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.
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.
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.
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
- Under the Sea / Mermaid
- Mexican Fiesta
- Shark / Jaws
- Rubber Duck
- Barbecue Picnic
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.)
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.
- Motorized Pool Tube (We have two of these that the kids love to race. It’s always a hit.)
- Nautical Stripe Noodle Sling (These are so comfortable and especially a hit for crowds of adults to relax in.)
- Stars and Stripes Inflatable Tube
- Cozy Coupe Float (So cute for a toddler pool party!)
- Flamingo Ride-On Pool Noodle
- Unicorn Glitter Float
- Duck Baby Boat Float
- Illuminated Tube (Perfect for a night swim party.)
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.
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.
- BULZiBUCKET Toss Game
- 3-in-1 Basketball and Volleyball Game (Perfect if you’re hosting a sports themed pool party)
- Tic Tac Toe Floating Game
- Inflatable Cornhole Game
- Chicken Fight Game (So much fun for middle school / high school aged kids)
- Waterproof Playing Card Deck (Great for adult pool parties if people just want to relax)
- Floating Pong Game
- Swim-Through Underwater Pool Hoops
- Diving Toy Variety Pack Set
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
- Grilled Corn on the Cob
- Fruit Tray with Yogurt Dip
- Veggie Platter with Ranch Dip
- Southern Barbecue
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:
- Margaritas on the Rocks
- Vodka Strawberry Lemonade
- Blue Hawaiian Party Punch
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.
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.
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.