Water is everywhere, and once baby enjoys the bath at home, it’s time to see if (s)he is comfortable with water outside.
I was in absolute awe once, when I realized that my son wanted to feel the rain on his face and hands. He was about 6 months old, and crying nonstop and constantly trying to move his sun shade, as I tried to keep the rain off of him as we quickly completed a hike. When we stopped at the trailhead, he grabbed the shade and pulled it fully aside and gleamed with delight as water sprinkled on his face. I don’t recommend walking in the rain, but very short-term exposure to a fountain or sprinkler on a warm day, with dry clothes available to change into afterwards, can be a lot of fun. Be sure to apply water-resistant sunscreen beforehand, as light reflects off of water and can multiply the risk of sun exposure. A hat is also a great idea!
Sprinklers, Wet Decks, and Fountains:
Sprinklers, wet decks, and fountains at parks are often equipped with non-slip groundcover and varying intensities of water. Begin with low-flow water, then let baby encourage you to try something more intense, if (s)he is ready for it. If using a sprinkler on a lawn, check the lawn for prickles or small items baby might try to swallow, and flowers like clover than can attract bees. (I stepped on dozens of bees as a child, but my mother was diligent at avoiding this possibility, when I was a baby.) You can lay out towels around the sprinkler to level and smooth the playing surface; just hang them to dry when you are done.
Never use public water features like this if they are not designed for children to use. Also be aware of the cleanliness of the facility and the code by which it was built and managed. Even if no water is standing above ground, water may be held in a large tank underground and may not be cleaned regularly, filtered, or treated. Recirculated water may simply recirculate germs and provide a perfect, aerated environment for bacteria, fungus, and algae that can be dangerous to young ones. Almost 5 thousand people became infected with a diarrheal illness in 1999 at a wet deck not managed appropriately. Contact public representatives in charge of the local park’s water feature to check how it is managed. For more information about these facilities according to the Center for Disease Control, see CDC Webpage on Interactive Fountains. For information on Recreational Water Illnesses (RWIs), see Center for Disease Control Webpage on RWIs.
No sprinklers around? A water fountain, faucet tap, or hose with a nozzle can be a great introduction to pressurized running water.
Caregivers Get Wet! At any water location, be prepared to get wet with your baby. Never leave baby unattended; direct contact with baby for at least the initial contact with the water feature is advised. Following this if baby and you are comfortable with being separated, always watch baby closely at arm’s length.