I have two small kids. Summer is always a blast. There’s plenty of pool time. There is plenty of time at my parents’ lake house. My in-laws always take us to the beach. But the honest truth is this: Pools and even lakes and oceans can get a little old after a while. When I need a way to spice things up with our water-based summertime fun, I turn to games to play in the sprinkler.

By late July and early August, my kids start to rebel at putting on swimmie diapers and applying sunscreen. So, as an alternative, I run the sprinklers in the backyard, and I used several go-to games to make things fun. We have enough shade that we don’t have to apply sunscreen, and there’s no swimmie diaper needed when you remain on dry land.

So, if you’re family is anything like mine, and you need a way to spice things up as summer presses on and the pool becomes boring, here’s my list of games to play in the sprinkler with your kids:


1. Water Balloon Wars

This is my kids’ all-time favorite. I have two baby pools that I fill up using easy-fill water balloons. You can get 100-plus for nothing at all, and they fill up in seconds. I then put the baby pools on opposite sides of the yard. One of my kids (or a team made up of friends) stands on one side of the yard, and then my other kids (or a team made up of friends) stands on the other side of the yard. Each team must run past one pool to get to the other pool, which is theirs to raid for balloons to throws at the other team.

But here’s what make it really fun: The game starts when the sprinklers come on. You can turn on one station of your automatic sprinkler system, or you can use a typical hose-end sprinkler. Water balloon wars are always fun, but the game becomes exponentially more fun when you run the sprinklers during it.


2. Kids’ Car Wash

My kids have two sets of grandparents in-town, so they get spoiled with all sorts of toys. This includes a number of toys on wheels. We have an old school Little Tikes car (see photos), a couple of scooters, a push car and several over-sized toy trucks, cement mixers, dump trucks, etc.

So, we line up these trucks on the yards, and then we turn on the sprinklers. We snag the dish soap and squeeze it liberally onto each vehicle, and then my kids push them through the sprinklers. They love it. It’s a kids’ car wash, and it’s actually a lot of fun to watch, too.

I think my kids love it so much because they love bubbles, and dish soap makes a lot of bubbles. If you don’t have a lot of cars to wash, this might not be a great fit for you, but my son has tons of cars, and my daughter’s starting to collect them to. If you have the vehicles to wash, washing them in the sprinklers is a fantastic idea. Use buckets and sponges to make it seem like as legit and real of a car wash as possible.


3. Start and Stop

We used to play Red Light Green Light when I was a kid. This is just about the most basic of all children’s games. And I’ve found it works best when modified for use with sprinklers.

I call it Start and Stop with my kids. And I serve as the stoplight. But here’s the twist: I turn the sprinkler off and on at random. The kids can run around when the sprinkler is off, but they have to stop when it’s on. The trick is to try and stop where you won’t get soaked. Different types of sprinkler bring different types of feels to this game, but it’s one that’s always been a winner with my kids.

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4. Top it Off

I learned very early on that my kids got an unbelievable amount of satisfaction from filling up cups and other containers during bathtime. So I like to turn on the sprinklers and give them buckets, cups and other things they can fill up using only the sprinklers.

They love it most when the sprinklers move. A wave-style oscillating sprinkler works nicely (see photo), as does a spike sprinkler that rotates 360 degrees. My kids will fill buckets and pour the water over each other’s heads — or over my head. And they could do this for an hour. It works like magic.


5. Bathtime in the Sprinklers

Coaxing my kids into the bath on a summer night can be fit-inducing. This is especially true for my nearly-3-year-old, who can break into tears at the drop of a hat. So, we’ll play in the sprinklers, have dinner outside, and then we’ll break out the Johnson’s baby shampoo and take a bath right there in the yard.

I mentioned that we often have baby pools (I prefer plastic to inflatable, like the one pictured) spread around the yards as part of our sprinkler fun. Nothing makes my kids want to get clean more than dunking them in a baby pool, turning on the sprinklers and knocking out a bath without ever leaving the yard.

This is also a game that I only break out when the kids have been good. Sometimes I’ll use it as a carrot: If you’re good today, we’ll do bathtime outside. It’s a good way to keep kids in line during interminable summer days.


Final Thoughts on Games to Play in the Sprinkler

Here’s my only word of advice to you: You can’t be afraid to get wet, too. Sometimes my kids need me to show them how to play the game. They’re pretty young, so that’s understandable. And sometimes they just want to see me get wet, because that’s fun for them for whatever reason.

I don’t always like to get wet. I especially don’t always like to get my hair wet. But my desire to stay dry always dissipates when I see the look of joy on my kids’ faces. Their smiles and their laughter are really all that get me through these long summer days when they’re not in Mother’s Day Out and other programs. And it’s so worth the tradeoff.

Did I miss any classic sprinkler games? Or do you have your own sprinkler game that works for you and your family? If so, let us know in the comments section below. Or, you can always message me directly using our contact page.