When temperatures climb into the 90s, there’s nowhere we’d rather be than in water. And if you’re lucky enough to have access to a swimming pool, a hot day naturally lends itself to entertaining beside it. Whether you’re hosting a summer pool party to fete the Fourth of July, a kids’ birthday, or a bachelorette, dive into these tips for staying cool by the pool.
The most important part of any pool party? Water—and we don’t just mean in the pool. With guests lounging in the hot sun all day, you’ll want to make sure you have a whole lot of H20 on hand. Kick it up a notch with a hydration station stocked with still and sparkling water infused with citrus and herbs or refreshing fruit.
Keep it relaxed
The whole point of a pool party is to cool off and hang out—so the vibe should be equally chill. Don’t try to pack too many activities into the itinerary or treats onto the patio table. Pick a short window of time (either day or night, not both!), as people are bound to be worn out—and not to mention pruney—following a few hours in and out of water.
Select your swimmers
Will the bash be boozy or family-friendly? There are ways to win at both, but you’ll need to decide before you even think about invitations and menu.
Is it just us, or does everyone seem to get busier every single summer? Whether you go with cute cards or casual flyers, send pool party invitations out far in advance. Shoot for two to three weeks prior to the party, longer if you’re hosting on a holiday weekend.
On planning a pool party for kids
Whether you’re planning a playdate with other parents or a birthday party for tweens, ask adult attendees to alternate lifeguarding. And since you’ll already have your hands full supervising and mitigating messes, keep the rest simple.
Make it about games: We’re all for incorporating pool game ideas including Marco Polo and noodle jousting, as well as easy yard games like Giant Jenga and freeze tag. They’re classics for a reason!
Bring in reinforcements: Kids are usually pretty good at keeping themselves busy in the pool, but if you want to be safe, neon-hued beach paddles or a larger-than-life unicorn sprinkler can save the day in the event of a lull.
Include all ages: Not everyone can enjoy pooltime. If you’re hosting a range of ages—or if you don’t actually have a pool—consider a kiddie pool where tiny tykes can splash around in a contained area.
… or for adults
Adults like to have a little fun every now and then, too. Leaving the little ones at home allows grown-up guests to truly relax—ideally with a drink in hand. Break out a game of underwater beer pong, complete with a floating table that takes everyone’s favorite college party pastime to the next level.
Deck out your space
The great thing about outdoor celebrations is that they don’t require much in the way of pool party decoration ideas. The pool is the natural focal point, so keep everything else simple. String bistro lights or solar-powered lanterns up over the patio for ambiance, toss a few floaties in the pool (we love these zany designs from BigMouth Inc.—dibs on the donut!), and you’re basically done.
Stock up with supplies
Don’t reach for your regular glassware or bottled drinks when entertaining outside. Disposable dishes aren’t the only way to save barefoot guests from stepping on broken glass. Shop shatterproof wine tumblers or party-ready plastic cups when you’re shopping for pool party supplies. Bonus: They’re reusable (rinse and repeat all summer long!) and better for the environment.
Krazy straws will help cut down on waste, too—and not to mention, they make seriously cool party favors, whether you get summery shapes or custom names or phrases.
Prepare easy party food
All that paddling and backstroking can really work up an appetite. Take cues from whatever theme you choose, but keep the dishes relatively light. The 30-minute rule may be a myth, but still, no one likes feeling uncomfortably full and bloated in a swimsuit.
Skewer tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil for easy-breezy Caprese bites, toss a corn or pasta salad, and fire up the grill to make Jamaican jerk chicken. For drinks, sparkling wine, beer (hello, Red Stripe!), and beer cocktails will please pretty much everyone, but think about hydrating options as well. We’d recommend coconut water or water infused with cucumber, lemon, or mint. We also love the idea of a luau party, complete with Tiki drinks topped with pineapple leaves or edible orchids.
And since no one will want to get out of the water for refills, set up a drink station on the side of the pool so guests can help themselves.
Don’t forget the cake
We’re firm believers that a party just isn’t a party without dessert. No need to preheat the oven and whip up any batter, though. For a pool party, opt for chilled treats. After a full day of fun in the sun, homemade popsicles hit the spot. Try molds that will give you fun shapes or stick with the traditional paddle molds of your childhood.
This no-bake frozen margarita pie is making our mouths water. We promise no one will miss the cake.
Queue up a pool party playlist
You can’t exactly splish-splash in silence. For the soundtrack to a poolside celebration, we love rocksteady, a Jamaican style of music popularized in the ’60s. But you can (and should) curate your queue based on who’s coming. Hits from the ’90s and ’00s will provide a nostalgic nod to the millennial set’s younger days at the pool, while ’40s doo-wop and ’70s rock appeals to an older (or simply older-souled) crowd.
Floaties: check. Invitations? They’re here.