Lesser-known Marco Polo rules

1) Whoever is “It” is not allowed to wear goggles.

2) Game may be delayed for prolonged argument between children as to whether wearing goggles on your FOREHEAD qualifies as “wearing goggles.”

3) Everyone has to play or someone is going to whine. LOUDLY.

4) When playing with the “no getting out of the pool” rule, you may still get out of the pool as long as you immediately execute a spectacular cannonball to establish your whereabouts.

5) Rule number 4 is actually imaginary. Expect copious complaining from “It” after executed.

6) The dog is not required to respond “Polo!” at any time.

7) Responding with anything other than “Polo!” is not only forbidden, it’s grounds to be splashed and for “It” to have a tantrum.

8) That goes double for responding “Polo shirts!” or “Polo pants!” (What the heck are polo pants??)

9) However, changing the game to “Otto Polo” is encouraged.

10) Particularly if you’re hoping Otto will grab your ankle and drag you under.

11) Arguing over whether being half-drowned counts as having tagged Otto is compulsory.

12) Being underwater and missing the call of “Marco!” excuses you from responding “Polo!” only once.

13) The second time you fail to respond “Polo!” at the designated time, expect to be called a cheating cheaterpants with your pants on fire.

14) Gameplay may be suspended to explain the improbability of flaming pants in a pool.

15) Gameplay may be suspended to explain that it’s LIARS whose pants catch on fire. Cheaters merely have cheaterpants, which are soggy and… I don’t know… full of extra playing cards, maybe?

16) Gameplay may be suspended for particularly spectacular bugs which have fallen into the pool.

17) Yelling “SHARK!” at any time during the game is discouraged.

18) (But still really funny.)

19) Game must continue until all family members have had a turn at being “It,” regardless of how tedious the game has become.

20) The phrase “There’s no crying in Marco Polo!” must be uttered at least once before the game is concluded.


  1. hokgardner

    I’m going to be in ATL in a few weeks. Can I come play Marco Polo at your house, because it sounds really fun.

  2. ParentopiaDevra

    We play this game year ’round. Mainly in Target when we can’t find the kids or they can’t find me.

  3. Megan

    Just think! ALL SUMMER LONG! But hey, I’d take cheating mcCheaterPants MarcoOttoPolo WITH a side of whine and a double helping of squabble rather than my current back yard which is dust. Just dust. Lemme tell you, Marco Polo while rolling around in the dirt in 98 degree weather just isn’t the same.

  4. Jamie

    I’m so glad my boys haven’t yet learned to play this…

  5. Billie

    My son and his friends play Marco Polo without the Marco Polo. They typically say things like, “Peanut Butter”, “French Toast”, “Strike Out”, and anything else that strikes their fancy while playing.

    They also play baseball around the pool with a pool bat and beach balls or big(ish) bouncy balls. The pitcher is in the water, the batter stands at the north end of the pool, the bases are midway through each side of the pool, and if you are not up to bat or running the bases you are in the pool fielding the ball. Since the pool is pretty small they can typically get around pretty quickly (especially if they manage to hit it into other parts of the deck). My favorite is when it goes over the fence. They stick to their regular baseball rules (for actual baseball) where you only get to take one base. This game has entertained them for HOURS.

  6. Dawn

    #6 is my all-time fav Marco Polo rule.

  7. Fran

    I hate Marco Polo – I’ve heard it played for over 40 years and NEVER happily for more than the first 2 minutes. Slit my throat and cook me on the hot pavement, I will leave any pool situation with it or anything similar being played.

  8. Helena

    Oh man, its good to have these rules explained. I always get in trouble. Mostly with #4.

  9. Katie in MA

    We used to play a version of Marco Polo in which you did not say anything. You had to listen to hear people moving in order to know where they were. You got realllly good at being stealthy and quiet! Marco just walked around the pool waving her/his hands around hoping to hit someone. You’d think all that quiet would be great for the parentals but my mom hated it! She said she could never hear from her post on the deck if we were okay and had to actually keep checking on us to see if we had drowned. :)

  10. M

    Have the “fish out of water” rule. Players can get our of the pool, but if “it” calls “fish out of water” while the player is out it is the same as being tagged and the player is the new it.

    Be prepared for many false “fish out of water” calls and squabbling over whether it was called before, after or while the player jumped back into the pool.


  11. Shelley

    @parentopiaDevra – I thought I was the only one who played this in department stores!

    @Mir – I’m going to post these by the pool.

  12. Tracy

    Boy, I’m glad I got to read this post. Now, I’m clued in on all the rules, let the games begin….MARCO……..

  13. Lady M

    I’m currently engaged in a two-year long game of Marco Polo that lasts from the moment the micro dude wakes up and calls, “mommy!” and I’m supposed to reply “baby!” within seconds, otherwise the volume escalates. Game ends when he falls asleep at the end of the day. Mommy, baby, mommy, baby, mommy, baby. Repeat. Well, I guess he likes to know where I am.

  14. Heather

    Personally, I quite enjoy #14 ;) I kind of add “pants” all sorts of adjectives. Today, for instance, I am rather a bit of a grumpypants.

  15. Leenie

    Just to let you know. This lurker is laughing out loud!

  16. Brooke


  17. Jill W.

    We play this game at Target, too!

    Also, there is an app for the iPhone that helps you to identify speed traps called Marco Popo. Heh.

  18. Kimmers

    This really, really, reallllllllllllllllly makes me wish we had a pool!

  19. FireMom

    This was fantastically funny. MARCO!

Things I Might Once Have Said


Quick Retail Therapy

Pin It on Pinterest