Have you been invited to splash pad play date and don’t know whether you want to accept or decline because you don’t know exactly what one is? In some parts of the world, splash pads are pretty uncommon, so it isn’t all that surprising, but we’re here to help.
A splash pad is an outside play space that has several features that spray, mist, or dump water on children. They come in a variety of sizes and usually make use of a non-slip surface. They are some times called splash parks or water playgrounds.
But are splash pads safe? And what about that recirculated water? In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about splash pads and more.
What is a Splash Pad?
If you’re anything like me, a simple explanation of a splash pad isn’t quite enough. Going any place new with more than one young child can be overwhelming if you don’t know what to expect. That’s why in this section, I’ll go over what to expect at a splash pad.
Types of Water Features
With splash pads becoming more and more popular, it seems like the features are becoming more and more interesting. Your local splash pad might not have all of these features, or it may have some not listed. If you want to know exactly the types of features, check online for pictures or check with a parent who has already been there.
Here are some of the features you might find:
- Jets of water: Jets of water may come out of the ground or shoot out of equipment at a variety of different angles.
- Rain showers: Water may fall out of equipment to create a shower or rain-like experience. These may be activated by pushing a button, or they may be automated.
- Arcs: Splash pads often have arcs that water sprays out of for your child to run through.
- Ways to get your friends wet: There may be some equipment that can be moved to get those around you wet. For example, a flower might be twistable, or there can be water-gun like equipment as well. These are often in high demand.
- Buckets: Some splash pads, especially those that are larger or more intricate, may have a bucket that fills up, and when it does, the water dumps out with a big splash to the delight of the children standing under it.
- Playground: Splash pads at amusement parks tend to have an integrated playground.
One feature you won’t find at a splash pad is a place where water pools in any significant way. The beauty of a splash pad is that non-swimmers or water-shy children can enjoy them.
How Big are Splash Pads?
Splash pads can be fairly small with just a handful of features, or they can be massive and sprawling.
If you are going to a splash pad with multiple young children, it is a good idea to bring a second (or third) adult to help keep an eye on everyone. It is easy to lose track of a child in the chaos of a bunch of kids running delightfully around a bunch of equipment.
Are Splash Pads Busy?
Once warm weather hits, splash pads are almost always busy. They are also loud with the sounds of children enjoying themselves and being surprised by jets of water.
If you or your child don’t do as well with crowds or noise, it is better to go during the week and in the mornings.
Are There Lifeguards at a Splash Pad?
There aren’t usually lifeguards at a splash pad. Amusement park splash pads may have monitors to ensure children are using the space appropriately, but in general, lifeguards aren’t necessary because there is no risk of drowning at a splash pad.
Community splash pads usually don’t have any monitors, and parents are encouraged to watch their children to ensure they’re following any posted rules and using the equipment properly.
What Do You Need to Bring to a Splash Pad?
There are two ways to approach packing for a day out with children. You can bring the bare minimum, or you can be prepared for anything. Whichever approach you choose is completely up to you, but we’re going to break down our list into two categories: the bare minimum and everything you might need.
The Bare Minimum You’ll Need for a Trip to the Splash Pad:
- Bathing suit: My kids have definitely run through a splash pad fully dressed, but a bathing suit is the way to go for the most comfort and the easiest wardrobe changes.
- Waterproof Sunscreen: Most splash pads are under the open sun. Sunscreen is a must!
- Water: Keeps yourself and your child hydrated in the summer heat. They might be wet, but they are still playing hard!
- Towels: Bring a couple of towels to dry your child and yourself (even if you don’t plan on going in… you might need to if your child needs support or has trouble saying goodbye to the splash pad.)
Everything You Might Need for a Trip to the Splash Pad:
- Water shoes: Water shoes are almost essential for a splash pad. They can help protect your child’s feet and will give them more traction.
- Swim diaper: If you need a swim diaper at the pool, it’s a good idea to put one on your child at the splash pad.
- First aid kit: I keep a first aid kit in my trunk, and I recommend having one handy even for a playground visit. A fall can happen anywhere, and sometimes all you need is a quick clean up and a band-aid.
- Spare clothes for yourself: Just in case you end up getting soaked!
- Snacks or lunch: Depending on how long you plan to stay at the splash pad, you might need to pack a snack or a meal for your child.
- Hat: A sun hat that can stand getting wet will help keep the sun off your child’s face, which will be more comfortable for them and protect their eyes from too much sun.
- A folding chair: Depending on the location of the splash pad and the age of your children, you might want to have a place to sit while your kids play. Even if your splash pad has seating, there’s a good chance it will be in use when you arrive.
You don’t need to bring any water toys. There’s no good spot to fill up squirt guns or anything like that, and I’ve seen kids block a drain to be able to fill up a water squirter. (And then watched my toddler drink from the resulting puddle like a dog before I could get to them.) There’s plenty of water fun to be had without bringing your own equipment.
Are Splash Pads Dangerous?
Splash pads aren’t much more dangerous than a playground, but there are some ways in which it is uniquely dangerous.
- Falls may be more common. Children are running around barefooted on a wet surface. Even on a non-skid surface, there is a risk of a trip. Additionally, most children are running around with their eyes half-open because they’re trying to avoid getting water in their eyes. This can lead to more accidents.
- Water intoxication can still happen. If your child spends more time drinking the water than playing in it, it could lead to water intoxication. It is important to explain to your child the water isn’t for drinking and to stop them if you see them drinking the water. (The water is treated as well, so it isn’t a great drinking option.) Here’s what the CDC has to say about it.
All things considered, splash pads are pretty safe. They’re safer than a swimming pool because there is no risk of drowning at a splash pad.
Is Splash Pad Water Recirculated?
Splash pad water is recirculated, which makes it an eco-friendly way to spend a hot summer day, but if you’ve been a parent for any amount of time, your mind is going straight to one thing: poop. Babies in swim diapers play in splash pads and children who are still working out the finer points of potty training.
However, the splash pad water is recirculated, filtered, and treated before it is sent back out into the play area. Because of this, there is little chance that your child could get sick from contaminated water.
It is significantly better than public swimming pool water, which gets recirculated with much less frequency.
Are Splash Pads Good for Children?
Most children love splash pads, and most adults enjoy how easy they are. No need for floaties, and children who can’t swim can enjoy the water without you needing to be right next to them. They are safer than other water attractions with all the fun.
However, children who don’t enjoy water splashing near them or the chaotic environment may prefer a more subdued and quiet summertime play location, so keep that in mind when planning your outing.