A great game for land or sea! This is the classic Marco Polo game that uses only a blindfold and the energy kids provide. It's a great choice for when you don't feel like breaking out a lot of supplies, or when you need a quick idea for bored kids. If you need a reminder on how to play this popular game, we've got you! We've also got some variations here that you can try, if your kids are bored with the traditional version.
- If your kids don't yet have their sea legs, try playing this game on land.
- Make sure you use floaties if necessary. Always have at least one adult around to supervise, in case anyone runs into trouble.
- Make sure whoever is Marco Polo remains in the water! If they leave, decide what the consequence will be.
The need for a pool is debatable. It is a very fun water game, but it can be adapted for land lovers.
Items not so optional are blindfolds. These are especially useful for young children who are often too excited to play with eyes closed purely on the honor system.
That’s it! There are a few additional supplies listed with variations, but for pure ‘Marco Polo’ that’s all you’ll need.
Ages Appropriate for Marco Polo
If you are playing on land, the age range is significantly younger. Three-year-olds will have fun hiding and finding ‘Marco Polo’. But the excitement wears off around ages 10 or 11.
For water play be sure the children have their sea legs and any appropriate safety gear. Adult supervision is also a must. With the age range for the water-faring ‘Marco Polo’ crowd being between ages 6 and 14, the kids are a bit older on both ends. If the players aren't strong swimmers, consider playing this in water that they can stand in. Otherwise, water that they can't stand in is suitable!
If players are playing in deep water, make sure you watch all the participants to ensure nobody starts to get too tired. If need be, have participants wear floaties to ensure they don't struggle too much. Even though some kids may not want to wear floaties, it's for their own safety. Safety always has to take priority.
How to Play
Refrain from going into too much detail on the origin of the name, it is the last thing the kids care about. Just tell them the rules and let them dive in!
For a standard game on sea or land, one child is selected to be ‘Marco Polo’. All the other children close their eyes (or are blindfolded) and attempt to locate ‘Marco Polo’ using only their ears, hand, and voices. Children with their eyes closed may call out ‘Marco’ to which the child playing ‘Marco Polo’ must reply ‘Polo’. There is no limit on how many times the children may call out ‘Marco’, but ‘Polo’ must echo back every time.
Play continues until one of the children with their eyes closed locates Marco Polo by touching him or her. They are now ‘Marco Polo’ and play continues.
Whoever is currently ‘Marco Polo' must stay in the water. If they leave, the other players should call “fish out of water!”. You can decide what the consequence will be if whoever is Marco Polo leaves the water. Whether it's something more minor, like losing the title of Marco Polo to someone else, or more severe, like removal from the game, it's up to you. Pick a consequence that feels fitting for the age group playing.
Playing in the back yard or indoors is a variation all by itself, but it does not require any additional equipment or rules.
One variation is to have the children hunt for objects instead of a person. This is good for young children who might be nervous in the water, because you can limit the number of children in the water at a time and an adult can be the guide. Put out a ball, ring or other floating type pool toy and guide the child to it using the ‘Marco Polo’ echo. A similar variation can be done on land.
If you like the idea of searching for objects but want the kids to be the guides, assign the words Marco Polo a new meaning. For example Marco = close, and Polo = far. The children can guide the child to the object by letting them know if they are close or far away using the Marco Polo code.
You can also flip the game by having multiple children be Marco Polo, while one child starts out trying to find all the Marco Polos. Each time a child touches a Marco Polo, that kid will be blindfolded and will join in trying to locate the others. Whoever the last Marco Polo is wins! This is a fun challenge for older kids, and will satisfy their competitive side.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©iStock.com/MaszaS.