Once almost exclusively found in theme parks and paid admittance aquatic centres, splash pads are popping up everywhere and for good reason. Splash pads, which are also referred to as interactive fountains, wet decks, spray parks, water parks and wet playgrounds serve as an important inclusive element in communities for many reasons, and to many benefits.
Need for Supervision
Primarily, from a safety point of view, the main draw card with splash pads is the unsupervised nature of the parks. Splash pads, unlike shallow swimming pools, are designed as ‘zero-depth’ pools, which almost totally removes the drowning risk, as surface water drains through non-slip matting like our favourite Life Floor or off domed surfaces into covered drains. This eliminates the need for on duty, trained lifeguards, fully fenced perimeters, and age restrictions, making them popular additions to council foreshore redevelopments like Cowell and holiday parks like West Beach Parks. (It should be noted that supervision around any water is always recommended. Click through to read Royal Life Saving Australia’s top 5 tips to water safety.)
The reduced financial burden associated with running costs combined with current labour shortages makes Splash Pads very attractive to councils and caravan parks, in rural and metropolitan areas as additional tourist activities and wellbeing hubs for locals.
Benefits of Water Play
The benefits of water activity at all life stages are well documented and have been for decades. When thinking about splash pads and the target audience of kids, Crosser (1994) commented that “thoughtfully prepared, a water center… can foster cognitive development… promote social learning and cooperative effort.” From promoting wellbeing and physical development, water play has long been recognised for its role in stimulating imagination and creativity, language, and communication skills, and in agreement with Crosser (1994), enhancing cognitive, social and emotional development too (St Nicholas Early Education 2022).
Water safety can also be applied to non-pool settings. Varying pressures, heights and volumes of water moving, falling, and spraying all require confidence in how to act and safely. While time enjoying water at splash pads is excellent for development, it should not be used as an alternative to swimming lessons.
Water park accessibility covers a few aspects. When we think of accessibility the first thing that comes to mind is disability access- are there ramps or lifts versus stairs, but accessibility also includes location and cost. Major aquatic water parks require a large parcel of available land and have an entry fee, both of which can be out of reach for lower socio-economic members of society. But why should they miss out on the benefits of water activity, wellbeing, and connection?
The installation of standalone splash pads (or combined with other recreational activities like skate parks) requires much less available land than a traditional swimming pool or full aquatic centre complex therefore making it possible to be more centrally or appropriately located. Furthermore, because professional supervision isn’t required and water features and fountains are activated on demand, it is accessible to all socio-economic status’ in the community in part thanks to no admittance fee.
The on-demand functions of the water jets and fountains save money in chemical dosing and reduce the demand for water treatment making them more attractive to local councils and private sector operators. All our splash pads operate filtration and chemical dosing inline with the relevant health department of installation.
Once upon a time, traditional playgrounds didn’t provide any shade or shelter over the play equipment. This would often make the metal components incredibly hot to the point of minor burns on sunny days and peak summertime activity. Due to greater understanding around sun protection, many playgrounds do now have either full or partial sun protection in the form of shade sails and trees. Before these additions, playgrounds often couldn’t be utilised year-round.
Splash pads have always included shading since they are most used in the summertime as a way to cool down, and when users are wearing swimwear that may leave some skin bare. The usability of splash pads year-round, while may sound daft, is limited only by the imagination. Due to the user activation nature of the water features and fountains, the area can still be a playground even when the water functions aren’t in action. Like our installation at Cowell, there is equipment to play with- hoops to run through, patterns on the ground to follow and textured objects that still work even without water.
Splash pads offer benefits to all, from access (physically and financially) for users, to chemical and water treatment cost reduction and labour requirements for all sites. They have the ability to be year-round playgrounds, possibly having greater annual function and usability than traditional playgrounds, plus can act to boost tourism in regional locations. If you are interested in installing a splash pad in your community, and to check out some of our previous installations, visit the Splash Pad page on our website.
Crosser, Sandra. “Making the most of water play.” Young Children 49 (1994): 28-28.
St Nicholas Early Education 2022, The Benefits of Water Play for Children’s Development, accessed 27 April 2023