Playground protocol: Are birthday suits OK at the splash park?

WASHINGTON — When it’s hot, hot, hot outside, is it ever cool to let children go au natural?

It’s refreshing that a number of playgrounds and town centers offer water sprinklers and spray parks for public use, but what do little ones wear for such occasions?

Most don a swimsuit or just play in the clothes they are wearing. (It’s common for mom, dad, babysitter or other caregiver to stumble upon, or forget they are entering, a splashing wonderland. Getting clothes wet is easier than turning around and going home.)

Another alternative is to let kids just jump in the fun in their skivvies or diapers. And some just strip down and bare it all.

On a recent scorching summer afternoon, I was at a park in the District that runs refreshing sprinklers and water features. A group comprised of kids of all ages was playing in the water, and a little boy joined in on the fun, sans clothes.

At said park with my children, reactions were mixed among the other parents and babysitters. Most asked, “What are the rules now?” And, “Is wearing a birthday suit sanitary?”

The parks that offer cooling centers for kids are beloved by many – especially during D.C.’s hot and humid summers. Not everyone can or wants to join a community pool or country club; these water parks are a solid alternative.

But both public and private pools have rules for their littlest swimmers. Swim diapers or bathing suits are required. Some pools even have established rules regarding how old a child of the opposite sex must be in order to be in the locker room with mom, dad or a caregiver.

There is an answer, however, to the on-lookers’ questions.

D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation’s Director of Aquatics Tyrell Lashley says, “The (spray) parks are chemically treated, similar to swimming pools, and don’t recirculate dirty water.”

Therefore, if a child is splashing around in a substitute suit, or no suit at all, the water is being treated safely.

But “swim attire at a spray park is recommended as it is at any aquatic environment,” Lashley says. He adds, “proper swimwear is strongly recommended and there are guidelines and rules posted at all spray parks.”

What do you think? In a pinch, is it okay for children to ditch clothes for water fun? Leave a comment in our comments section, or send us your thoughts on Twitter

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