children alike can get into shape with fun, full-body pool exercises that also boost cardio, endurance, and strength. Let’s explore examples of exercises that are accessible for all fitness levels:

Water Aerobics

Water aerobics can be both fun and beneficial to family members of all ages, from young children to great-grandparents. People often do these pool exercises in very popular classes at gyms and fitness centers because water aerobics enables you to get a cardio workout without putting stress on the joints.

For those working out in the pool at home, there are plenty of instructional resources that can explain some of the best family-friendly exercises, such as:

  • Jumping jacks: Start in the shallow end and perform regular jumping jacks. If you have shoulder injuries or experience shoulder pain, only raise your arms to a comfortable level. Eventually, once you are able, you can hold pool weights in your hands or make your way out into deeper water. Jumping jacks can give you a low-impact cardio workout while also building muscle in your arms and legs.

  • Back-wall glide: Facing upward, hold on to the pool ledge with your feet against the wall. Tuck your knees into your chest and push off, gliding on your back as far as you can. Gently jog back to the wall and push off again. Back wall glides target your legs and core, and with the jog back you’ll get a cardio boost.

Make water aerobics more fun for children by playing their favorite music, adding a competitive element, or helping them stay motivated by tracking their improvement. While most water aerobics don’t require equipment, you can boost your fitness with a few items like weights, kickboards, and noodles. Be sure to store equipment properly when you’re not using it so it doesn’t get warped or broken.

Swimming Laps

Lap swimming can not only increase endurance, but it can also provide a fun, full-body workout. If you need help deciding how to start swimming laps, begin by choosing from the four most common strokes: freestyle, backstroke, butterfly, and breaststroke. Watch instructional videos or read online tutorials to learn proper form, breathing techniques, and motions.

Once you get comfortable with each style, try alternating them in your laps. Children can enjoy laps by competing with each other in races or beating their personal records by using a stopwatch.

If you are in a community or gym pool, take the time to learn their lap swimming etiquette and teach your children how to follow it. Before you start, it’s helpful to understand the following terms:

  • Circle swimming: Swim up one lane and down another, with three or more swimmers going in the same direction to give adequate space between them and prevent collisions.

  • Lane splitting: Two swimmers share a lane, with one swimming up the left side of the lane while the other swims down on the right side.

Be sure you are using the right speed lane for your level. Many fitness center pools will designate lanes as slow, medium, and fast

Aqua Jogging

Aqua jogging is a low-impact pool exercise that targets the whole body. When participating, keep your back straight and begin with steady, slow leg kicks. Gradually work your way up to high knee lifts, pushing your feet down and back with your toes pointed toward your shins.

You can stay in the shallow end, but for a maximum cardio impact, you’ll eventually want to explore the deep end, so your feet do not touch the bottom. Unless you’re a strong swimmer, you’ll want to use a floatation device under your hands, arms, or around your middle in the deep end. Aqua jogging targets your legs, arms, and core, while also boosting cardio.

Resistance Training With Water Weights

Enhance your water workouts by adding resistance training. You can do this most effectively with water weights. There are many different types of water weights available, which serve a variety of fitness purposes. You can build muscle, improve endurance, and have fun with water weights like:

  • Dumbbells and barbells: These weights are good for curls, lunges, deadlifts, lateral raises, and other arm and leg water routines.

  • Ankle and wrist weights: Foam weights add resistance to aqua jogging, jumping jacks, swimming laps, and other types of water aerobics. 

  • Foot pads: These special water weights attach to the bottoms of your feet to add resistance to lower body workouts.

Although pool exercises can be fun for the whole family, there are plenty of other additional games that keep your kids especially engaged while honing in on their physical health and wellbeing.

Swimming Pool Games To Keep Things Fun

Swimming pool games are a great way to combine fun and exercise to keep your children active. Before you begin playing any pool games, be sure everyone knows how to swim and is safe and comfortable in the water. Establish your own pool safety rules and make sure everyone knows and understands them before the games begin.

Pool games can engage children and teens alike, something that many parents often find challenging for one activity to do. Consider the following games for your pool activities on a warm summer day:

  • Marco Polo: One person, with their eyes closed, tries to find and touch the other swimmers by calling out “Marco” and the other swimmers respond with “Polo.” 

  • Water tag: Similar to playground tag, one person swims after the others. Once they touch another swimmer, that second swimmer then has to play the role of swimming after the others.

  • Noodle races: Using pool noodles under the arms or legs, swimmers can race from one end of the pool to the other.

  • Basketball: Play a round of H-O-R-S-E with a floating basketball hoop. 

  • Volleyball: Stretch a net across the pool and hit a volleyball back and forth. If you have four or more swimmers, you can even play an actual match.

  • Follow the leader: One person is the “leader” and swims around, while the others follow. They must swim in the same way and direction as the leader.

While many pool games are easy to play without any equipment, many do require balls, nets, floats, sinking items to dive for, and other toys. In these instances, it can be more convenient and safer to have a pool house, so you can use this designated place to store pool equipment, snacks, drinks, first aid kits, and extra towels.

Benefits of Water Workouts

Water workouts are a great way to keep children healthy and physically active during the summer months. However, swimming and pool games can also benefit other aspects of your well-being, including your mental health and social skills. 

Swimming builds confidence in children and adults — just one of the many unique ways families can create a more fulfilling home life and boost the entire household’s mental wellness. Swimming provides stress relief and engages all the senses, which can help cultivate feelings of gratitude toward yourself, your loved ones, and the world around you. Physical activity also boosts serotonin and endorphins, two of the feel-good hormones that benefit your mind and mood.

Swimming can help with social well-being, too. Children learn to share, take turns, follow rules, and watch out for each other’s safety. As one of the more truly accessible outdoor activities, pools provide fun for people of all ages and abilities. A pool can be a great way to make your backyard more accessible and your home more inclusive — as well as enjoyable — for all.

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