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kids jumping into a pool with floaties

Throw An Epic Pool Party: Ideas And Inspiration For Your Backyard Bash

Lauren Nowacki10-Minute Read
July 10, 2020

Nothing feels better than splashing around in cool water on a hot summer day. Some of the best summer days are spent lounging around the pool with family and friends at the season’s best pool parties. Whether it’s a pool birthday party, the Fourth of July or just an excuse to get friends and family together, your pool party can be epic too. By creating an awesome pool atmosphere and implementing these party ideas, you’re sure to have a fun and memorable event this summer.

Pool Party Themes

The perfect backyard landscaping paired with aqua-blue water is the ideal backdrop for a wide variety of backyard get-togethers. Party themes can make it even better by adding fun and providing a foundation on which the rest of the party can be built, including decorations, foods and costumes.

Kids Pool Party Themes

You can look just about anywhere for swimming party themes for kids, including movies, wildlife and books. Since it’s a pool party, choose a theme that can use the water as part of the aesthetic. Here are some creative themes that work perfectly with water:

  • Mermaids. To capture the magic of this theme, think bright colors and shimmer. Use bright pinks, purples and teals in your color scheme and decorate with eye-catching items you’d find at the beach. Scatter seashells, beach glass and sand dollars. Make glittery seahorses, starfish and pearls. Pass out flowers to put in the hair and invest in a couple of lifelike mermaid tails that kids can actually wear as they swim.
  • Pirates. There’s so much you can do with this theme, from having kids “walk the plank” into the water to hosting a cannonball contest or sending them on a treasure hunt in or out of the water. Keep land-dwellers busy with craft stations where they can decorate their own bandanas, eye patches and pirate flags.
  • Luau. A favorite pool party theme, a luau is one of the easiest parties to throw because the decorations are easy to find and create. Deck your backyard out in palm trees, tiki torches, pineapples and tropical flowers. Have guests drink punch from coconuts and compete in a hula dance competition. Hand out grass skirts and leis for guests to wear. Make it even more memorable with a pig roast.
  • Flamingos. Bright colors are the name of the game for this theme, especially pinks. The beautiful birds are found in the tropics, so create a tropical backdrop with palm leaves, pineapples and sunshine. Have a second pool party with a luau theme and use the same decorations. You can also find several different flamingo decorations, from the plastic lawn ornaments to flamingo balloons, paper honeycombs and giant inflatable pool floats. Sprinkling pink feathers around adds a nice touch, too.
  • Baby Shark. Did you read that theme and automatically sing “do do do do do do do”? It may annoy parents to no end, but little ones seem to love the song. If your child is one of them, a “baby shark” theme party could be a hit. When decorating for this theme, be mindful that sharks can be scary. Make them fun by decorating with smiling, cartoonish sharks. Give each little swimmer a fin, chomp on goldfish and, yes, play the song at least once.

Adults Pool Party Themes

Adult pool party ideas can range from super casual to a bit more sophisticated. Here are a few ideas:

  • White party. A popular party theme among the rich and famous, a white party is an elegant theme that keeps it neutral. Everything is decked out in all white, including the recommended guest attire. Decorate with white table linen, soft white curtains and white paper lanterns. Adorn the water with floating white flowers or white tealights.
  • Nautical. You may not be on a yacht, but you’re still on the water, so why not host a nautical theme pool party? This theme can be casual or elegant, depending on what you want. Decorate with things you may find at sea, including sailboats, anchors, life preservers and rope. To make it a little more informal, hand out captain or sailor hats.
  • Summer camp. This fun theme will have you reminiscing about the summers of your youth. Pitch a tent in your yard, host a game of capture the flag and, when the sun goes down, have a bonfire where you can roast marshmallows, cook hot dogs and sing camp songs together.
  • Retro surf. To achieve the vibes of this vintage, feel-good theme, think Beach Boys, old Volkswagen vans and surfboards. Go with a muted pastel color theme with light teals, soft oranges, beiges, tans and light yellows.
  • ’80s neon party. Find some neon decorations, encourage neon bathing suits and put together your best ’80s jams playlist for a pool party that’s totally tubular.
  • Movie night. This low-key theme is best for an evening soiree. Rent an inflatable screen, pop some popcorn and invite friends over to watch a movie from the pool deck or as they float around in the water. Make it even better with a screening of “Jaws.”

Pool Party Food Ideas

Some of the foods can be planned around the theme that’s chosen, but a few key refreshing staples make any summer party a hit. Here are a few to try at your bash:

  • Watermelon feta salad. For a fancier take on the popular summer party fruit, try making a watermelon feta salad. The simple recipe requires watermelon, olive oil, lime, mint leaves and crumbled feta cheese, all mixed together with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Deviled eggs. A picnic staple, deviled eggs provide a cool serving of protein. The great thing about deviled eggs is that you can make several different varieties of them. For one, the topping options are endless. Top them with olives, bacon, peppers, chips or fresh herbs. Or change up the egg filling. Use the classic recipe or mix in things like Cajun, jerk or ranch dip seasoning, or mix in ingredients like blue cheese, capers or diced tomatoes. Make healthier options by substituting Greek yogurt or avocado for mayo.
  • Grilled vegetable skewers and kebabs. Skewers and kebabs are a healthy and easy-to-eat party food since you can eat them right off the skewer without really needing any utensils or even plates. You can even have your guests make their own with their favorite vegetables and meats. Then offer a balsamic vinaigrette as a sauce. For a lighter snack you won’t even have to grill, make fruit kabobs instead, using chocolate sauce as a dip.
  • Texas caviar. Despite the name, this side dish doesn’t include fish eggs. Instead, it’s a mixture of black beans, black-eyed peas, peppers, onions, tomatoes, fresh herbs, spices and zesty Italian dressing.

Pool Party Decoration Ideas

If you have a theme, most of the decorations can be planned around that. But when it comes to pool parties, you may want to choose decorations that are also functional. Try adding these into the mix:

  • Kitschy pool floats. Giant donuts and pretzels. Big slices of pizza. Hot pink unicorns. Kitschy pool floats are fun, bright, attention-grabbing and also functional since guests can float or play on these decorations, too.
  • Balloons. Blow up balloons and toss them on your pool for an easy pool decoration. Or, attach giant, helium-filled balloons to long string with weights on the end. The weights can sit on the bottom of the pool, while the balloons hover over the water.
  • Flower garlands. These decorations will add a fresh, colorful and summery vibe to your party.
  • Glow sticks. If you plan on having your pool party last into the night, have some glow sticks on hand to toss into the pool when it gets dark. They’ll illuminate the water with neon colors.
  • Clear beach balls with lights inside. Another way to decorate the water when the sun goes down is tossing lighted beach balls into the water.

Pool Party Game Ideas

Party games provide entertainment and help guests mingle with one another. Keep the party going with a few of these lively pool and lawn games:

  • Cornhole. Also known as “bags,” cornhole is a simple lawn game in which you throw bean bags toward a board on the ground. The board has a hole in the upper-middle part. The goal is to earn points by having the bags land on the board or extra points by having the bag go through the hole.
  • Giant Jenga. A larger version of the tabletop game, giant Jenga involves stacking large pieces of wood to a big tower, then strategically removing those pieces of wood until the tower falls. Whoever causes the tower to fall loses the game.
  • Ladder golf. This lawn game consists of two teams throwing stringed golf balls at a three-rung ladder, typically made from PVC pipes. The objective is to get the stringed balls wrapped around the ladder rungs. Each rung is worth a different set of points.
  • Rubber ducky race. This game can provide entertainment two-fold. First, you can have guests choose their rubber ducky, then decorate it with paint or sharpies (remember, paint takes more time to dry). Then, race the duckies from one side of the pool to the other. Guests can make them move by blowing on them, splashing, pushing with their nose as they swim, etc.
  • Greased watermelon polo. This game will entertain those playing and the ones watching. The game is simple. Have two teams on either side of the pool, then toss in a watermelon that has been greased up with vegetable oil or Vaseline. Each team must try to get the watermelon to the opposing team’s side first. It’s kind of like soccer or football, with a really slippery watermelon instead of a ball.
  • Coin diving. Looking to get rid of some spare change? Have your guests stand at the end of the pool while you throw coins into the water, once all the coins have sunk to the bottom, blow a whistle and watch the mayhem ensue. Guests can keep whatever they collect from the bottom of the pool. This game is especially popular among kids.

Pool Party Essentials

The great thing about pool parties is that you don’t need all of these things for people to have a great time. You can have a low-maintenance get-together with an activity that’s already built-in – whether that’s dipping your feet from the pool’s edge, floating around or swimming and splashing. No matter what type of pool party you decide to throw, just having the absolute essentials will make any bash a success, while keeping your guests safe. Include these must-haves:

  • Drinking water. When people are surrounded by water or having a good time, they may not think to stay hydrated. And when they’re active in the pool, they may not notice some of the early signs of dehydration, like sweating or increased breathing. Make sure your guests stay hydrated by providing cold drinks at various spots of your party. Make sure you offer plenty of drinking water – not just sugary drinks and alcohol (for adult parties), which can actually contribute to dehydration.
  • Safety devices. If your party guests include little ones or people who can’t swim, you may want to provide floatation devices, including arm floaties and life jackets. While guests – especially children – are swimming, make sure there are people watching, too. It may be helpful to have someone trained in first aid and CPR present as well, in case of injury, dehydration, heat stroke or drowning.
  • Sunscreen station. Sunburns are often the painful result of a pool party, but they don’t have to be at yours. Create a sunscreen station with bottles of different SPF for various skin types. You may even want to post a sign reminding people to reapply every 2 hours.
  • Shaded areas. Not everyone will want to swim or tan in the sun. Provide places where guests can cool off in the shade while still being part of the festivities.
  • Extra towels. These are notorious for being the items most guests forget. Roll up your supply of towels and place them in a laundry basket near the pool. Just make sure you have yours first and have enough laundry detergent to wash them after.
  • Extra flip flops. There’s nothing worse than putting wet feet into sneakers because you forgot your flip flops. Have a few extra pairs of cheap flip flops for people who don’t want to walk around with bare feet or in wet shoes. You can usually find flip flops at the dollar store. If you don’t want to worry about size or expense, you could also consider buying packs of foam pedicure flip flops.
  • A place to change. Guests may not want to sit in a wet bathing suit all day, so provide a space for them to change. While the bathrooms are always available, having more than one spot may be helpful – especially if you don’t want water all over your bathroom floor. Instead, pitch a small camping tent in your yard or curtain off a private area.  

The Bottom Line

Pool parties are a great way to celebrate summer and already come with something to keep guests cool and entertained. Make it memorable with a fun theme, refreshing treats and other activities for all guests to enjoy. Make it safe with the essentials. For other tips for hosting at your home and enjoying it on your own, read more great homeowner tips.

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Lauren Nowacki

Lauren Nowacki is a staff writer specializing in personal finance, homeownership and the mortgage industry. She has a B.A. in Communications and has worked as a writer and editor for various publications in Philadelphia, Chicago and Metro Detroit.