Of all of the places I’ve taken the kids in the last 5 years, water parks rank at the top for the most stressful. It’s like they were invented to give moms anxiety. When I was a kid, nothing was better than going to an amusement park in my bathing suit and playing in the water all day long at the water park section. Now, not so much.
Now that we’ve been to several water parks and my town’s splash park, I am starting to feel SLIGHTLY more comfortable and thought I would share some of my water park tips with you.
First, Why Water Parks Bring Out My Inner Helicopter Mom
Usually I can suppress my helicopter mom instincts in favor of letting my kids explore and learn, but water parks scare the crap out of me for several reasons.
- I’m scared to death of my kids drowning.
- Water parks make me acutely aware that I am virtually powerless in keeping my kids safe by being right beside them at all times.
They run in opposite directions. I can’t catch up and keep my eyes on both kids at the same time. So I end up being the crazy mom yelling, “Joey! Don’t Run!” No one else at the water park is screaming at their kids. It feels like I’m the only frantic one.
Then there are the tunnels in the kiddie splash areas. Did they invent them to give Mom’s heart attacks? I stand in the water watching them- they crawl through the tunnel, then I have to race around to the other side to make sure they come out and don’t disappear. Of course, they think this is hilarious and then both enter the tunnel from opposite sides. As I try to keep eyes on them I get pelted directly in the eyes by a water cannon.
There are other moms just sitting in the lounge chairs, but I can’t bring myself to trust my kids to not disappear, drown, or get kidnapped. I know that sounds crazy, I can’t help it. I think it was an article I read online about secondary drowning where kids got a small splash of water in their lungs and drowned in their sleep during a nap. Now every time my kids come up coughing I secretly freak out on the inside.
Now that you know I’m officially crazy- here are some tips to keep yourself sane.
Tips to Enjoy A Day At The Water Park
- Bring a waterproof backpack- Backpacks make it easier to carry stuff and keep it dry.
- Make sure everyone wears swimsuits and water shoes to the water park. That includes you. Changing there isn’t really all that fun or easy.
- Pack dry clothes, towels, and plenty of snacks and water. Just like at most amusement parks, snacks are expensive and all of that playing in the water makes kids hungry fast! If you’re not sure if it’s OK to bring in outside food- check with the park ahead of time, or put them in hidden compartments or at the bottom of your backpack. They check bags at the gate- but they aren’t looking for hidden snacks- just, you know, weapons and dangerous stuff like that. Sometimes we also pack a cooler and leave it in the car.
- Honestly, I prefer to bring one adult per child and sometimes an extra adult. BUT if you must take your kids to the pool or water park without extra supervision, teach them the buddy system. They must know where the other one is at all times and check in with you regularly. It is exhausting being on “high alert” all day, so maybe take turns supervising so you can get a break.
- I think it’s pretty self explanatory, but don’t forget the sunscreen. It’s easiest to apply to the kids while naked so you don’t miss any spots. Then reapply throughout the day. The reflection of the sun off the water will make you burn faster and, even waterproof sunscreen doesn’t last forever.
- Most water parks recommend life jackets, and provide them on stands throughout the park. They are a must, especially if your kids can’t swim yet. If you ride Hubba Hubba Highway at Water Country USA in Williamsburg, VA- Make sure you also have a life jacket on! That sucker is no lazy river- it moves fast and there are no tubes to sit in.
Keeping these few things in mind will help you enjoy your day.
More Tips for Keeping Your Kids Healthy and Safe During a Water Park Visit
Spraygrounds, splash pads and water parks are a fabulous, fun way to spend time outside in the summer with your kids or for a change of pace in the winter at an indoor water park.
A few years ago, my town opened a Splash Park and it’s an awesome, inexpensive way to cool off! I’ve heard talk though about reputations different splash parks had for being “dirty” or their kids getting sick. Others shared similar concerns about visiting water parks, especially indoor ones. So, I started researching how I could keep my kids safe.
Most of the time, the community pools and splash pads are doing everything they can to treat the water and keep your kids safe, but sometimes even chlorine doesn’t kill germs on contact. Even the best maintained facilities can spread sickness because some germs, like Crypto, are resistant to chlorine and can live in a pool for days. Plus, if there’s pee in the water, it will weaken the effectiveness of chlorine to kill germs. That’s why teaching your kids healthy water habits and maintaining basic sanitation can make a huge difference in keeping them, and others, from getting sick.
WHAT TO TEACH YOUR KIDS ABOUT SANITATION AT A WATER PARK
- Teach your kids to never get water in their mouth or swallow the water at a community pool, splash pad, or water park.
- Take bathroom breaks every 60 minutes to prevent accidents.
- Use swim diapers and change them every 30 to 60 minutes.
- Never change diapers beside the pool. Make sure you change diapers in the restroom, dispose of them properly, and wash your hands when you’re finished.
- Don’t let your kids sit on the water jets.
- Don’t swim or take your kids to a splash pad if they have diarrhea, especially if they wear diapers.
- Make sure your kids are clean, especially their bottoms, with soap and water before swimming or splashing.
If you want to be extra safe and prevent Recreational Water Illness, you can purchase water test strips at your local hardware store and visit the CDC’s website for information about the Three A’s of Healthy Swimming and recommendations about proper chlorine levels.
More Facts About Recreational Water Illness
The most commonly reported Recreational Water Illness is diarrhea caused by germs such as Crypto (Cryptosporidium), Giardia, Shigella, norovirus or E. Coli. (links to CDC information about these germs).
According to the CDC, in the past 2 decades, there has been a substantial increase in the number of RWI outbreaks from swimming. Swallowing water that has been contaminated with feces containing germs can cause diarrheal illness.
- Just one person with diarrhea can easily contaminate a large pool or waterpark.
- Swim diapers are not leak proof and do not prevent germs from leaking into and contaminating the water.
- Germs can also get into the water by washing off our bodies.
I don’t want to be a Debby downer and ruin the fun for anyone. We’re still going to go to keep going to the water park. But I found these tips really helpful to do my part to help keep my kids from getting sick (or causing others to get sick) and I thought they were worth sharing.