Guest Column - November 2010
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Splash Play Areas

Getting Value From Splash Play

By Talar Ozcanian


Fun for All!

Since aquatic amenities for all age groups are in greater demand, having something to offer both children and adults is a definite priority. Age-appropriate play is an important design aspect for parks and recreation facilities. To meet and exceed various citizens' needs, park and recreation directors may consider having distinct activity bay areas within an installation.

For instance, a toddler bay offers an environment with soft, non-intimidating water effects. This allows young children to engage in cognitive development, motor skill development, sensory discovery and socialization through interaction and object play. Infants and preschoolers are introduced to vibrant colors, stimulating textures and various water shapes that invigorate users as they enjoy the experience of free play. This is also a safe setting, which encourages enhanced development. Children can then learn by openly and assertively interacting with their environment without fear—a key element in self-development.

Water play is incorporated with object maneuverability and cause-and-effect manipulability. Children interact with their environment by activating and rotating play products and by engaging with the different jet-stream product features. Automation starts with a hand- or foot-activated device that allows children to operate the various spray sequences. The controller then takes over to distribute water to the different features, allowing ground sprays, water effects and play products to optimize their play time. These vertical play products and ground sprays operating at different times and locations generate interest and interactivity within the splashpad zones.

Moreover, children benefit immensely from cooperative play in the development of emotional regulation. As social creatures, the playground provides an environment for children to learn societal rules that govern culture. They learn to regulate their behavior for the sake of maintaining the play atmosphere.

A second bay, for example a teen bay, offers various aquatic products such as water cannons, that will encourage team water battles or perhaps individual duos. This area allows the most energetic users to engage in high-intensity activities, and the interaction with these water features develops knowledge-reasoning, perception and intuition skills. In addition, these features also promote collaborative and interactive play, while helping to develop physical and social skills and contributing positively to a participant's aerobic capacity, muscular strength and agility reflexes. Overall, this environment promotes interaction between users, learning-recognition values, social roles and collaboration.

The last group-area, considered to be the ultimate site for interaction amongst all age groups, is where social benefits are innumerable for adults and children alike. The family bay strengthens family ties, fosters new relationships and rekindles old friendships. This area is typically configured for cross-generational activities between parents and children. Parents play an important role in emotional regulation. For instance, when a father and son engage in rough and tumble play, research shows the child will possess superior regulation of aggression.

Overall, aquatic play products—with their distinctive designs and independent play and skill development features—allow users to move freely and join in on the fun. Most of these recreational offerings and facilities are universally accessible and offer a range of users an equal opportunity for engagement. The majority of aquatic products are designed to meet or exceed the American with Disabilities Act (ADA).

When cities progressively enhance their communities' image, they demonstrate powerful statements. The ones that constantly work on improving the lives of their citizens show the community that they are actively involved in their comfort and well being. Aquatic facilities are the ideal tool for bringing a community together while promoting the value of water play.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Talar Ozcanian is a marketing and communications agent for Vortex Aquatic Structures International. For more information, visit www.vortex-intl.com.