How to Turn Your Backyard Into a Water Park

Are your kids begging for a trip to the water park?

Want a fun alternative without the crowds, money and worry?

If you have a backyard, you have the makings of a water park!

In this article, I’ll show you how to create your own fun with a wet and wild sunny-day adventure your family will enjoy right in your own backyard.

Backyard water park: use your imagination and supplies to create wet and wonderful water challenges your kids will love right in your backyard.

Why a Backyard Water Park?

Did you ever run through the sprinklers as a child?

There’s something about the combination of water and grass on a hot day that is irresistible to kids.

When you add an obstacle course to the timeless joy of playing in the sprinklers, you double the fun.

A water obstacle course is a nice way to stay cool, get outside and spend time together.

Best of all, you will not spend any money, but you will build thinking skills and memories while you all have a splashing good time.

kids playing in sprinkler

Your kids will love their backyard water park adventure. Image source: iStockPhoto.

Spend mere minutes of setup time gathering items you already have around the house to put together a cool activity that will give your kids hours of warm-weather play. I’ll show you how.

You Will Need

  • 1 hose
  • 1 sprinkler
  • Water bins (We used three. You can use more if you like.)
  • 3 sponges
  • Food coloring (optional)
  • A broom (or a pool noodle)
  • Beach towels (We used four. You can use more if you like.)
  • 3 lawn chairs (You could use any type of chair.)
  • 2 partially-filled pots of water
  • A measuring cup
  • A glass of water
  • A straw
  • Sidewalk chalk
  • A 2×4 board
  • A bucket of water
  • A stopwatch or equivalent (optional)

Preparation Time

Around 15 minutes

Activity Time

Hours of fun


Your backyard

An obstacle course is made up of several individual challenge stations put together to make one long course.

The stations we used in our water obstacle course are shown below. You can put them together in any order you like.

Obstacle Course Tips

  • Lay out the obstacle course in a giant circle. This way you can keep going through it repeatedly.
  • Add as many stations as you would like and your yard will allow.
  • Use a stopwatch to time each other. How fast can you complete the obstacle course? Can you challenge yourself to beat your own time?

#1: Crossing the Slippery Rocks of Rainbow Pools


  • Plastic bins filled with water
  • Sponges (one for each bin)
  • Food coloring

Place one sponge in each bin (the slippery rocks).

sponges floating in bins of water

The sponges will float, making it a treacherous crossing.

Add food coloring to the water for fun (Rainbow Pools).

colored water in bins

The Rainbow Pools.

Step on and submerge each sponge while walking from bin to bin.

girl stepping from bin to bin

Our adventurer crosses the slippery rocks of Rainbow Pools. Challenge #1 complete!

For Bigger Kids

Place bins further apart (Not too far!).

Challenge them not to splash any water outside the bins.

#2: The Math Caverns


  • A chair
  • 2 partially-filled pots of water
  • A 2-cup measuring cup

Set both pots of water on the chair.

chair with pots of water and measuring cup

Set up challenge #2.

Place measuring cup in front of pots.

Crawl under the chair (the “cavern”).

girl crawling under chair

Can she crawl through the caverns without spilling anything?

Use measuring cup to transfer 1/2 cup water from one pot to the other.

Then move ¾ cup back to the first pot (or use any calculation your kids need to practice).

girl measuring water

Will our adventurer measure correctly to appease the cavern monsters and secure her passage back? Of course she will! It’s all for fun.

Measuring is a great way to promote education through play.

For Bigger Kids

If the chair is too small, use a table instead.

To increase the math challenge, make the measurements more difficult (adding or subtracting fractions, multiplying and dividing, etc.).

#3: Tightrope Rapids


  • A 2×4 board
  • Bucket of water

Lay the board on a flat area of grass where it doesn’t wobble.

board on grass

Imagine the treacherous rapids frothing below our bridge.

Walk across the 2×4 with a bucket full of water balanced on your head.

Try not to spill.

girl crossing board with bucket on head

Our adventurer balances her way across carrying water for thirsty friends on the other side. Our hero!

For Bigger Kids

Try to cross forward and backward.

You can also elevate the board with bricks to increase the balance challenge.

#4: Blow-Dart Practice


  • Cup of water
  • Drinking straw
  • Sidewalk chalk

Draw a small target [1 foot (.3 m) or smaller] on a sidewalk or patio with the chalk.

If you don’t have a sidewalk, have child fill a small cup or use a paper target.

Place cup of water and drinking straw near the target.

chalk circles on sidewalk

Challenge #4: Can you fill a target with your blow dart?

Suck up water through the straw and shoot at a sidewalk chalk target.

girl drawing water into straw

Our adventurer loads her blowgun with deadly poison.

Try to completely fill in the target.

girl blowing water from straw to fill in circle on sidewalk

She puts her defensive skills to the test, practicing aim and precision.

On a really hot day, it could be a challenge to fill the whole target before the sun dries the pavement!

For Bigger Kids

Draw a more complex target.

Have them practice fractions as they fill up ¼ of the target at a time.

target divided into quarters

Challenge older kids to fill in ½ the target.

#5: Limbo Party


  • Broom (You could also use a pool noodle)
  • Two lawn chairs
  • Optional: music

Lay the broom horizontally across the backs of the lawn chairs.

Do the limbo dance under the broom: bend backwards and pass underneath the bar without touching the broom or the ground.

How low can you go?

Use the back of the chairs, the arms, and the seats to lower the broom after each successful pass.

Optional: play music as your kids dance under the bar.

girl doing limbo

Our adventurer bends over backwards to complete the challenge.

For Bigger Kids

You may need to start with the broom higher. Have two people hold it horizontally and lower it with each successful pass.

#6: Crab Walk Maze


  • 4 or more beach towels

Roll up beach towels to form long tubes.

Place in parallel shapes on the grass to make a maze.

rolled up towels form a path

The more towels you use, the longer maze you can make.

Crab-walk through the beach towel maze.

Do not touch any of the towels.

girl scoots on hands and feet through maze

An obstacle course challenge requires dexterity and skill. Our adventurer has both.

For Bigger Kids

Place the towels closer together or in more intricate shapes to increase the difficulty.

#7: Snare Trap


  • Garden hose

Use the coiled nature of the garden hose to create your next challenge.

Lay the hose out in a row of flat coils on the ground.

garden hose coils on grass

Make sure your coils lay flat so no one trips over them.

For extra fun, leave the sprinkler on at the end! (Make sure this doesn’t cause the hose coils to curl up into a hazard.)

Jump from one loop to the next like hopscotch.

girl hops through coiled garden hose

Will our adventurer make her way through the traps without being caught?

For Bigger Kids

Place the coils smaller and further apart.

Have them hop through the hoops on their non-dominant foot, with one eye closed, or while patting their heads with their hands.

#8: It’s Raining, It’s Pouring: The Final Challenge


  • A sprinkler
  • An umbrella

Lay the closed umbrella on the ground somewhere in the path of the sprinkler.

Turn the sprinkler on.

sprinkler setup

The final challenge station in our obstacle course.

The objective is to stay dry during this challenge.

Pick up the umbrella without getting sprayed and open it before the water reaches you.

Run around the sprinkler three times, using the umbrella to protect you from the water.

girl runs with umbrella

Staying dry will be a difficult feat. Will she succeed?

Once you’ve made three passes and the judge gives you a thumbs-up, put down the umbrella and leap through the sprinkler.

Hop over the sprinkler head. This is your finish line for the obstacle course.

girl leaps through sprinkler

It’s a wet and wonderful finish as our adventurer completes the obstacle course challenge.

For Bigger Kids

Set the umbrella closer to the sprinkler.

For an extra challenge, have someone turn the faucet sporadically, changing the water pressure and path of the spray.

Other Obstacle Course Ideas

Use your imagination and the supplies you’ve got on hand to create more wet and wonderful water challenges in an obstacle course your kids will love. Here are a few more ideas to get you started:

  • Use a spread-out towel to make a station for dance moves or jumping jacks.
  • Use a kiddie pool as a station. Crawl through or jump into it.
  • Juggle or toss water balloons.
  • Squirt gun shower. Shoot a squirt gun above your head while spinning in a circle three times.

Be creative, get the children involved and come up with your own ideas. The possibilities are endless. Most of all, have fun with your kids!

Some Final Thoughts…

It’s easy to put together a backyard water park.

You can make a new one every day.

So get out there, create memories and have a splishy-splashy outdoor adventure everyone will love.

What do you think? Have you done a water obstacle course with your kids? What challenges did you include? I would love to hear your comments and see your pictures. Please share with us by using the box below.

Image from iStockPhoto.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

About the Author, Sarah Shipley

Sarah Shipley is a homeschooling mom of four girls, part time employee and runs an urban farm. When she’s not milking goats or preparing school lessons, Sarah enjoys creative writing. Other posts by »

  • Sarah Beth

    Love these ideas. Definitely will be hours of fun for my kiddos!

  • Jennifer Ballard

    Thanks for all the great ideas Sarah. This goes far beyond just running through the sprinklers. Glad to have you as a contributor to My Kids’ Adventures!

  • EmilyQuestions

    This sounds so fun – and perfect for a hot day solution to the “I’m bored, Mom!” lament – love it! Thanks for sharing, Sarah!

  • Sarah Shipley

    Thanks Jennifer, I’m happy to be a contributor.

  • Sarah Shipley

    Thanks Emily, this activity is so super fun and easy it will definitely get rid of the “I’m bored mom” Comments :)

  • Sarah Shipley

    Thanks Sarah Beth, I hope you have a fun time with your backyard water park.

  • Maria Teman Ward

    Love this idea for a kid’s birthday party

  • Carlisa

    OMG, I would have NEVER thought of these ideas. They are fantastic and would take up a lot of time!! I absolutely love this website!!!!

  • Sarah Shipley

    Maria, What a great idea!

  • Sarah Shipley

    I’m so glad you like the backyard water park ideas :) Hope you enjoy putting them into action.

  • KJ Ammerman

    Perfect for these hot, hot summer days, Sarah! I especially love how you looped the hose to make a “hopping” part of the course. Why didn’t I think of that?! My kids saw your article and want to do this asap :)

  • KirstenNelson

    Super clever ideas! My boys are totally going to love the umbrellas in the sprinklers and the blow-darts! Thanks for the ideas!

  • Sarah Shipley

    Great! I hope you have a fun time spishing and spashing.

  • Sarah Shipley

    Thanks for the feedback. Here’s to sprinklers, umbrellas and “blow-darts”! I hope you and your boys have a blast :)

  • Lisa Mason

    This is great! We do something like this every 4th of July and call it our family water Olympics. I’ve been saying we need to find more ideas and do it more often during the year. Now you’ve given me even more ideas! Thank you. :)

  • Sarah Shipley

    Family water Olymics sounds like a super idea! What obstacles do you do in your Olymics? I would love to know :)

  • Lisa Mason

    Hi Sarah, we change some of the events each year so there is variety but some we have done are water limbo, hula hooping, water balloon tosses, etc. The one thing we always do consistent is a gauntlet run at the end where they are timed on doing all the events in one go. It’s their favorite part. :)

  • Deb Ng

    Here’s something we do for my 11 year old daredevil and his friends – we tie the hose to the top of the slide so they can use a “water slide.” We have learned by trial and error the proper water pressure – too much and the kids can fly off the slide. Too little and they don’t slide as much as they scamper. I set it somewhere in the middle but my son and his friends have been known to crank the hose up to 11.

  • Sarah Shipley

    Sounds like a great family event!

  • Sarah Shipley

    Deb, What a super great idea! We will definatly include a “water slide” in our next water park adventure! Thanks for the idea :)

  • Kimberly “Gypsy” LoSavio

    This is such a great idea and so easy to set up! The “My Kids’ Adventures” is such a fantastic resource and I’m so glad it is here!!

  • Sarah Shipley

    Thanks Kimberly, I’m also excited about “My Kids’ Adventures” :)

  • jazz

    it sounds borring

  • Pingback: 17 Outrageously Fun Summer Water Activities For Kids()

  • Ashley Moore

    Looks like a great time! Featured this on Mom’s Library this week!

  • Pingback: Family Fun Summer Activities |()

  • mary barrick

    I like the sponge idea in the buckets of water. Could you please let me know where you get those?

  • Jennifer Ballard

    Thanks Mary! The sponges in the photo were free promotional giveaway items from a business where the author lives. You could use any household sponge. If you want them to be round like in the photos, try rounding the corners with some scissors when the sponges are dry. Have fun with your backyard water park!

Check out the Parenting Adventures podcast with Michael Stelzner
How to Have an Outdoor Photo Scavenger Hunt With Your Kids
How to Create Glow-In-The-Dark Bowling In Your Home
How to Create a Backyard Treasure Hunt, Minecraft Style
How to Make Slime: 5 Easy Recipes
How to Entertain Your Kids for Hours With Adventure Tubs