In advance, place one or more empty buckets 50m away from a large barrel filled with water.
Form two teams.
Taking turns, equip one team with a cup for each member.
Instruct this team to fill their cups with water from the barrel and transport it as quickly as possible to fill the bucket(s) while attempting to avoid being tagged by the other team.
Announce that after playing several rounds, each team aims to fill their bucket(s) with as much water as possible.
If a person carrying a cup of water is tagged, they must tip the water over their head before returning to the barrel.
Or, if the person holding a cup of water anticipates that they are about to be tagged, they may tip the water on their own head or the body of their opponent.
Play one or more 5 minute rounds before swapping roles.
The team with the most water in their bucket(s) at the end of the game wins.
How To Play Narrative
To prepare, position one (or more) empty buckets at one end of a large, open outdoor playing field, and one large barrel at the other end. It’s not an exact science, but try to space the buckets and the barrels at least 50 metres (165’) apart. Fill the large barrel with water.
When ready, form two equal teams and play a quick round of Rock, Paper, Scissors to elect one team to start in defence (protector of the buckets) and the other in offence (holder of the cups.)
Explain that every member of the ‘offence’ – armed with empty cups – will start by filling their cups with water from the large barrel. Then, as swiftly and gingerly as they can, race their water-laden cups across the field – avoiding the spoiling tactics of the ‘protectors’ (that is, getting tagged) to empty the contents of their cup (if any) into a bucket.
The ultimate objective of the game is quite simple – after one or more rounds, the team with the most water in their bucket(s) at the end of the game, wins.
Play a round of say 5 minutes and then swap roles, ie the protectors now take the cups, and the offensive team is now on the defence.
Already, you can see the potential for a lot of water to be splashed around, so here are a few guidelines to make the chase fun and worthwhile:
The protectors must maintain a distance of at least 10 metres (33’) from the water-filled barrel and the buckets to give the ‘running cup team’ a sporting chance, at least in the beginning;
If a member of the ‘running cup team’ is tagged by the defence (no rugby tackles please,) they must pour whatever water is still in their cup over their head;
If a member of the ‘cup team’ suspects that they are about to be tagged, they can immediately stop the proceedings and choose to pour the water on their head (ie, they were going to get tagged anyway) or throw the water at the annoying protector (and return to the start feeling very satisfied.)
As I said, it’s a great excuse for getting wet.
If there’s enough enthusiasm and energy to continue play, initiate a second or third round before announcing the winner (whatever that means.)
Practical Leadership Tips
As much as possible, use reusable or recyclable cups rather than disposable cups. The latter get crushed and trashed very quickly which is such a waste.
Be sure to clearly indicate what is and is not an acceptable tag. A brief yet gentle touch on an opponent’s shoulder is more than sufficient to have laid a tag.
Depending on the size of your barrel, you may need to top it up once the game gets going, especially between rounds.
I ‘tips me hat’ to my fellow summer camp counsellors at Blue Star Camps in North Carolina for coming up with this water-fuelled gem. It was a regular feature of our evening program schedule because the campers, aged 9 to 15 years of age, loved every minute of it.
Beware the surface you use to conduct this game. With a lot of water being splashed around, the surface may quickly get slippery and/or muddy.
You could integrate Water World as part of a well-designed SEL program to help your group make caring and constructive choices about personal behaviour and social interactions across different situations.
Specifically, this activity offers ample opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Identifying Personal, Cultural & Linguistic Assets
Anticipating & Evaluating the Consequences of One’s Actions
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
There is no specific health & wellness perspective to this activity other than promoting the benefits to one’s wellbeing of enjoying a short burst of physical activity.
In a small way, you could argue that the focus and effort required to successfully play this game may speak to the benefits of being mindful (eg of one’s cup and the environment) and safety insofar respecting the physical health of other competitors.
If you can think of more explicit ways in which Water World could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
All At Once: Set up barrels and buckets for each team at each of the two ends, and equip every person with a cup. Now every person is on the offence and defence at the same time.
Team Effort: Challenge each team to fill their own bucket with as much water at the same time as all other teams, ie there is no defence. Each team is entitled to have up to five people at a time transporting water in cups at any point in time so that when they return they pass the cups to the next five members of their team. The team that manages to transport more water (into their bucket) in say, 10 minutes, than all others wins.
Tossing Defence: Prepare a clear pathway approximately 10 metres (33′) wide between the large barrel and the buckets. On one or both sides of the pathway, arm the defence team with a large number of water pistols and/or soft tossable items such as fleece-balls. The team running with the cups must balance their water-laden cups on their outstretched palms in front of them (or on a small tray,) giving the defence something to knock over with their water-pistols and soft tossables. Naturally, the defence must remain behind a barrier/line to give their opponents a fighting chance.
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Useful Framing Ideas
Here’s a game that’s filled with strategy, skill, precision and, lots of water…
You may find it hard to believe, but this next activity is not just an excuse to get wet. One team will ultimately be crowned the winner, but will it be your team?…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after playing this highly energetic and fun game:
On a scale of 1 to 10, how much fun did you have?
Were there any strategies your team employed to move the water successfully to the buckets?
Other than avoiding your opponents, what other challenges did you have to negotiate?
The inspiration for Water World, and many more large group activities, was sourced from the following publication: