At the height of Summer Reading Club (SRC) or during an autumn back-to-school heat wave, sometimes the best thing to do is take the kids outside and hose them down — that will get the fidgets out! (Kidding!)
But seriously, throwing water balloons at people or targets is extremely therapeutic. I asked my SRC leader, Ebony Scott, to come up with a program called Water Games. My only stipulations were (1) that it not wet any of the books and (2) that it have a reasonable budget. (If only we could afford giant Nerf Super Soakers for everyone.)
Even though the sky was threatening rain, Ebony packed half the parking lot with tons of fun and had kids (and their parents) begging for more.
Water game ideas
Here are the descriptions of the games Ebony played:
- Duck Duck Goose: Played like a regular game of Duck Duck Goose, but the person who is "it" has to break a water balloon over the head of whomever they choose to be the goose. Make sure the balloons you use for this game are thin and easy to break. Before playing it, you'll want to show the participants how to break them with their finger so they aren't hitting each other over the head to get the balloons to pop.
- Sponge Bucket Relay: Participants are divided into two even teams and line up on one side of the space. They take turns racing to a bucket filled with water, fill their sponge and then deposit the water by wringing out the sponge into an empty bucket at the front of their team’s line. You can ask the groups to try to make an object float in their team’s empty bucket; depending on time and difficulty (and age/attention span) of participants, you might skip this part. First team to transfer enough water — either to float the object or reach the high-water line — wins.
- Water Balloon Toss: In pairs, participants stand across from each other, starting very close together. They pass a water balloon back and forth between them without the balloon breaking. After each toss, participants each take a step away from each other. If they break their balloon, they have to return to their starting distance.
- Water Gun Painting: Using cheap water guns from a dollar store, each participant helps paint a piece of art for the library to display. Each kid takes turns shooting the canvas with their chosen paint color. The kids can switch canvases so they can help paint both. Canvases can also be spun around to mix the colors.
- Water Fight: Free-for-all water balloon fight! (We recommend no shots above the neck.)
Ebony, being clever (which is why I hired her), also had a tiny inflatable pool set up with a magnetic fishing game. Kids could go "fishing" while waiting for the next activity to begin. Genius!
What you'll need
Here are the supplies we needed for all the activities:
- Two packs of water balloons. There’s a brand called Bunch O’ Balloons  that are self-sealing, and you can fill many at once. They were available in packs of 100 at our local Walmart. Note that this brand cannot be filled up too far in advance as they leak water over time.
- Four buckets
- Floating objects (ping pong balls work well)
- Water guns
- Poster paint
- Blank canvases
- Plastic baggies
- Magnetic fishing kit 
- Caution tape for sectioning off the parking lot. If you have a big lawn or park available, you may not need this. We’re downtown, so use what you’ve got!
We asked all participants to sign a photo release form, and you might want to consider a liability waiver just in case someone gets hurt.
This program is a great way to improve physical literacy skills, such as jumping, running, aiming, throwing, carrying, squeezing and catching while also improving social skills through team work. With all the measuring and counting, we’re also improving our math and physics knowledge. We even made some art!
The participants loved this event (even with the less than perfect weather) and they would have stayed all day if we hadn't run out of balloons.