Today begins a new school year. And although my grandsons are excited to start kindergarten, we can’t help mourning the seasonal closing of many local public swimming pools. With temperatures hovering above a hundred degrees, it still feels like midsummer outside. What to do with kids who need some outdoor time but can’t feel enthusiastic about exercise? In Dallas the answer is, visit a public splash park.
Actually, they’re called spraygrounds -- those soft-surfaced playgrounds squirting water from hoops and flooring or dripping from overhead shower heads, buckets and an amazing variety of gizmos.
Kids love them. And because there’s no standing water, the spraygrounds can stay open without lifeguards on duty. A boon now that most lifeguards themselves are returning to school.
This doesn’t mean sprayground users can ignore routine safety precautions. Sprayground water in them is chlorinated but recirculated -- no safer to drink than swimming pool water, tempting though a sip from a spurting fountain may be. There may also be danger of slipping, especially at concrete edges of the spraygrounds. And adults in charge of children need to follow the usual precautions against excess sun exposure.
In Texas, we fear the sun, but this week’s Parade magazine states that 70 percent of children do not get the vitamin D they need for heart and bone health. Its suggestion -- letting them play outside for ten minutes without sunscreen. Notice, that’s ten minutes, not several hours.
Dallas’s spraygrounds will remain open from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. daily through Labor Day, September 5. They’re located at the Campbell Green, Danieldale, Lake Highlands North, Mildred Dunn, Pemberton Hill, Ridgewood, and Umphress recreation centers. See www.dallasparks.org for addresses. And search www.parade.com “back-to-school kids’ health quiz” for information on vitamin D and other health issues for children.
(Next Monday -- I promised to write about the beautiful Fountain Place but stuff came up. It happens next week, with information on how to get there while staying cool.)