Swim Party Checklist and Backyard Party Planning Tips

Everything you need to know to plan an epic swim party with themes, decor, games, and favor ideas + a free backyard party planning checklist.

This post is sponsored by Leslie's Pool Supplies.
backyard pool party outdoor movie night

If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the years of having a swimming pool in our backyard, it’s how to host a swim party on a large scale.

In any given weekend, especially in the summer, our backyard often has an average of 30 people in it for Labor Day, July 4th, family reunions, a random Friday night, you name it.

This week, our girls have been asking for a pool party for their upcoming birthdays after school starts.

So I realized maybe it would help if I shared some of our backyard party prep tips with resources we use from Leslie’s Pool Supplies and a swim party checklist to make every event go as smoothly as possible.

sunny days ahead end-of-school-year / graduation party with sunflowers around a backyard pool

Pool Party Theme Ideas

Not every swim party has to have a theme to make it a great time. But it’s fun to put out a few colorful banners and decorations to make it feel special.

Above, we did a “Sunny Days Ahead” end-of-the-school-year bash last May for the teachers in our community.

Wrapping paper makes great, inexpensive table decor and hanging bunting is a great way to add a lot of “wow” factor on the cheap. If you want to have fresh flowers, get them wholesale in bulk to save money.

fiesta baby shower taco party around a backyard pool

One year, we hosted a poolside fiesta taco party as a baby shower.

Here are more pool party theme ideas if you need help brainstorming.

  • Hawaiian Luau / Tiki Party
  • Beach
  • Under the Sea / Mermaid
  • Nautical
  • Pirate
  • Mexican Fiesta
  • Shark / Jaws
  • Rubber Duck
  • Patriotic
  • Flamingo
  • Barbecue Picnic
  • Sports
unicorn pool floats
striped hammock pool float

Pool Floats

We love carrying a party theme with a few floats we toss into the pool. For kids’ birthday parties, we usually buy a big multi-pack of small kiddie floats that everyone can take home as a party favor. It works perfectly as double-duty for decor and a pool party favor idea people can actually use during the party.

Below, we did a flamingo themed birthday party when our oldest daughter turned 5, and the kids all got to take home their flamingo float when the party was over. (By the way, can you believe how much our pool area has changed since then?! Those DIY backyard projects have paid off over the years.)

flamingo themed pool party using flamingo pool floats as decor and party favors

Crowd Pleaser Pool Floats for Swim Parties

You can get a variety of themed pool floats to prep for parties or to have in the backyard any time at Leslie’s. There are over 1,000 physical locations nationwide, so if you’re party prepping in a rush and don’t have time to wait on shipping, you can find many float options in the stores.

Leslie's water test

Water Testing

Before every big pool party, it’s important to do a quick water test to make sure it’s safe and clean. Leslie’s Pool Supplies has free in-store water testing available.

Each water test takes only 60 seconds and includes a customized treatment plan so you know exactly what you need to take care of your pool.

They also have free in-store pool cleaner inspection and repair, if you ever need help from a pool expert.

bulzi bucket ring toss pool party game idea
swim-through rings for pool party game idea

Pool Party Games and Toys

To keep everyone entertained, we like having a few swim games and pool toys set up for anyone to play with. If you enjoy having some structure to the party, plan a pool relay race, Minute to Win It games, or creative diving contests.

Keep a stash of goggles handy, especially for kids who love diving for underwater toys.

Here are more pool games and pool toys that are a big hit.

bocce ball court in a backyard with a fire pit

Backyard Games

There are often non-swimming party attendees who still appreciate when backyard games are supplied that don’t require getting wet.

These lawn games are popular favorites.

diy cabana pergola with seating around a backyard pool

Backyard Seating & Tables

Ideally, it’s good to have a seat available for each person invited to a pool party, especially if a meal is being served. In the past, we have rented extra tables and chairs from local vendors or borrowed tables and chairs from friends.

These are our favorite outdoor patio furnishings we’ve owned for the last few years. If you’re looking to get everything you need from Leslie’s, they also have patio furniture.

patio dining tables and chairs with striped umbrellas for shade around a backyard pool

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Summer backyard parties can get miserably hot pretty quickly without shade, so we like to keep a few patio umbrellas and canopies set up.

It’s nice to run a plug-in outdoor caged fan or two on the unbearably hot days near seating areas, especially for non-swimming guests to stay cool.

outdoor speakers on a pergola

Best Pool Party Songs & Playlist

It’s totally worth having a waterproof outdoor Bluetooth speaker to set an upbeat atmosphere.

We have a Pool Party Playlist on Spotify just for those backyard hangouts timed at 3 hours and 45 minutes, the average time length of a pool party. The Pool Party station on Pandora is great too.

This waterproof XL RockBox Party Speaker comes with a light show, 20-hour battery life, and bass-boosting sound to be heard throughout a large backyard area.

Here are some pool party songs guests love.

  • “Rockaway Beach” by The Ramones
  • “Under the Boardwalk” by The Drifters
  • “Wipe Out” by The Surfaris
  • “Steal My Sunshine” by LEN
  • “Watermelon Sugar” by Harry Styles
  • “Surfin’ USA” by The Beach Boys
  • “Sunshine” by OneRepublic
  • “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley and The Wailers
tabletop tiki torches to keep bugs away in the backyard

Tiki Torches & Bug Repellent

From spring to fall, we have our yard sprayed monthly by a local pest control company to reduce the presence of mosquitos and biting/stinging insects. But it’s a good idea to keep tiki torches and citronella candles burning on tabletops around the pool area to reduce bug bites even further.

backyard solar lights as ambiance for a night swim party

Pool Lighting

If you’re planning a glow swim party, hang a few string lights around the perimeter of your pool on cables for extra light and ambiance. Add some illuminated LED pool floats for fun.

You can also get a floating underwater light show with a fountain.

backyard grill with corn on the cob and shish kabobs for a pool party

Pool Party Food Favorites

Our family’s goal for backyard parties is always casual, inexpensive, and food for both kids and adults. Whether it’s a taco bar or pizza spread we can quickly schedule for food delivery or easy grab-and-go items we can cook on the grill as everyone plays, these have proven to work for rowdy crowds.

Pool Party Food Favorites to Feed a Crowd:

  • Taco / Fajita Bar
  • Nacho Bar
  • Delivery Pizzas or Build-Your-Own Pizza Bar
  • Hot Dogs and Brats Bar
  • Hamburger Bar
  • Sandwich and Salad Bar
  • Meat and Veggie Kebabs
  • Lowcountry Boil
  • Wings
  • Grilled Corn on the Cob
  • Fruit Tray with Yogurt Dip
  • Veggie Platter with Ranch Dip
  • Southern Barbecue
pool-friendly beverage station with acrylic cups and pitcher
acrylic cups and pitcher that look like glass to use poolside

Beverage Station

Keeping a cooler stocked with water, juice, and soda is always a good idea. Make it extra fun with a floating cooler caddy. We usually set up a separate “adult drinks” station with beer on ice and a cocktail I make for a crowd to serve themselves as they wish from a drink dispenser.

(Never use glass by the pool since the only way to completely remove it is to drain the pool. We like using these acrylic tumblers, wine “glasses”, and pitcher that only look like glass for backyard parties.)

Here are some crowd-pleaser poolside cocktails you can serve in a pitcher or drink dispenser:

  • Sangria
  • Mojitos
  • Margaritas on the Rocks
  • Vodka Strawberry Lemonade
  • Blue Hawaiian Party Punch
sunscreen basket provided for backyard pool party for guests to use

Sunscreen Basket

Help guests prevent sunburns by filling a basket or bin with sunscreen. Include different levels of SPF for body, face, and kid/baby-friendly so everyone has access to what they need.

backyard pool towels in a basket for guests to use

Extra Towels

Even when asking guests to bring their own towels, someone inevitably forgets. It helps to have a basket full of guest towels available for people to grab and use as they need.

Our household has one set of 14 identical striped pool towels so we can always tell at a glance which ones should stay at our house.

backyard swimming pool with lounge chairs and cabana pergola

Swim Party Planning Checklist

To help you prepare for any backyard parties you have coming up, you can download or print our swimming pool party planning checklist below.

Have you ever hosted a big pool birthday party or backyard party? Got any DIY pool party ideas or other recommendations you would add to the list? Whatever makes the job easier so that we can relax and enjoy is always a plus.

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  1. You have everything anyone could want in your backyard. I imagine yours is the party house. Happy 4th July!

  2. Oh my, I love this idea, and I don’t have a pool. However, there are things I can take away from this post to apply to outdoor summer parties we have. Also, thanks for the party check off list (download)

    1. Yes! It definitely still comes in handy for non-pool related backyard parties. It’s our go-to all summer. So glad it could help! ❤️

  3. Thank or some additional ideas for our pool party! We have hosted a cousins party for the past 6 years that has morphed into a family and friends party… we are about 30 or so people… loads of fun and gives us a chance to catch up and see the kiddo’s off to college… last one going back this Fall!!! Graduation next year… Phew! As you do we also have additional parties through the Summer… in the pool of course. And a July 4th bash! Already have our “to do list” … just added 1 or 2 more to the list from your post. As always thank you. Pat

  4. Such a great post! Love all the fun and helpful ideas! Your backyard to beautiful and so functional! Thank you so much for sharing!