Play wet

South Florida Parenting

School's out and already the heat is on to keep the kids busy. So where do you go to cool down, have fun and get wet? Head to the nearest water park where you can forget your cares while slip-sliding your way through a hazy, hot, summer day. Here's what you need to know to have a safe and fun time.

Before You Go

Scout for coupons. Visit park websites, scan newspapers, and be on the lookout at local stores. Some parks offer group discounts for parties of 25 or more. Check park web sites for details. Some larger water parks, such as Rapids or Wet & Wild offer promotional discounts on soda cans in summer.

Pick a day. Crowds converge on weekends and whenever the sun's out and the temperature is high. Groups can increase crowds on weekdays, but generally speaking, Mondays through Wednesdays have the lightest attendance.

Make a plan. Check out the park map online at park web sites to plan meeting spots, and figure out which slides your kids can do, based on height restrictions and personal preferences. If you've got different age groups, plan to go with people who have like-minded kids, so that one or two adults can watch the little ones while the bigger kids do what they like together.

What to Bring

Dress the part. Leave the valuables home. All you need is a well-fitting, comfortable swimsuit (you don't want anything coming off mid-ride!) and a towel. Water shoes are important too, says Tammy Barkey of Kings Park, NY "because the pavement gets really hard on your feet." Most parks don't permit cut-off shorts or clothing with buckles, zippers or buttons that might damage slides.

Think twice about lugging that cooler. Food and glass bottles are normally not allowed in and most parks have a concession stand or two or more for lunch within the park. If you want to bring your lunch to save money or for a special diet, you'll have to leave a cooler in the car, so pack extra ice to keep food cool in a hot car. Picnic areas are usually located outside park entrances and offer a nice spot for a mid-day break.

When You Get There

Get a locker. They're small, but they'll do for storing money, sunscreen or any other small items you don't want to leave at a ride entrance. Some are one-time use; others can be opened throughout the day but require an additional deposit. If you don't want to leave your money in the locker, bring a waterproof wallet that zips into a bathing suit or is worn around your neck and can tuck neatly into your bathing suit. You won't be allowed on most water slides wearing anything that can slip off mid-slide or, worse, pull tight and choke you.

Practice pool safety. Chlorine and pH levels are tested regularly; at Wet 'n Wild in Orlando, FL, for example, the water is tested throughout the day by the pools department to ensure it is at safe levels, according to David Wright, director of marketing at Wet n' Wild. Warn children against swallowing pool water, and bring plastic swim diapers for infants and toddlers. Keep an eye on your children, and be watchful of water depths which can change at each attraction.

Need a life jacket? Inflatable water wings aren't allowed in most deep pools, but some parks allow kids to use them in the shallow play areas. If you or a companion isn't a seasoned swimmer, life jackets are recommended, and are usually available for free or a deposit.

Arrive early and head for the big rides first. If you get there when gates open, you'll probably get to ride the most popular attractions before the lines grow too long. Save things like wave pools, lazy river rides and pool-play areas for later in the day. Often, particularly on weekdays, the groups clear out by late afternoon, and ride lines shorten.

Debbie Geiger is a freelance writer and mother. She lives in New York.

Copyright © 2018, CT Now