Are Splash Parks Good Options for Summer Water Fun?

Fun Water Features Have Several Advantages, One Possible Disadvantage

splash pads or spray parks are great fun for grandchildren
Children of all ages can enjoy spray parks. Photo © Kenneth C. Zirkel | Getty Images

If you're confused by the terms splash park, splash pad, spray park and sprayground, relax. They are different terms for the same thing -- an arrangement of spray features surrounded by a non-slip surface and often inhabited by a gaggle of wet, happy kids. Splash parks look like fun. Are they good choices for grandparents in search of recreation for the grandchildren?

Splash Pad Pluses

Splash parks are a good way to cool off the grandkids without the stress of keeping them safe in a swimming pool.

Municipalities like them because they can be operated without lifeguards or other attendants. Parents and grandparents like them because they are a way for kids to enjoy water fun with no risk of drowning. The kid-friendly surface, usually either concrete with a non-slip finish or a rubber matting, means that falls are rare.

Hot-weather locations tend to have more splash pads. Orlando has several spray parks, and Phoenix has an uncommon variety. But all spray parks aren't located in southern localities. Boston has over a dozen public spray parks, and in the summer the famous Frog Pond on Boston Common becomes a spray pool. 

Many spray parks are in open areas and charge no admission. Some are part of larger water parks that do charge admission. Some are offered as amenities in subdivisions, apartment complexes or neighborhoods.

Occasionally a municipality or other agency will choose to enclose its splash park and have attendants present, usually in order to monitor behavior and cleanliness more closely.

In such cases, admission may be charged, but it is usually nominal. Surprisingly, many who use the parks welcome paying admission in order to have the parks more closely monitored.

Splash parks are also available for residential installation, either as an adjunct to a swimming pool or as an independent feature.

Lower cost and greater safety make them attractive alternatives to backyard pools, especially for those with very young children.

Water-Borne Illnesses and Splash Pads

If splash parks have a failing, it goes by the name of cryptosporidiosis or simply crypto. This is a water-borne illness that results in digestive upset. Swimming pools are responsible for some outbreaks, but according to an article in the Journal of Environmental Health, a spray park provides an almost ideal setting for an outbreak. The illness is usually spread through fecal contamination.

Cryptosporidiosis is not usually a life-threatening illness, but it is longer lasting than most stomach bugs. It typically lasts for 1-2 weeks and can last for a month. It can be treated, but it's not easy to diagnose. 

Protect your own grandchildren and other children by practicing good hygiene around pools and spray parks. Children who are not toilet-trained should wear swim diapers in spray parks just as they do in swimming pools, and all children should be taught not to drink the water in pools or spray parks.

In addition, if you are concerned about cryptosporidiosis, choose a splash park that does not recycle water. Research the filtration and water sanitation used by a facility before you visit.

You may also want to choose a spray park that has attendants to enforce cleanliness.

More Water Safety Questions Answered

There's no doubt that splash pads win points with grandparents for their level of safety. What else do grandparents need to know to keep their grandchildren safe around the water? Read on.