For a kid on a hot summer day, there are few things more irresistible than the sight of spraying water. Many of us grew up playing with a garden hose in the backyard, soaking ourselves and our friends in goose bump-inducing water from an outdoor spigot. Now a growing number of very lucky children enjoy their own backyard splash pads.
You heard that right – a permanent, water park-style splash pad in your own backyard. Kids have it so much better these days, don’t they?
While splash parks have been around for many years in public areas, residential splash pads are a relatively new phenomenon. What’s behind this spurt in popularity? Probably the fact that, for parents of young children, they offer a cheaper, safer, and smaller alternative to an inground swimming pool.
By the way, all those same qualities also make splash pads an attractive addition to a pool. Much like a hot tub/spa offers an additional diversion for the grownups, a splash pad is the ultimate way to top off a poolscape for the kiddos.
Pros and Cons
For a young kid, the only advantage of a splash pad that’s worth talking about is the fact that it’s screaming good fun. However, the adults are more likely to key in on three major points:
Cost. The price tag for both a splash pad and a pool can vary a lot depending on materials and other details. However, it’s safe to say that a splash pad (or mini splash park) is much cheaper to install and maintain than an inground pool. Splash pad kits also allow many homeowners to tackle installation themselves, saving money that would go to a professional pool installer.
Safety. Splash pads generally have less than an inch of standing water at any time, so the chance of accidental drowning is virtually nil. Statistics show the children most at risk of drowning are between the ages of one and three – exactly the age group that splash pads are designed to appeal to.
Size. While a pool tends to dominate a backyard, splash pads can be as big or as small as you like. They can blend into a yard, patio, or pool deck with ease. In fact, with the right design they can be downright inconspicuous when not in use.
The downside of residential splash pads? They’re pretty much exclusively for children, and young children at that. For daycares and grandparents blessed with an endless supply of youngsters to entertain, a splash pad promises to be a solid investment in the years to come. Other homeowners should ask themselves whether they will get their money’s worth as the kids grow up.
Adding a Splash Pad to Your Poolscape
While there’s a tendency to talk about splash pads as an alternative to pools, there’s nothing preventing the two from coexisting side-by-side. In fact, such a setup offers some noteworthy advantages.
For one thing, a splash pad and pool can share a water circulation system. Standalone splash pads are often “drain away” systems that run off of municipal water (the same bone-chilling stuff that comes from the hose). Sure, you can install a splash pad with its own tank and circulation system, and even a heater. But at that point, getting a package deal with a splash pad and pool starts to make a lot of sense.
The safety advantages of splash pads also apply here. At first this might seem counterintuitive because you still have the pool and all the dangers it presents. However, with a splash pad dazzling the little ones with its shooting jets of water, they’re likely to be less interested in the pool. In any case, it gives them something to do when you can’t devote your full attention to supervising them.
Finally, in terms of aesthetics, a splash pad looks right at home next to a swimming pool. The fountains can be built into the pool deck, creating an attractive water feature. You can even go all out with colorful LED lighting.
To Splash or Not to Splash?Before spending thousands on something your kids or grandkids will eventually outgrow, you should consider the alternatives. There are plenty of backyard water toys and play sets that are cheaper and easier to assemble than a splash pad. They may not be as durable or attractive, but they do the job – which is to keep the kids squealing with delight on a hot summer day.
If you have a pool, then there are even more options to keep the little ones busy. The kiddie pool floats available these days are pretty amazing. You could also consider installing a slide or attached kiddie pool.
Of course, none of those alternatives completely replace what a splash pad has to offer. It’s the unique combination of looks, safety, affordability, and kiddie “wow” factor that’s made residential splash pads a thing. The future will tell whether they continue to make a splash, or trickle down the drain like so many other trends.