As part of Playground Magazine’s aquatic-themed summer issue, we asked several companies specializing in splash park/sprayground design and equipment to give us their opinion as to 1 why interactive water features are becoming more popular at splash parks, and 2 to share one of their most popular water features with us.
Here’s how they replied:
Markham, ON, Canada
1 These days, interactive water play is an ever-increasing playground trend for spray parks in municipal parks and recreation centers, hotels and resorts, campgrounds, zoos, FECs, waterparks, theme parks and even shopping malls. Interactivity, or a user’s input creating a varied output or result, can be achieved through various designs of watertoys.
The simplest of interactivity is created by the interactivity with water itself as it cascades down on you or sprays on you. The different jets from different directions create different feelings: tickling, surprising, amazing and stimulating the senses.
Empex has designed several categories of interactive water features to enhance the interactive experience, including 1) Interactive Watertoys, where the user creates a water jet by constantly pedaling in the case of the Waterbike, turning a handle as in the case of the Watershooter, rocking back and forth as in the case of the Squirtin’ Frog or pumping by an up and down motion as is the case with the Watertotter; 2) Aquatons, offering simple interactivity with no moving parts by using the hand. The Aquaton line of water features are static play structures or Aquatecture which have varied designs of nozzles. Interactivity is created by interaction with the nozzles. When one nozzle is closed by the fingers the other water jets become stronger. As more nozzles are closed the effect increases. Other children are called to participate in this interactivity; 3) Simple interactivity with no moving parts by using the feet. Aquajetz are ground jets with different nozzle designs. Stopping the flow of a nozzle with the foot will again change the effect of the other jets; and 4) interactivity by turning a selector wheel. Aquanetic structures provide a handwheel whereby the participant turns the wheel and select a different water event, for instance, a particular spray array or a spinning pinwheel or turning gears.
Interactivity with water is a learning experience for young children. They learn cause and effect. They also learn subtly about water pressure and water flow without realizing. Water play also creates interaction between each other or a group which teaches cooperation and teamwork.
Water play also creates a relaxing experience for the parents who can interact with the kids in the water or interact with a book on the sidelines, knowing the children are safe, away from deep water.
2 Empex’ most popular water feature is the Aquacircus concept, which has recently won both innovation and best product awards. This is a highly interactive water playground with a zany play structure and surrounding water features that utilizes all the categories of creative interactivity.
Pointe-Claire, QC, Canada
1 Vortex has always thought of aquatic play as more than just a means of refreshment; it’s an opportunity for kids to build healthy bodies and minds. On a splashpad, a lot of development happens as kids play: social skills, teamwork, motor skills, cognitive, sensorial, etc. That’s what we call the Value of Play. Interactivity is a way to add to the Value of Play.
We view the trend of interactive water features becoming more common and popular because it delivers a highly-desired effect: increasing play time. Getting kids to play for longer periods of time in one space has always been a goal, and a challenge, in any entertainment environment. Interactive components keep kids engaged and therefore playing longer.
There are other factors to consider. For one, the level of interactivity has to be age-appropriate; starting with basic movements for toddler-oriented products, and moving into more complex movements and sequences for older children and teens. Variety is also important—interacting differently with different products brings new learning experiences. Another level of interaction is getting many kids to participate at once; this way a single product can entertain several users at the same time and the teamwork challenges keep them busy.
Let’s not forget that aesthetic appeal is also an important component of keeping kids entertained. Just like adults, children are naturally drawn to objects that are visually appealing and therefore more likely to interact with them if they look interesting. And with a little imagination, play features can become any number of things that kids incorporate into their games. Recreating story lines makes for hours of fun.
2 One of Vortex’ most popular features right now is actually a highly-interactive product called the Scorpion. It is a large structure (towering more than 15 feet high) with several different water effects along its body. The Scorpion comes to life when users press on the five different Funflow Actuators found underneath it. Funflow Actuators are specialized ground sprays connected to the Scorpion and when users press down on them, water builds up in the Scorpion’s legs, “claws” and tail bucket. The more Actuators you press, the more events happen. The Scorpion offers many benefits: high level of interactivity, many people can play with it at the same time, fun for the whole family and striking focal point. (See it in action: http://youtu.be/Aa9Uys2kNso).
Aquatic Recreation Company
Eden Prairie, MN
1 ARC views the trend of interactive water features becoming more common and more popular due to the economic times in that communities are investing in attractions as families are traveling less and seeking fun activities close to home for the entire family.
2 One of ARC’s most popular water features is the Multi-Level Climb-N-Slide. It is an impressive centerpiece attraction that combines many water play elements into a multi-level structure with slides. It provides any splash pad or pool with a big water park experience.
Kelowna, BC, Canada
1 Water play, in itself, is popular because it engages the senses of touch, sight and sound. When designing interactive aquatic play features and structures, we are able to build upon the fundamentals of stimulation by creating specific water effects and component functionalities that engage water players beyond the ordinary sensory experience. The reason interactive water features and segmented play zones are becoming more common and popular is because they have the ability, if designed correctly, to offer the user an increased learning environment, encourage team play and create cause-and-effect scenarios that heighten stimulation and increase play value for all water players.
Not all children play the same and that’s why more features are being developed that match the physical, social and intellectual needs of each specific age group. Toddler features are specifically designed to encourage developmental learning while themed features help to spur imagination for children aged 5-8. Children aged 9-plus are stimulated by features that encourage team play and that offer excitement at a larger scale.
2 The Twist ‘n Spill 2 is an interactive water feature that focuses on team play and cause-and-effect stimulation. Featuring two dumping buckets designed to spill onto a splash plate once full, the real fun of the Twist ‘n Spill is that water players control where the splashes land as they team together to rotate the upper column. Big splashes and a complete 360-degree horizontal rotation make this interactive feature a busy attraction in any water world.