10 Exciting Water Balloon Games & Activities for a Hot Summer Day

10 Exciting Water Balloon Games & Activities for a Hot Summer Day

A big bowl of water balloons.

Ruby is wild about water balloons! Me, not so much, for a variety of reasons, including the obvious:

  • The patio furniture inevitably gets wet, and I don’t like sitting on wet patio furniture.
  • She inevitably wants to throw them at me, and this is not a backyard activity I enjoy.
  • She inevitably wants me to tie the balloons, even though she can do it herself. I say no, whining ensues, and I give in and proceed to wallow in regret for the next half hour. 

But water balloons keep her busy for eons, so I was scoping out water balloon prices on Amazon and found these incredibly, wonderfully awesome water balloons that fill and tie their own dang selves, a whole bunch at a time! Did you know about this? A pure genius, whoever came up with these babies.

So I bought a bunch, and Olivia came over to try out some backyard water balloon activities with Ruby. I led them through each activity for the first batch of balloons, and they flew solo for the second batch, revisiting their favorites.

Before I get to the activities, I'm gonna expound a bit on the magic—and the downsides—of these self-filling water balloons. You can skip down to the activities section if you're already over it. (I'm not!)

A Short Review of Zuru Bunch O Balloons Water Balloons

First off, here's how these magical water balloons work: Each balloon is connected to a thin straw with a tiny rubber band. Each straw is connected to the thing you screw into the spigot. When you turn on the spigot, water goes through each straw and fills up the balloons. You turn off the water, pull each balloon off its stem, and the rubber band tightens around the balloon.

Here's a quick video of the whole process:

Really, who came up with this? It's so elegant and beautiful. 

I decided to find out. Turns out, 41-year-old Josh Malone of Plano, Texas feels pretty much the same as I do about tying water balloons. Except he's got EIGHT spawn, which inspired him get off his water balloon-tying rear and actually do something about it. He used his mad problem-solving and inventing skills to perfect his self-filling water balloons, and in 2014, he secured a patent and licensed his brilliant invention to Zuru. The first batch to hit the market that year sold out almost immediately. (Of course it did.) As of last year, Bunch O Balloons was doing $200 million in business. That's a lot of parents who don't like tying water balloons. Should we be ashamed?

I sprang for three 100-packs of Bunch O Balloons for a total of 300 water balloons. I also looked at this 300-balloon gift pack, which was less expensive than three 100-packs one day and more expensive the next. 

The only problem I see with the self-filling water balloons is that they seem pretty small to me. But that could be because Ruby turns off the water too soon, for fear they’ll pop. Or it could be that when I was a kid, we just used regular old balloons and filled them with water—and we had to slide the mouth of the balloon directly over the nozzle to do it. Now, they have adaptors that you screw onto your spigot to reduce the stream and make it easy to slide the balloon on and off. Did you know that?

At any rate, the girls didn’t seem to notice or care that some of the water balloons were the size of hacky sacks, so I didn’t say nothin’. But as it turns out, smaller water balloons promote water balloon conservation, because they don’t pop as quickly and easily as the bigger ones. And the longer they took to pop, the more excited the girls seemed to get.

Even though Bunch O Balloons are a little more expensive than the traditional water balloons, they're especially great for kids who can't quite tie their own balloons yet—or for those who can, but insist that you do it for them anyway. Because all such mundane tasks ultimately fall to you, don't they? 

The developmental down side to being able to fill 35 water balloons in 20 seconds is that the whippersnappers don't get to spend any time in anticipation as they work to stockpile their ammunition, manually filling balloons one at a time, practicing patience and perseverance and honing motor and cognitive skills in the process. [Insert another nostalgic "why, when I was a kid" story here.] But if it means I don't have to be involved in the stockpiling duties, I'll gladly sacrifice a few life lessons for convenience and instant gratification.

Still, because I think it's important for Ruby to learn to tie water balloons her own darn self, and because the self-filling balloons are more expensive and involve more environmental waste and landfill fodder, these will be an occasional delight rather than the water balloon norm around here.

Okay, we can move on now.

10 Water Balloon Games & Activities

Once you have a big old pile o’ water balloons ready to go, it’s time to get crackin’. Whether your kid is playing solo, has a friend over, or there's a crowd of little people ready to have fun and cool off, you'll find options here.

Water Balloon Drawings

Use a pin to pierce the water balloon over the pocket of air.
An eyeful of water after piercing the water balloon with a pin.
Squirting water through a hole in the balloon to make pictures on the pavement.

Part of the fun and challenge of this water balloon activity is poking a hole in the balloon with a pin without popping it—or getting an eyeful of water, as Olivia did! It works best to pop it gently over the pocket of air. The tiny pinhole produces a nice stream for writing names and drawing pictures on the hot pavement. It dries quickly if the kids draw in the sun, leaving a new, blank canvas for more water art. 

Water Balloon Pinatas

Ruby's turn trying to hit the water balloon pinata.
Olivia takes a turn swinging at the water balloon pinata.
Olivia takes another swing at the water balloon pinata while Ruby ducks.

Since the balloons we used are pretty small, we tied three together and strung them up a tree. We’re not too sporty around here, so we don’t have a bat—unless a night stick counts—but a good old, plain old stick worked just fine. For the first round, the girls were blindfolded, but that was certain to end in tears one way or another eventually, so we ditched the scarf. It was still plenty challenging. The kids should stand opposite each other (but not too close) so that when the balloon gets smacked, someone gets wet.

Water Balloon Batting Practice

Water balloon batting practice.

Here, the girls simply took turns tossing the water balloons to each other and hitting them with a big stick. No big deal, but they had fun doing it.

Water Balloon Yoyos

Water balloon yoyos.

These water balloon yoyos were pretty fun. I tied rubber bands around the balloons, and they had fun bouncing them against their hands and seeing who could do it the longest. When the balloons broke, there was lots of soaking and shrieking.

Water Balloon Spoon Race

Water balloon spoon race.

This one didn’t go over so well at first, because Ruby’s balloon wouldn’t stay on her spoon, and that frustrated her. This is when the small size of the balloons came in handy—I got them bigger spoons and told them to use the smallest balloons. They had a couple of good runs before they were ready to move on.

Water Balloon Hot Potato

Water balloon hot potato.

For some reason, the girls really, really loved playing this, even though it’s basically just a game of toss. They each had a balloon, and they tossed it to the other at the same time. There was a lot of screaming and laughing on this one. 

Water Balloon Hula Hoop Toss

Water balloon hula hoop toss.

While one kiddo held the hula hoop up, the other threw the balloon through the hoop. It was inevitable that the hoop holder would get wet, and they both relished and dreaded the prospect. 

Water Balloon Sky High Toss 

Water balloon sky-high toss.

This one kept them busy for a long, long time. Originally, it was just supposed to be tossing it high in the air and catching it, but then they got out the nets we use to catch fireflies, skim the pool, and wear on our heads. The game became tossing the balloons high in the air and catching them in the nets, and they got pretty good at it after a while. 

Kick the Water Balloon

Kick the water balloon.

The girls kicked a water balloon on a path around the patio furniture to see whose popped first and who could get all the way around the circuit without popping it. Aside from a stubbed toe, they liked this game. 

Water Balloon Clean Up

The last thing you want after a day of water balloon games is rubber shrapnel all over your yard. Not only is it unsightly, but according to the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, it’s also a danger to wild creatures, including birds and turtles, who mistake them for food. Obviously, the kids aren't going to want to clean up all the water balloons' remains in the yard. But they won’t moan and groan about it so much if you make cleanup the last water balloon game. Here are a few I’ve tried on Ruby, with pretty good success.

Beat the Clock

Tell the kids you’re setting a timer for two or three minutes—however long you think it’ll take them to clean up when they’re really going at it. Offer an incentive—I always use popsicles—if they pick up all of the balloons in that short time.

Whoever Gets the Most Wins

Give each kid a receptacle, and challenge them to pick up as many balloons as they can in two minutes. Whoever gets the most, wins. That always gets my kid motivated. Then, when it’s time to count, just say, “Nah, I don’t wanna count all those. Everybody wins! Popsicles all around!”


Ruby really likes categorizing, and whenever we get the multi-colored water balloon packs, we play this pick-up game, and she really likes it. I simply tell her to go around the yard and collect all the blue balloons. She brings them to me, then I tell her to go find all the yellows. And so on, until they’re all picked up. I think it feels kinda like an Easter egg hunt to her. 

Sick Baby Birds

Sometimes, Ruby doesn't want to pick up the water balloons no matter how fun the game is. That's when I play the Sick Baby Bird game. I simply tell her that if she doesn't clean up the balloons, mama and daddy birds will mistake them for worms and feed them to their tiny little babies, who will either choke on them and die or get very painfully sick. That always lights a fire under her little booty.

I hope some of these games work for you and yours. Water balloon games get the kids active, and they help them practice numerous motor and social skills. So next time your kid has a pal over, fill up a big bucket of water balloons, and let them have at it. 


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