Kids of all ages like to play so what opportunities are there for kids who are truly kids to play in water? The simplest form of interactive play with water is the ubiquitous puddle. A kid with a puddle of rain water will stomp, splash and play until they are happily soaked and their parents are typically unhappy. This very basic play element of discovery is a powerful force for play and learning. If I stomp on a puddle of water, how far will it splash? What happens if I push the water around with a boot? Can I get other people wet?
Discovery is the foundation for active play for kids interacting with water. Dynamic moving water with various forms and functions will fascinate children and draw them into experiencing water elements. For many kids, the idea and sense of just getting wet is exhilarating. Beyond that they learn to interrupt the dynamic water stream, spray water in various directions, and learn that by stopping water flow from one nozzle, the water flow from other nozzles increases in volume and height.
The majority of these basic discovery aquatic features are fairly inexpensive with many being embedded spray features in wet decks or zero depth entry areas of pools. This discovery of water for the youngest kids is provided in a safe environment where the water depth typically ranges from zero to eighteen inches. As they learn and discover their way through these simplest aquatic features, their attention turns to larger and more complex aquatic play features. Larger stand-alone play features integrate above grade structure with one or more water effects and theming. This raises the bar for play as kids now experience the water activity from a visual, dynamic, and hands on perspective.
The increasingly complex discovery play experience for kids then graduates to the multi-level play structure which becomes a centerpiece of aquatic attractions all bundled into one large play structure platform. These play structures can be almost intimidating to young kids due to their size and abundant water features. Still, the ever present spirit of discovery leads these kids to enter into the structure and learn all of the features that it contains and what a path of discovery that can be! Valves, levers, pull ropes, water guns, tipping troughs, net climbs, waterslides, and the industry favorite overhead tipping dump bucket! The path of discovery leads them throughout the play structure and the variety of water play activities holds their attention.
There are a number of aquatic play feature and play structure manufacturers which have similarities and differences between their products. The amount of choices available for play features increases every year with different styles and proprietary features created for the aquatics industry. Theming options abound and can easily influence the overall look of the aquatic facility. This can range from a very neutral, earthy, natural feel to a very specific theme like agricultural, aviation, or tropical.
The kid in all of us continues to discover and learn as we experience life. Introducing aquatics to young kids is an enjoyable experience to observe as the joy and fascination of discovery is best viewed through a child’s eyes.