Sprinkler games & other summertime water fun for kids

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Playing outside in the summer can be as fun as you remember — even for today’s tech-savvy kids — so introduce some sprinkler games to a new generation!

Here are ideas for a few games so you can show ’em how it’s done… then they can keep playing on their own, making up games while running through the sprinklers and staying cool.

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Sprinkler games

Water limbo: Have one person hold the sprinkler level while the other children attempt to limbo under the water — walking, crawling, crab-walking — anything goes. But if they get wet, they’re out, and have to hold the hose next! Each time around, lower the water level by a couple of inches.

Fill the cup: Give the kids unbreakable cups — and make sure they’re all the same size. (Dixie-cup sizes work well.) The goal is to fill the cup up to the brim with water from the sprinkler, without touching or moving the sprinkler. Variation: The child must fill the cup without moving his or her feet. Whoever moves has to dump out the cup — on their head — and start all over again.

Simon says: Give the kids directions to follow — or not — depending on if you say Simon Says. Some simple commands: Move one step closer to the sprinkler, jump over the sprinkler, run one lap around it, put your back to it, crawl toward it and stop, etc.

Water wise games: Invent a game that focuses on who can be the most water-wise while having fun. This could involve setting a timer to limit water use or measuring who uses the least amount of water to win, instilling valuable lessons about conservation.

Freeze tag: This will get the kids very wet! Starting with the sprinkler (from the faucet going off or just crimping the hose) off, the kids are free to move around the water zone — walking, dancing, jumping, hopping. But as soon as the water comes back on, they have to freeze in place until the water goes off again. If you move, you’re out.

Classic games like Duck Duck Goose, Ring a Ring o’ Roses/Ring Around the Rosie and Blind Man’s Buff  can all be fun accompanied by the sprinkler.

More fun & cool summer ideas

If you have a group of kids, try a sponge relay. The object is to race across the yard and fill your sponge with water from the sprinkler, then to run back and fill up your bucket. The first team to fill their bucket wins.

Using safe things you already have in your backyard, make an obstacle course that goes around the sprinkler. You can either make the goal to get wet — or to see how dry you can stay!

Strengthen bonds: Design a parent-child water course. This not only provides an engaging activity but also a wonderful opportunity for family bonding and teaches teamwork.

Community sprinkler day: Host a neighborhood sprinkler day to foster community spirit and allow kids to make new friends, enhancing their social skills in a joyful setting.

Inclusive play: Adapt games to ensure they are accessible for children of all abilities, making sure everyone can participate and enjoy the fun.

Include downtime: After the energetic play, encourage quiet activities like painting with watercolors to capture the day’s fun, promoting creativity and calm reflection.

Hot weather fun: How kids can learn through water play

Sprinkler fun on the grass in the backyard

Fun with oscillating sprinklers

If you have one of those inexpensive oscillating sprinkler attachments that rotates the spray from side to side, that offers the ideal setup for a few games!

  • Freeze Tag: Everyone has to run in range of the sprinkler until whoever is “it” calls freeze, then starts to count to 10. Everyone who gets sprayed during those 10 seconds is out, and the game continues with the remaining kids.
  • Fill the Cup: This game (described above) above can be extra-fun with a moving sprinkler.
Other sprinkler fun
  • Kids can have fun and stay cool washing bikes or big toys with the hose, or under sprinkler spray.
  • Play hot potato using water balloons.
  • Have the sprinkler wet down a slide (providing there’s a soft, safe landing at the bottom).

DIY Sprinkler Magic: Get crafty by making your own sprinklers. Attach a punctured plastic bottle to a garden hose for an instant DIY sprinkler, sparking innovation and resourcefulness.

Safety reminders
  • Make no running a rule, because almost every type of surface — including grass and plastic toys — can get slippery when wet.
  • A babysitter or adult should supervise hose and sprinkler play.
Water conservation tips

Of course, if your area’s suffering a drought, this kind of water play won’t be possible. But no matter where you live, don’t waste the water. The National Wildlife Federation and Ranger Rick, Jr offer the following tips for staying green when playing in the sprinkler:

  • Play late in the day when the sun won’t evaporate the water so quickly (and the kids have less of a chance of getting sunburned).
  • Place the sprinkler near the trees or flower beds so they’ll be watered as well.
  • Set shallow pans at the outer edge of the sprinkler’s reach to catch water for birds and other wildlife.
  • Move the sprinkler to a new spot every time you play.
  • Respect local water restrictions.

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