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Guest Column - November 2010

Splash Play Areas

Getting Value From Splash Play

By Talar Ozcanian


While almost all types of play have been said to provide meaningful benefits, outdoor play has been singled out as particularly valuable. The unique characteristics of water play help set it apart as a type of play that offers important opportunities for growth and engagement with the world. When kids and adults alike play with water, they have a multi-sensory experience—one that often allows for teamwork and interaction, discovery and learning, as well as exercise to increase physical fitness and agility.

One of the cultural challenges in the United States right now is the "nature deficit," a term coined by author Richard Louv. This idea is gaining popularity and support, with research suggesting that modules in our brain are devoted to the living world and possibly biophilia (an innate human need for natural interaction). This is compounded by a deprivation of the amount of time and quality of play for today's growing children. Interactive, stimulating and safe play in a natural setting provides the ultimate play experience, offering pleasurable experiences for children while ensuring full development, mastery and self-efficacy.

Currently, splash play areas have become a big trend in small towns, residential areas and communities. These new aquatic facilities attract children and parents alike. They are places of gathering and energize environments by bringing a sense of belonging to the community. Updated park and recreation facilities are more than just great spaces, they represent a community coming together to reclaim its neighborhood.

Built-in Value of Play

Aquatic amenities like splashpads are designed to be a source of fun and include a greater value of play than many traditional facilities. Today's products promote more cooperative teamwork and facilitate interaction between different age groups. They also incorporate the benefits of communal play and promote physical, social, emotional, psychological and developmental well-being. Play facilitates the enhancement of all these capacities by engaging the person holistically.

When it comes to water play, kids aren't only splashing. This type of water experience fosters learning in all developmental areas. It provides opportunities for children to strengthen physical skills, social and emotional skills, and enhance language development.

When children manipulate various water play materials, they begin to understand why and how things occur. For instance, given sinking and floating objects, a child will soon discover that just because something is large in size does not mean it will sink.

In addition, water play is considered to be one of the most relaxing activities children can experience. Water play activities relieve tension by encouraging children to release their emotions with pouring, pounding and swooshing. Furthermore, social skills expand as children play cooperatively, negotiate, and share equipment, space and materials.

Furthermore, water encourages children to use their imagination and creativity. As children play, they often pretend to live in a castle or work at a car wash. It also encourages children to try out new ideas and solutions to problems in a safe environment.

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