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Pools and splash pads

Annie
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Charlie Meyer-Hollis, Heidi Meyer-Hollis

COOL OFF Charlie and Heidi play at Discovery Green downtown. Mom Audrey Meyer-Hollis says, “Discovery Green has plenty to do with little ones, keep cool on the splash pad, play at the park, take a walk around the lake, roll down the hill, or pick up a picnic lunch.”

Buzz Baby is a column about life with little ones. Writer Annie McQueen has three children under the age of 4.

Summer heat in Houston is no joke. I used to practically race to my favorite local park in the early hours of the summer days when my twins were around 15 months old. I had learned the hard way that by 10 a.m., the excruciating heat would set in, and we would have to flee back to air-conditioned confinement.

Pools are great for cooling off, but it can be a lot of work to take young babies and toddlers to a big pool, especially if you are by yourself. Luckily, there are splash pads, what I consider one of the greatest parenting inventions ever.

Splash pads are basically always-on giant sprinklers that kids can go nuts in. They typically have soft padding/Astroturf, so skinned knees are kept to a minimum. Little ones can cool down and burn off energy, but there is no danger of slipping under the water as with a pool. A lot of local Houston splash pads are free and open all day, which is good for early risers and early-morning visits since most pools don’t open until around 10 a.m.

Luckily, Houston offers a lot of splash pads and community pools with shallow baby pools.

Buzz resident Laura Wheeler says she loves to take her three kids, Sutton, 10 months, Mason, 3, and Gabby, 11, to the Kathrine McGovern Water Play Park at The Houston Zoo. “They have changing rooms at the splash pad so we just bring a swim diaper and swimsuit,” she said. “It is such a great way to end our hot zoo trip.”

You have to pay for admission to the zoo to get there, but once inside, it’s free. It’s located near the petting zoo and carousel.

Here are some other local favorites:

Bellaire Town Center Family Aquatic Center

7008 Fifth St.

Pool hours vary (713-662-8280)

Summer daily admission (May 1-Sept. 30): Free (0-2), Bellaire resident: $8 (3-59), $7 (60+); non-Bellaire resident: $16 (3-59), $14 (60+)

This neighborhood pool is more  is like a miniature water park. There’s an extra-large swimming pool and a sprayground with a fun frog slide, fill-and dump-bucket area, covered tube slide and more.

Gateway Fountain at Discovery Green

1500 McKinney St.

Monday noon-7 p.m., Tuesday-Sunday 9 a.m.-7 p.m.

Free, with street parking

This huge splash pad is right next to George R. Brown Convention Center in the popular Discovery Green. It is quite popular in the hotter months and, while it gets crowded, the 14-foot soaring jets make it an exciting experience for children. Swim diapers are required for infants, and the fountain is turned off if there is thunder or lightning.

Ervan Chew Park (Dunlavy Park)

4502 Dunlavy St.

Free, with street parking

This sweet park is surrounded by beautiful oak trees, just north of 59. In addition to a splash pad, it has a playground, picnic tables where you can set up for snacks and lunch and some basketball courts. Don’t forget the sunscreen as the splash pad is in full sun.

Jaycee Park Splash Pad

1300 Seamist Dr.

Free, with street parking

Jaycee Park, in the Timbergrove area, is a nice way to keep it simple for little ones. The splash pad is off to the side of the playground, and includes timed sprays and colorful artwork all around. The park also has a walking trail, basketball and tennis courts, and a playground.

Levy Park Conservancy

3801 Eastside St.

Free, with free and meter parking

Levy Park’s new $15 million rebuild was well-thought out for Houston summers. One of the most popular areas is the large, interactive splash pad. Water rains down from tall orange towering structures. It’s fun for all ages. There are public restrooms too.

Noah’s Ark Pool – First Methodist Church

3663 Westcenter Dr., 77042

Pool hours vary (quilliancenter.org)

$7.50; 1 and under free

Noah’s Ark Pool is a dream for parents of little ones. It is located adjacent to the worship center at First Methodist Houston’s Westchase Campus. The pool is shallow for splashing and playing. A large Noah's Ark structure is located in the center of the pool with three slides and a crawl-through area for kids to explore. It also has a rainbow slide, a coconut water drop, and animals to crawl on. There’s a larger pool too next to it for older kids.

Editor’s note: Which is your favorite splash pad or pool for babies and toddlers, and why?  Let your neighbors know in the comments below.

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