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Kids (and their elders) keep cool at spraygrounds

I recently discovered a new favorite way to cool off: the sprayground.

One recent Saturday, I coated my 19-month-old daughter in sunscreen and headed for the sprayground at Latta Park in Dilworth.

It's one of Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation's five spraygrounds – where children run through mini geysers and fountains of water shooting up from underground nozzles.

My kid had a blast jumping around in the water. She couldn't stop giggling (none of the kids could) and when it was time to go home, she didn't leave easily.

How did I cool off? Well, at first I had to go in with my girl until she got the hang of it and then occasionally I had to slow her down. (Note to self: Wear a swimsuit next time.)

If your kids love frolicking in sprinklers but you don't want to get your backyard muddy or are being conscientious about water consumption, the spraygrounds – where the water is recycled and chlorinated, by the way – are perfect. And they're free – with high gas and food prices, the heat isn't the only thing we need a break from, right?

One tip: If you have a younger child who isn't so sure-footed yet, make sure to bring well-fitting rubber shoes or water shoes. My child kept sliding out of her shoes, and after I let her go barefoot she was slipping on the pavement.

The five sprayground locations: Nevin Park, 6000 Statesville Road; Cordelia Park, 2100 N. Davidson St.; Latta Park, 601 E. Park Ave.; Veterans Park, 2136 Central Ave.; and West Charlotte Recreation Center, 2400 Kendall Drive.

They are open daily in the summer, 10a.m. to 8 p.m. More info: 704-336-3854; www.