Splash pads are a great way to make aquatic play accessible. Even though splash pads may be accessible to those with differing abilities, this does not make them fully inclusive inherently. Designing bigger and more exciting splash pads does not necessarily make a splash pad more inclusive. In fact, bigger and more exciting often adds barriers for some individuals. Designing for inclusion requires extra consideration in the design process, but typically very little consideration for extra budget or maintenance.
Splash pads should be designed as an aquatic play environment comprised of features that maximize the sensory and cognitive stimulation for children of all physical and mental abilities and is designed to encourage all children to play together and with the same features. Play features that are wheelchair height accessible and adequate turn-around space between elements are important aspects to consider in design. Other considerations should be made for how children with autism or other sensory differences may approach such a space: is there a balance between intense and more gentle water play? How will the various sounds and sights affect those playing in this space?
From the design of the splash pad feature, to the methods of accessing the site, be conscious of barriers to access and address them early in the design process. For instance, assure that there are adequate handicapped parking spaces and that the path from parking to the splash pad location does not contain any obstacles.
All splash pads should be developed utilizing a rule of thumb for one child every 25 square feet of active water spray. Splash pads are an excellent opportunity for park agencies to develop safe play areas that encourage people of differing ages and abilities to experience water play.
To learn more about Splash Pad products, visit the Aquatix website.
We’re excited to announce that the Kiwanis Club of Barron, Wisconsin is the winner in the 6th Annual Legacy of Play contest. The club, which will receive $25,000 in playground equipment, plans to build an accessible and inclusive playground in Anderson Park to provide a safe and fun opportunity for all kids of the community to play together and be themselves.
Located in Northwestern Wisconsin, Barron is a rural city with a special needs community of children that make up 20% of the child population and over 50% of children qualifying for free or reduced lunch. It is important to the city of Barron to create a park for the community that children can enjoy regardless of their physical and mental ability or socio-economic status. The City of Barron and the Barron Kiwanis Club are excited to collaborate on this special project, and we’re excited to see this inclusive playground vision come to life over the next year, as well!
Planning a playground requires consideration for children of allabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires all playgrounds to be brought into compliance. Since the ADA requirements have come out, the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) have provided written guidelines for accessibility compliance. ASTM F1487-05 Standard is a document that provides specific playground/play equipment accessibility guidance.
The Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board has also authored a guideline that is the standard of practice for determining compliance with the ADA.
Legally, the ADA requires that “each service, program, or activity conducted by a public entity when viewed in its entirety, be readily accessible to, and usable by, individuals with disabilities.” This law covers “both indoor and outdoor areas where human constructed improvements, structures, equipment or property have been added to the natural environment.”
Accessibility law only requires that comparable experiences must be provided for all. If there are several slides and two or more swings, it is considered accessible if children with disabilities can use one of the slides and one of the swings. To learn more about the difference between accessibility and inclusivity,click here.
Aside from the regulations put forth that determine how to design an accessible playground for children of varying mobilities, there are many actions a planner should take to ensure their structure is truly inclusive. Inclusivity on a playground can be witnessed when children of all abilities can play together and participate equally- not separately and on their own. A well-designed playground incorporates the aspects of inclusive play to blend seamlessly.
Welcome back to the second installment of our educational series on how to create a community splash pad! The last post focused on items to be accomplished in the pre-planning stage. This week we will be focusing on the goals of the splash pad and its development.
By creating a list of goals, planners and decision makers can refer to the objectives they set in the beginning to re-evaluate their choices to ensure they meet the goals they originally set out with. The goal of a Master Plan is to provide community residents exceptional open space, park land, facilities and programs to splash pad users.
The following goals and objectives are intended to provide an operational framework for future decisions related to provision of parks and recreation.
Create a Sense of Community and Belonging
Offer programming that is targeted to families and those residents without support services.
Celebrate the community through participation in festivals, community functions and events.
Support and encourage new developments to include areas for active and passive recreation.
Provide parks and recreation facilities that are of the highest quality, that preserve open space and history, are well maintained and that are accessible to all residents of the community.
To create a community of healthy residents by providing opportunities that promote and encourage active lifestyles.
Provide recreation programming and facility opportunities that meet the needs and interests of the entire community.
To use existing community resources efficiently and to demonstrate fiscal responsibility.
To build a city-wide system of parks connected by trails and greenways to provide both active and passive recreation opportunities.
To enhance the landscape character and aesthetics of parks to heighten the experience of the spray park user.
To increase the accessory services and facilities available to the park system use in the way of adequate restrooms, water fountains, concessions, shades areas, playgrounds, and other accessory services or facilities.
Clearly define the goals of the project (i.e. public health, revenue generation, community asset, etc.) and frame public discussions, budget numbers and designs in terms of stated goals.
Design the splash pad so that capacity aligns with projected use and revenue goals. Don’t cap users at a much lower number than the official capacity of their splash pad for safety.
Ensure access issues such as parking are considered early in the design process.
Plan for expansion and new features (i.e. install more ground sprays than will initially be used and buy water features that can be replaced or exchanged).
Explore opportunities to develop splash pads near other public amenities such as parks, pools, picnic areas and community centers.
Ensure adequate seating in shaded areas for adults supervising splash pad users.
Install mechanical and electrical equipment on concrete surfaces and insulated from dust and dirt.
Important considerations during the planning process:
Within Park or Recreation District
Proximity to similar neighboring facilities
2. Location and Availability of Parking
Is there sufficient parking?
Is there van or bus parking?
Is the parking shared with other activities?
3. Location and Availability of Restrooms and Concessions
Are restrooms included?
Are changing areas included?
4. Existing Utility Services (Water, Sanitary, Storm and Electrical)
Are existing utilities on site or nearby?
5. Nearby Amenities and Facilities (Playground, Athletic Fields, Mini Golf, Courts, etc.)
Are there nearby facilities that will complement the sprayground? Or negatively impact the sprayground?
6. Neighborhood Connectivity, Bicycle Routes
Connectivity to nearby regional bicycle or multi-use trail systems.
To learn more about Aquatix splash pad and water play products, visit their website.
A well-rounded playground is not complete without the addition of sensory play elements. Sensory play adds valuable play experiences to a playground through beneficial opportunities for learning and socializing. Proper sensory play can help children develop problem solving skills, express emotion, promote empathy, and instills lasting confidence. Not all sensory play is created equally- playground planners should ensure that their sensory play equipment is inclusive to children of all abilities, both physical and mental.
Many children living with sensory processing disorders or autism may find socializing, communication, and imaginative play challenging without the proper support. Through sensory play, these children can feel included to explore and discover new experiences without fear or exclusion.
Landscape Structures Inc. offers a variety of sensory play equipment for every project:
Introducing: The Curva® and Chill™ Spinners! These new play pieces from Landscape Structures Inc. are bound to add a twist of vestibular fun to any play project.
The Curva® Spinner allows for one or multiple riders on each spinner. The spinning motion allows children to experiment with centrifugal force and learn about cause and effect in the way they use their bodies to engage in movement. The unique design adds a custom, designer look to any space and is available in any of the ProShield® colors or stainless steel.
The Chill™ Spinner has all the spinning fun of the Curva® Spinner, with a more relaxed design feature. The comfortable seat accommodates players who require or desire a little more support and comfort when taking part in the spinning fun. Textured rubber belting adds to the secure and relaxed feel. Users can control the movement themselves or have another player spin for them. The Chill™ Spinner is also available in any of the ProShield® colors or stainless steel.
Both products are ideal for players age 5 to 12 years old and promote freestanding play and developmental benefits such as balance, problem solving, proprioception and vestibular experiences.
May 1st kicks off National Water Safety Month 2019! As temperatures climb in many parts of the world, participation in water play increases exponentially. Splash pads, water parks, and pools are a great option to cool down while developing key skills through play. In order to partake in these activities safely, check out these tips from the American Red Cross:
Swim in designated areas supervised by lifeguards
Always swim with a buddy
If you go boating, wear a life jacket
Install and use barriers around your home pool or hot tub
Actively supervise children whenever around the water
Always stay within arm’s reach of young children and avoid distractions
Keep toys not in use away from the water and out of sight
Reach or throw aid to distressed swimmers; don’t go
Additional resources for water safety learning can be found through
It’s National Playground Safety Week, and there’s no better time to read up on some of the most important aspects of playground safety: audits and maintenance! Understanding the difference and the components of the two can help you create a safe, up to date play space for all ages and abilities!
Check us out on playlsi.com to read more about staying safe on the playground!
Planning a community splash pad can be an intimidating process. There are many aspects to consider in order to make the investment a success. In this series, we will be offering guidance on what to expect, steps to take, and elements to consider during the planning process!
There are many benefits to investing in a community splash pad. One of the long-term benefits is the revenue that residents and non-residents bring into the community along with the added appeal of living in that area. Attracting people means attracting money and patronage to the community. Patrons eat at restaurants, go to movies, buy gas, and go shopping whether they are living there or visiting. Adding to inclusive play opportunities for children is another important benefit. People who are looking for inclusive areas that are built with their children in mind can appreciate design intended for their kids’ physical and mental needs. Inclusive water play may be one of the only public areas that caters to all ages and abilities. Overall, splash pads can benefit a community both socially and economically.
Progressive cities should develop a coordinated system of parks and open space to meet the recreation aspects of urban life. This system, when properly planned, will maintain a consistent ratio between the park system and the developing population. The system will also develop a program consistent with the specific needs of the population. Finally, the system will develop a plan for future development to meet the demands of a growing population.
During the planning and development phase public officials should have an in depth knowledge of the communities needs based on resources, age demographics, future community growth, maintenance capabilities, expansion, location and funding. This should be accomplished based on past history and future expectations.
History of the Park & Recreation Department: The first section of a plan gives the community a historical context in which to view the department and provides details as to how and why city leaders determined the need and created the department. This section is relevant to the plan because it allows the plan user and community to discover the progress which has already been made in parks and recreation in the city.
Introduction to a Master Plan: This section briefly describes that many progressive cities adopt coordinated parks system plans and explains the purposes of the plan. The section provides a preview of the contents of the overall master plan. Plus, it will define the overall park system by type and size facility. It will then project future needs both in terms of land and physical fixtures. Finally, it will provide a basis for a long-range capital improvements program, and provide for flexibility in the design and construction of individual parks.
Analysis of the City: A section detailing information on demographics, projected population, and observed needs of the city’s existing and future population. This is an important section of the plan because it details who will be utilizing the splash pad in the future and what their recreational needs may be.
Profile of the Existing Parks and Recreation System: This section details the size, location, and facilities of each park, and all programs currently sponsored by local sports associations as well as the parks department. This section is important to the plan in that it provides information in which a sort of “state of the system” or status of the parks system may be ascertained.
These sections provide a complete overview of the scope of a recreation facility project such as a splash pad and can be referenced by all those involved for a more cohesive understanding of the details of the project.
Stay tuned for the next installment of in our series about creating a community splash pad!