Play On: 5 Ways to Use Pool Noodles on Dry Land

6th October, 2010 - Posted by - 16 Comments

Creative Commons License photo credit: Travis Hornung

When you think of pool noodles, you might not think of playing on dry land — but you should! Pool noodles are a great, inexpensive play prop that you can use in home or center/school settings.

In fact, I don’t think I know a more flexible prop! You can cut them into small pieces to make “balls” for kids to throw or kick. Cut them in half (vertically) to get more bang for your buck. (Young children are rather small. :-) ). Children can bend them, roll on them and practice a variety of object control skills with them.

Pick them up at the dollar store or at end of the season close-out sales. You may even be able to get them donated to your center from a local public pool. (Pool noodles loose their buoyancy rather quickly, but they still work perfectly well on dry land!)

I’m sure you can come up with 50 games or play ideas, but here are five to get you started.

1.  Tunnel Fun: Line up a few chairs facing each other, a few feet apart. Lay pool noodles across the chairs to make a tunnel. Children can crawl underneath the noodles or through the tunnel. Children develop upper body strength and spatial concepts while having fun!

2.  Tug of War: A great partner activity for parent and child.  Each person holds onto an end of the noodle and tries to pull it from the other.  Vary positions to increase the fun and benefit. Try sitting, kneeling, and then standing.  Try kneeling while your child stands. Challenge him/her to pull you over—you will both have fun when you fall over! This activity increases muscular strength and endurance.

3. Rocket Ships: Cut a pool noodles in half or into thirds. Count 1,2,3 Blast Off! And then throw the pool noodle high in the air. Try to catch it. Or, throw the noodle high in the air and call out an action to do before it lands (i.e.  jump, touch the ground, turn around).

4. Ride’em Cowboy! Put on your imaginary cowboy hat and spurs. Pretend the noodle is a horse and gallop.  Add some fun by giving signals to go fast/slow or start/stop.  Get creative. What other animals might you like to ride and how do they move—walk, crawl, run, waddle, etc. Children can experience a variety of locomotor patterns such as sliding from side to side; twisting back and forth; and walking in straight, curved or zig-zag paths.

5. Let’s Go Bowling: Tape 2 pool noodles parallel to each other approximately 1 to 2 feet apart from each other as bumpers in a bowling alley. Line empty water bottles at the end of the two noodles. At the opposite end, encourage children to roll a ball down the “bowling alley” to knock down the pins. To vary the activity, provide different size balls and bottles weighted with water to encourage children to use a variety of speeds and force when rolling the ball.

So, don’t put those pool noodles away until next summer. It’s time to play! We would love to know your ideas, so please share them in the comments section.

Playfully yours, Bethe

Editor’s Note: These fun ideas were inspired by Head Start Body Start Master Trainers Clersida Garcia, Ph.D., Northern Illinois University; Meg Greiner, Independence Elementary School,. OR; Kristi Mally, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-La Crosse; Rae Pica, Moving & Learning, NH; Steve Stork, iHealth Center for Integrated Wellness, TX,  and Advisory Board Member Diane Craft, State University of New York at Cortland.  For more activities, visit the Head Start Body Start Toolbox at

This post is part of Childhood 101′s We Play initiative.  

Bethe Almeras, MS, is the HSBS Education & Outreach Director. A long time educator and play advocate, she is passionate about outdoor play and connecting children with nature. In her free time Bethe writes a blog, The Grass Stain Guru, and can often be found playing outside. She is particularly fond of squirrels. And turtles. And sandpipers. And…

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Melody Scott

October 6th, 2010 at 12:33 pm    

Great ideas, I love noodles becuase they are CHEAP and easy to find!

Two other ideas I can add are to cut in half and let kids use them as safe lightsabers or pirate swords. If you have a bubble machine they’ll have a ball ‘practicing’ their swordsmanship on popping bubbles (I’ve used this at several bday parties – big hit!).

Also, for Halloween parties you can give out noodles and turn off the lights with only a blacklight or two on. The noodles GLOW in the blacklight! Put on some fun Halloween music like “Monster Mash” and have the kids dance and move the noodles for some not-too-spooky fun!

Thanks for more ideas to use your noodle! :)

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Bethe Almeras and Melody Scott, HeadStartBodyStart. HeadStartBodyStart said: NEW post @ The Body Smart Blog! Play On: 5 Ways to Use Pool Noodles on Dry Land #ECE #playoutdoors #parent [...]

Teaching Tiny Tots

October 6th, 2010 at 5:30 pm    

Cute ideas! If you are interested in sharing this article at Teaching Tiny Tots…let me know. :)


October 6th, 2010 at 7:42 pm    

Melody — LOVE the bubble idea!! :-)


October 6th, 2010 at 9:42 pm    

I love all the ideas with the noodles. I am amazed at the art and fine motor activities you can do with them too! Adding the large motor activities would make an entire week of noodle fun! I see “N is for Noodle” coming our way:)


October 7th, 2010 at 12:32 am    

Love it, Deborah. N is for Noodle! :-)

Christie - Childhood 101

October 7th, 2010 at 12:42 am    

Love the bubble swatting idea too, Melody!


October 10th, 2010 at 12:02 pm    

Love the ideas. Thank you.

Kelly B

October 10th, 2010 at 1:12 pm    

Great ideas! We don’t have a pool but I might just look out for some noodles.


October 12th, 2010 at 10:31 pm    

Thanks!! We love to spark ideas for new ways to use play props!

[...] toys and play props do not need to be expensive. Items like socks, beach balls, bubbles, pool noodles, and scarves are great props to inspire both movement and [...]

[...] have seen many ideas from my fellow bloggers on what you can do with foam noodles. The Body Smart Blog has some ideas and you can also view the ideas I have collected on [...]


July 8th, 2011 at 3:47 pm    

Great ideas! I have some old pool noodles that don’t float anymore, and I was thinking there had to be a way to use them!

[...] 5 Ways to Use Pool Noodles on Dry Land from The Body Smart Blog [...]

JDaniel4's Mom

June 9th, 2012 at 1:14 am    

These are really wonderful ideas! Thanks!

Ten ways to use your noodle | Teach Preschool

July 14th, 2012 at 10:12 pm    

[...] Five Ways to use Pool Noodles on Dry Land from The Body Smart Blog [...]

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