When the temperatures warm up, people tend to go inside. But kids, teens, and adults still need their exercise! Fortunately, there are solutions to help beat the heat and still get outside, and they are splash pads and spray parks. Let’s check out these trendy outdoor play spaces that are growing in popularity.

What Are Splash Pads & Spray Parks?

A splash pad is a fun and exciting area in public places where nozzles in the ground spray water from a deck, landing on an open surface. The best part about splash pads is that they provide all the fun of water play for kids without the risk of drowning or injury. This reduces the need for lifeguards that you usually find in a pool or swimming area!

Spray parks are bigger outdoor spaces with different equipment, ranging from cannons, spinners, jets, and nozzles. Children of all ages can play individually, with their peers, or with their families. Splash pads are commonly found within spray parks, including ones with added features like showers in fun shapes such as mushrooms or movable nozzles that spray water like fire hoses. Despite being a relatively new phenomenon in outdoor playgrounds and parks, splash pads and spray parks pop up everywhere because they’re safe, engaging, and more novel than a typical park or playground. 

Are They Different Than Water Parks?

You may think splash pads or spray parks are the same as water parks, but not quite.  A water park is an amusement park that features numerous kinds of water play like swimming pools, giant water slides, lazy rivers, wave pools, flow riders, and sometimes splash pads themselves. Water parks always have lifeguards and even offer non-water-based entertainment, like food courts and gazebos. They’re also typically much larger than a splash pad or spray park and necessitate a larger budget, longer timeline, more equipment, and a larger crew. Another difference is that almost all water parks charge customers a fee to enter, which splash pads and spray parks typically don’t. If they do, the price is nominal in comparison. 

That’s part of why splash pads and spray parks are so appealing. They’re quicker and more budget-friendly to build than a full-on water park, and in some cases, you can add a splash pad to your existing outdoor space.

Benefits of Spray Parks

Just because splash pads and spray parks aren’t as lavish as water parks doesn’t mean they don’t offer many benefits to your community. For starters, water play provides people of all ages with visual excitement, adventure, and imaginative fun, while also providing a place to cool off. That matters because a lot of kids, teens, and adults will avoid exercise because it’s not comfortable and makes them sweat. 

Other benefits of spray parks and splash pads include: 

They appeal to a kid’s sense of whimsy. From in-ground water equipment that sprays a surprise shot into the air to customized theme-based play features, you have many ways to ensure that the play area appeals to every child. When adding whimsical features, remember that the surface of the splash pad should be just as exciting as the equipment and sprinklers.

They’re sustainable. In the past, spray parks were a significant expense for communities due to rising utility costs, and the increased water usage was bad for the environment. Now, you have new options incorporating Variable Frequency Design technology, giving you more control over how you use natural resources. With this design, sensors track the location and activities in which the participants are engaged. When movement stops in one area, so will the water so that none is wasted on an empty play area.

They’re fun but challenging. While sprinklers are one of the primary features of every splash pad or spray park, adding a few challenges increases the cool factor. For instance, kids will love conquering their fears as they tackle a water slide. Alternatively, you could install water shooters that encourage kids to try out their aim. Either way, remember to include challenges that fit children of all different ages and abilities. Multigenerational playgrounds that encourage diverse play help to bring communities together in exciting ways.

They encourage safety and family interaction. Because lifeguards don’t staff the majority of splash pads or spray parks, you want to ensure every adult stays involved with their kids. Keeping kids safe at the spray park is a community effort, and you want to make sure that parents and other caregivers remain within arm’s reach. Consider adding a shaded seating area where parents can choose to stay dry if they need to but are still close enough to keep a watchful eye. For younger babies who need to stay cool, shades also allow parents to tend to the youngest members of their family while the older kids burn off some energy.

How to Design a Splash Pad

Every playground designer should look at kids’ splash pads and spray parks as a unique and popular way to have a successful outdoor play experience or playground. So how do you go about designing one? 

Surfacing is perhaps the most critical aspect to consider when it comes to a splash pad or spray park. Wet floors and bare feet are a recipe for injury, but not if you have high-quality aquatic safety surfacing. At MRC Recreation, we always recommend Life Floor when we install equipment at spray parks or splash pads. It’s a foam rubber flooring tile specifically designed for wet surfaces, meaning it’s slip-resistant and impact-absorbing. It is also easy to clean to ward off germs and comes in an array of colors so you can match the theme of your splash pad or spray park. 

Here’s what else you need to know about designing a splash pad or spray park:

  • Determine if it will be a stand-alone splash pad or spray park or if you’re adding it to an existing municipal park, campground, recreational center, or outdoor space. 
  • Consider different high-quality, safe equipment you can add to your splash pad or spray park. 
  • Research what type of water to use and how to keep it clean with recirculation systems and rain diverter valves. 
  • Work with an expert to help your vision become a reality! 

At MRC, we can help with that last one. We work closely with over 20 manufacturers that give us a wide range of products made from superior materials, comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and can fit any budget. We’re a fantastic resource for anyone looking to build a water oasis.


Download the The Complete Playground Safety Surfacing Guide