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Play ship-tac-toe

Learn about water safety with this special game of noughts and crosses.

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You’ll need

  • Masking tape

Before you begin 

  • Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Additional help to carry out your risk assessment, including examples can be found here. Don’t forget to make sure all young people and adults involved in the activity know how to take part safely. 
  • Make sure you’ll have enough adult helpers. You may need some parents and carers to help if you’re short on helpers. 

Setting up this activity

  • Use masking tape or chalk to mark out a grid of three squares by three squares on the floor.

Let’s get quizzical

  1. Gather everyone in a circle.
  2. Explain that you'll be playing a game of noughts and crosses with a difference. There'll be two teams, the ‘X’s and the ‘O’s, who'll have to answer a question on water safety correctly to make a mark on the grid. The first team to get a line of 3 X's or 3 O's wins.
  3. Everyone should get into two teams, being either the ‘X’s and the ‘O’s.
  4. One person should be the quizmaster. They’ll read out the questions from the ‘Quizmaster’s questions'.
  5. You could also do this with multiple teams and multiple grids. A team of 3 could have 1 person being X, 1 person being O and a quizmaster. A team of 5 could have 1 quizmaster and 2 people on each team, too. You'd just need to have enough copies of the questions for each group. 

Starting the quiz

  1. The quizmaster should ask each team a true or false question about water safety.
  2. When each team has agreed on an answer, they should tell quizmaster their answer.
  3. If the answer is correct, they can draw their mark, either an ‘X’ or an ‘O’, anywhere in the grid. Play then passes to the next team.
  4. If the answer is incorrect, the team can't draw their mark on the grid and play passes to the next team.
  5. To win, a team must place three marks in an uninterrupted row.
  6. The game is a draw if all squares are full without a winner.

True or false? Bare feet are good for sailing because your shoes will only get wet. False. Old trainers and socks are the best way to keep your grip and protect your feet.

True or false? You can’t take your glasses sailing. False, but a length of cord to keep them on your head is really important.

True or false? If you’re too hot when sailing, you should take your buoyancy aid or life jacket off. False. You should always wear a buoyancy aid or life jacket when you are on a boat.

True or false? If you fall in the water, you should swallow some water in case you are thirsty later. False. Lake or seawater is generally not safe to drink.

True or false? There is no right or wrong way to put on a life jacket. False. Like all clothes, life jackets need to be put on the correct way.

True or false? Sun cream isn’t needed when swimming because you are wet. False. It’s very important to wear sun cream when you are in the water because it’s harder to tell when you are getting burned.

True or false? You should apply sun cream once a day while playing outside. False. You should apply it every two hours when you're outside.

True or false? It’s okay to swim without an adult being present, as long as it’s not too windy. False. It’s always good to have an adult present with you in case you get into trouble.

True or false? A person who knows how to swim can't drown. False. Anyone can get tired or have an accident, so it’s important to be careful.

True or false? You should never dive into open water sites, such as a lake or a river. True. From the surface, you have no idea how deep or shallow open water can be, or what is beneath the surface that may cause harm.

True or false? If your friend can’t swim, you should push them in the water and they’ll learn quickly. False. Learning to swim can be a slow process and best done in a controlled environment with a professional swimming teacher.

True or false? It’s better to drink lake water if it looks clean, than to stay thirsty. False. Lake water is often dirty and full of germs. Germs are so small that you can’t see them.

True or false? When walking by a river, you should walk near the edge because the fish might swim and meet you. False. You should always stay away from the edge because river banks can crumble and cause you to fall into the water.

True or false? Always enter the water head first, so you can see where you are going. False. Always enter feet first because you don’t know how deep it is and it is often very hard to see dangers under the water.

True or false? Clothes get lighter when they are wet. False. Wet clothes can carry a lot of extra weight in water.

True or false? Waterproof trousers are used for scuba diving. False. Scuba divers usually use drysuits or wetsuits, which are very different. Waterproofs are great for keeping the wind and water out while sailing.

True or false? You should wait to go in the water for twenty minutes after eating. True. Leave it at least 20 minutes so you don’t get indigestion or cramp. Cramp when swimming can be serious.

True or false? River banks can be dangerous because the land can crumble and cause you to fall into the water. True.

True or false? When wearing a buoyancy aid or life jacket, only one strap needs to be secure because the straps are really strong. False. Make sure your buoyancy aid or life jacket is snug to your body and that all the straps are done up correctly.

True or false? When wearing a buoyancy aid or life jacket, keep both arms inside the jacket next to your body to keep warm. False. Make sure your arms are free and the buoyancy aid or life jacket is secure around your chest.

True or false? You can swim alone if you have taken swimming lessons. False. You should always swim with a partner and make sure an adult is present.

True or false? Sculling, treading water or floating face up are all ways of keeping afloat in water. True.


This game was about learning to stay safe while being active on the water. A core part of doing sailing activities is making sure you look after yourself and others.

Was there anything you learned about safety that you didn’t already know? 

This game was also about being a team player. How well did your team work together to answer the questions and place your mark in the grid?

How did you make a decision if the group didn’t agree on the answer?

Was there anything you would do differently if you played this game again?


All activities must be safely managed. You must complete a thorough risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Always get approval for the activity, and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.

Make up your own questions to suit the level of the group.

Make it accessible

All Scout activities should be inclusive and accessible.

You could book a visit from the RNLI to learn more about water safety.