Catherine Verdier lives in Norfolk with her husband and daughter. She blogs about kid-friendly living in Hampton Roads at Where the Watermelons Grow.
Since the weather turned warm, we've been working our way happily around the sprayground circuit in our area -- specifically hitting up the Children's Garden at the Norfolk Botanical Garden, TowneBank Park, and the fountains at the Virginia Zoo.
We didn't know we were overlooking one practically under our noses until a friend told us about the Norview Community Center Splash Pad, which opened for the first time in June 2012.
On an afternoon a week or so ago, Anouk and I decided to check it out with an out-of-town cousin and our playgroup in tow. The day was hazy and a little cooler than usual, but the splash pad was still packed with kids jumping in puddles, running through the spray, and soaking each other with the pad's built-in water cannons.
Another good-sized contingent was clambering happily over the adjacent playground, and parents and caregivers waited just outside the water's reach with towels and snacks. The ages of the splashers ranged from barely walking to pre-teens -- it seems the pleasure of getting buckets of water dumped on you isn't one that decreases with age.
We had a wonderful time, even given the uncooperative weather. The splash pad is well-designed, with enough different fixtures so that it never gets boring. Some of the sprinklers are on timers, which means the kids are encouraged to check out the whole area, instead of just congregating in one place. There are smaller water features for the toddlers to climb and larger ones for the bigger kids to hang out under. The ground is made of a rubberized surface to prevent slips and spills.
I think one of the main keys to the park's success was the design input given by community youth -- you can check out this video (http://blog.vortex-intl.com/post/2012/06/29/Community-youth-create-vision-for-new-Splashpad-at-Norview-Community-Center-in-Norfolk-VA.aspx) for more details on the splash pad's design process and the way that the kids themselves helped shape it.
Our one recommendation for visiting the pad would be to wear sturdy sandals or water shoes and to keep off the grass, which is speckled with prickly little plants that are rough on tender feet. The evening after we visited, J. and I had to pull a few of the burrs out of Anouk's feet -- not a pleasant experience, but not one that diminished our enjoyment of the park.
Still, I'd like to see the city of Norfolk do something about this small hazard -- and I'd love to see them install more of these state of the art splash-pads in other parks around the city. The Norview Community Center Splash Pad is open every day until September 30 from 10 AM to 8 PM.