Ahhhh, the splash pad. Like most young children, my kids love the splash pad. It is pretty much an Arizona childhood tradition to spend a hot afternoon cooling down with springs of water shooting all over the place. No little kid can resist an opportunity to get wet and dump water everywhere to their heart’s content. But the first time I took my son to the splash pad, I felt overwhelmed. It was crowded, I forgot a towel and we lost my son’s favorite bath toy. Even though we still had fun, I knew I would do a few things differently the next time around. Now that I have a few seasons of the splash pad under my belt, I’ve come up with a few tips that make a trip to the splash pad a bit easier.
- Put on swimsuits and sunscreen at home. Trying to get wiggly and excited toddlers dressed 5 feet away from the fountains is near impossible. It is so much easier to get the kids ready to go and slathered in sunscreen when they are contained in your own house. Even if you have a little one still in diapers, do the bulk of the work at home and change into a swim diaper as soon as you arrive.
- Consider the clock. If you plan to take your kids to play around at 11 am on a hot Friday morning, expect a crowd. I’ve found the splash pad tends to be much less crowded in the late afternoon than morning. There is no right or wrong time to go, but make sure you have an adequate adult to kid ratio on a busy day.
- Invest in a long-sleeved sun shirt or rash guard. I love these things. They protect your kids from the sun and save you time and frustration trying to coat the bulk of your little ones in SPF. Try to find a bright colored one because it will help you easily spot your own child from the sidelines. Target has some very cute ones that aren’t very expensive.
- Take along disposable “toys.” You know the giant bucket of outdoor toys you recently purchased for your kiddos at Costco? Leave them at home. Even if you spend time labeling each item with your last name, chances are you won’t end up bringing everything home. Toys tend to be a free-for-all at the splash pad and there is nothing worse than asking a 2 year old you’ve never seen before to hand over your child’s watering can on your way to the car. Cleaned-out containers straight from the recycling bin make perfect splash pad toys. Punch holes in the bottom of a milk jug, bring along a yogurt container or the water cup you got that morning at Starbucks. Really anything that will hold water will be a hit and then you can toss them in the recycling when you get home if you are able to locate them when it is time to leave. Or just leave them behind for other kids to enjoy.
- Don’t expect to be there for two hours. My kids love the splash pad experience, but I can usually tell after 30 minutes or so they are ready to go. Even on a perfect day, their lips start chattering quicker than expected. If your kids last an hour or more, great! But don’t plan to sit on the comfy outdoor lounge chairs and catch-up with your mom-friends for an extended period of time. The second the kids start spending more time out of the water than in, it is probably time to take off.
- Dry off and change into dry clothes in the car. Some splash pads have security guards who encourage parents to head to the restrooms to change their kids into dry clothes. While that is an option, I personally prefer getting my kids into dry clothes in the back of my SUV. They are contained and not running around naked for other strangers to see. I usually wrap my kids up in towels and sit them in the stroller with a snack to get them back to the car without any protest.
- Don’t forget to bring the essentials. Swimsuits, sunscreen, swim diapers, water shoes, sun hats, towels, water and a plastic bag to transport wet items home. And snacks. Never leave home without snacks.
Click here to read through a few of our favorite Scottsdale splash pads. Do you have any other tips to keep your sanity at the splash pad?