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Water games for children: 7 games for by the lake or in your garden

Ein Mann mit zwei Kindern an einem Fluss. Der Mann geht mit dem Jungen durchs Wasser, am Ufer steht ein Mädchen.
Sales Consultant, Transa store St. Gallen
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Water games for children’s birthday parties or simply to cool off on a hot summer’s day: here are some ideas. These simple water games can be played outdoors – be it in your garden or by the lake. Grab your swimwear and off you go!

Damming a creek, hiking along the river with children or waging a water fight with water balloons – these are all popular pastimes. How about some new water games? Whether you play these water games in your garden or by a body of water, they’re ideal for a hot summer’s day. We share ideas for simple water games: there’s something for smaller children, something for older children and, of course, something for the child in all of us. No matter how fun they are, it is important to never leave children unattended, especially near open water with a current or lakes where they cannot stand up. Even a paddling pool can be dangerous, though, because children’s bodies have a different centre of gravity than adults’, which means they can drown more easily. In the worst-case scenario, they sink like a stone. More information on safety when playing with water can be found in the tips.

#1: obstacle course

Water game for children #1: obstacle course

You need a bit of space for this water game, but you can play it in your own garden or by a lake. Build a little obstacle course for your kids. Let your imagination run wild with the obstacles: for example, place several buckets filled with water one after the other to create a path; the children have to step into each bucket. When they get to the last one, they have to fill a sandbox mould with water and then, after a few more obstacles, pour it into a container. If two groups play against each other, the group that fills the container first wins.

Other ideas for obstacles for water games in the garden:

  • Fill a small paddling pool with water, where the children have to briefly get their hands and feet wet.

  • Transport a water balloon trapped between your knees.

  • Carry an ice cube on a spoon over a set distance.

  • Cross the length of a rubber dinghy filled with water.

#2: building a water slide

Water game for children #2: building a water slide

You will need a slope or slightly sloping lawn, a tarpaulin and soap. Use them to build your own water slide for yourself and your children. Attach the tarpaulin to the slope, pour water over it and add some soap – voilà, your water slide is ready. Make sure that the soap is biodegradable.

#3: treasure hunt in the ice

Water game for children #3: treasure hunt in the ice

This water game needs a little preparation and is more suitable for older children. Take some small toys and freeze them in water. Once everything is frozen, the children can use tools such as screwdrivers to get the toys out of the ice. Make sure that the children are old enough to handle the tools safely.

#4: water balloon piñata

Water game for children #4: water balloon piñata

The tradition of piñatas originated in Central America; they are very popular in Mexico especially. However, we are also seeing these colourful figures full of sweets more and more often here in Switzerland, too. In summer, you can switch up the game: fill a large balloon with water and some wrapped sweets, then hang it up. Next, the children take turns hitting the piñata balloon with a stick until it bursts. This not only gives them an afternoon snack, but also helps them cool down.

#5: fishing for toys

Water game for children #5: fishing for toys

Fill a large bucket or paddling pool with water, then add some floating toys. The children can use a small fishing net to fish the objects out of the water. If you don’t have a fishing net, you can also adapt this water game and fish the items out with a sieve, for example. You can make things a bit fancier by attaching a drip strainer to a stick with a little string, a bit like a fishing rod.

Equipment for water games

#6: water race with sponges

Water game for children #6: water race with sponges

Each child needs two buckets and a sponge. One bucket is filled with water, while the other is empty and a short distance away. Then, either two children or two groups compete against each other: they have to transport the water from one bucket to another with only the help of a sponge. The winners are the children who have the most water in their (previously empty) bucket at the end.

#7: diving for objects

Water game for children #7: diving for objects

Diving is a really exciting activity. The water doesn’t have to be deep: simply plunging into a paddling pool, a dinghy filled with water or near the shore of the lake is fun. But it’s even more enjoyable, of course, if the children can discover something along the way. In the lake, that might be rocks, or you can submerge a sweet little surprise like a muesli bar, for instance, in the paddling pool.

Safety on and in the water

Tips for water games with children: safety on and in the water

Water games are a welcome way for children to cool off, especially on a hot summer’s day. These tips make playing with and by the water safe and enjoyable:

  • Water games with children are often great entertainment and fantastic fun. Always keep an eye on smaller children, though: children should never play water games in your garden or outside by a lake or river without supervision. Make sure that they are supervised by an adult, not an older child.

  • Buoyancy aids such as water wings or life jackets provide a little more safety. But don’t leave the children unattended – an adult should always be there. This also applies to water games in the garden – especially for smaller children. In the worst-case scenario, young children can drown in even a small amount of water in a paddling pool, for example.

  • It might sound simple, but it’s nevertheless important: knowing how to swim is the best protection against drowning. The Swiss Council for Accident Prevention calls the Water Safety Check a safety measure to prevent drowning. The check involves children – not wearing goggles or nose clips – rolling from the edge into the water, then staying above the water for one minute and swimming 50 meters, before getting out of the water unaided.

  • Especially if you’re by a lake or stream, pack anything you don’t want to get wet into a drybag. This will keep your change of clothes and smartphone dry.

  • Playing outside is hungry work. Maybe you’ll light a fire later on – and if you fancy something a bit more elaborate, how about waffles? Always take the current conditions for lighting a fire into account.

  • If there’s a water shortage, play games by a lake, stream or river if possible and don’t waste tap water from your local water supply. You can also use the water to water the plants in your garden after playing with it.

  • Don’t forget about sun protection! Long-sleeved swimwear, a hat and applying sun cream regularly all help stave off sunburn.

  • #Kids

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