Kids Play Stream/Creek ~ Advice Please !!

PixiefeatherApril 8, 2014

Greetings !! I have made a smallish very natural looking wildlife /frog pond in my backyard that I really enjoy. It has a pump with small waterfall.

I would like to create a short section of shallow, meandering stream to go in front of my kids sand play area and would like it to be something very natural looking but that they can play and splash in during hot weather.

I am wondering how the best way to go about this is ? Should it be connected to the pond or a separate thing with its own pump and water source ?? What about the sand ...will it mess up the pump ?? How do I keep it clean ??

Any advice to get me started in the right direction would be appreciated as I have NO idea how to put together this system and cannot find a thing on the web about it.

Thanks so much for any help at all...

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catherinet(5 IN)

Hmmmm.......I'm not an expert in that area, but all I've heard about our little man-made ponds here is to NEVER let your kids play in them. There's just too many possible bacteria in there.
Maybe someone else will say otherwise, but I personally wouldn't let them play in it.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 1:48PM
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I don't actually recall any messages like catherinet describes, but I admit that I worry a little that she might have a good point. On the other hand, my dog, and the birds have drunk out of mine for six years without obvious ill effects; and of course the fish, toads and frogs do well too. Most of us also go rooting around like I have been doing the last several days while we clean plants and rocks. Speaking for myself, I'm fine.

I don't think sand would be a problem for the pond. I suspect that it would get dirty though. It might be best to occasionally remove it to a shallow tub and rinse it and pour it back. I also imagine that it might be slippery if on much of any slope on top of liner so a slight bowl might be better.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2014 at 7:27AM
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sleeplessinftwayne(z4-5 IND)

If the play area was totally separate from the pond area it would be safe enough but I would not connect them in any way.

The link is a favorite of mine.

Here is a link that might be useful: Ron's pond scum

    Bookmark   April 10, 2014 at 7:36AM
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Holly_ON(6a Ontario)

Kids grow up fast and the sandbox will become "old" quickly. I would get a kiddie pool for them to splash in and concentrate on making the stream more attractive for the more mature audience.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2014 at 3:56PM
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I agree with Holly. They will want something with more water in it. My grand daughter was happy as a duck in the 300 gallon prefab that I use for emergencies for my little pond. I cleaned it, put in the small emergency pump and one of those floaters with chlorine tabs and she splashed around for a week's visit. Proudly announcing that she was swimming in the fishy's pond. She also told her Mother that Gran-daddy fed her 'dog' chicken. (Our dogs are spoiled and have deli chicken for treats.)

She is 7 this year and much more sophisticated. So we will have to see what we can get into this summer.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2014 at 9:06PM
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Hi all and thanks for the reply. I don't think a cheap plastic tub would work for us, as I would really like to emulate a more natural play space. I want their play area to be enchanting , like something out of a faery tale. We are making a small raised little playhouse /cottage, with beach /sand pit nearby and I want there to be a natural looking recirculating stream that will flow in front of it..they can use this to bring water to the sand pit and sit in it when the days get hot. I am thinking to make it out of concrete and have decided that it be best if it were not connected to the pond. Any ideas for how to do this ??

    Bookmark   May 11, 2014 at 6:46PM
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waterbug_guy(Phoenix AZ (Melrose))

I had my first pond when I was about 5 years old. We lived on a farm and there was an old farm pond about 2oo yards in back of our barn. I found I could "play" behind the barn out of sight from the house and then sneak back to the pond. I went back there as often as I could. I only got caught once, got yelled at and told not to go there. So I got better at sneaking.

I totally could have died back there...but the risk was well worth it imo. It taught me so much and got me interested in learning.

People today are starting to consider the possibility that we're over protecting our kids. Park where kids can use tools, build fires, do what kids do.

But to the question...

Here is my Kinder Pond.

I built this for the neighborhood kids because they were always want to see my ponds in my backyard and to play in them. I've seen kids drink water out of it. Yeah, sure could make them sick. So could the cat poo they picked up and ate. So could licking their shoes. So could...

To make this durable and reasonably safe I did the following.

Made it shallow. Just 3" for most and 10" in the center. That also made it a great bird bath which was unexpected and really great for bird watching. Kids like watching birds too.

Added a wide stream. Kids love to build dams so I didn't want a stream that was right to the edge of it's banks. If they were going to dam it and overflow the banks I wanted to make sure they had to work at it.

I added a small waterfall. The sound of water is attractive to kids and other wildlife. It has to be strong enough to stand on.

I used EPDM liner and concrete over that. Bare line and kids I don't think would be good. They would pull it up to see what its was or what was under it. So no visible liner.

I mortared all rocks in place.

Being shallow means not a lot of water which is a problem. I sure didn't want the pump visible in the pond. You think raccoons are inquisitive, kids have them beat. So I buried a 55 gal plastic drum about 5' away from the pond/stream. A pipe went from the 10" deepest spot in the pond to the drum using a bulkhead fitting on the drum (Uniseals are great). Pump went into the drum set on some bricks so it wasn't right on the bottom. Power cord went thru conduit to GFI outlet with a locked steel cover. A hose from the pump went underground to the stream top. No visible pipes. I built a very heavy cover for the drum and screwed thru that into the side of the drum. The drum is the dangerous part so that had to be secure. I made the top out of plastic decking so it weighed about 40 lbs which by itself is difficult for kids to lift. The drum was set low so the top as a bit below grade making removal more difficult.

I also added an auto fill to the drum. A float valve that got its water from a sprinkler valve on a timer set for 2 minutes per day. If the float valve failed, and they do, the most water that would be wasted was 2 minutes worth per day.

In the pond the 10" low point was formed into a rectangle. I made a skimmer basket type deal with PVC pipe and shade cloth that fit into the formed concrete rectangle. That stopped leaves, sticks, rocks from getting into the pipe going to the drum.

It ran 24/7, never was green and it never had a string algae problem. Maybe I was just lucky, maybe that most of the water spent so much time in the totally dark drum helped. I didn't ever see mosquito larvae in this pond. Don't know why.

Another option which I've seen kid enjoy are bogs. Pond or stream that maybe at lease 12" deep and filled with pea gravel. Water level can vary from just below the surface to as deep as you like above the gravel. Like a wet sand box. Kids can build streams, dig, do whatever they want. You can run a hose, or several hose on the surface so the kids can move them, build water falls, or whatever. I'd keep the hoses near the center and short enough so they could be move to outside the bog.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2014 at 8:09PM
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It's nice to have a fantasy of kids playing in a pristine pool and I know we all survived our pasts without today's knowledge and cautions, but every year there are warnings about blue-green algae blooms in lakes and streams that are deadly to dogs and dangerous to humans. I wouldn't take a chance with any kids' health, nor do I want to argue with their parents' lawyers about my pond being an "attractive nuisance".

I built a hollow in my grandkids' play area for a black cement mixing tray (big box store, near the bags of cement). I fill it when they're coming over, then empty and disinfect it when they're done. No algae, no drowned critters, no worry between visits.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 9:44AM
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So none of you go swimming in a local lake? Have raised 4 kids in the camping, swimming life. None worse for wear. Healthier than the cousins. LOL

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 5:49PM
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steiconi(12a-Big Island, HI)

You could treat your sand and splash area like a swimming pool, using chlorine to kill microbaddies.

On the other hand, I've read that kids who are exposed to germs build up antibodies that make them healthier than "protected" kids.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2014 at 5:52AM
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I did a little research on this question and here is what I found. "According to, avoid drinking from a pond as some bacteria like E. coli can cause illness. Water may be contaminated with this bacteria if you have farm animals using or living near the pond, or from wild animals dropping contaminated feces in or near the water." I suppose even giardia could find its way into a pond.

Without the above information, I have let my grandkids play in the stream above my pond. They have never shown any adverse effects.

A few times, I have worked on my pond wearing sandals, swimsuit and tank top. Generally, I've been OK. However, a couple of times, I have picked up some strange infections. Not a good place for little ones I think.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2014 at 6:57PM
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Yep, used to swim in the cow pond with the crawdads and drink from the hose. Also used to smoke, drive cars without seatbelts, and look for true love in biker bars. Survived, got smarter, and lost my belief in the sanctity of the good old days.

Swimming in a lake, ideally a large, self-filtering ecosystem, is different from playing in a garden pond of a few hundred gallons. It would be interesting to have the pond water tested and find out what microbes I'm washing off after wading around for pond maintenance.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2014 at 7:19PM
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6000 gal pond. My kids haven't outgrown playing in the water yet, they are 37 & 35. Whenever they come over, they head for the pond. Grand kids play in it also. Yes we have even gone swimming in it. Swimming with fish and frogs is fun. Yes, we try NOT to drink the water but it happens.
That said, I would make a separate water source for the kids play area. One that would drain entirely so no chance of breeding mosquitoes. Constant water and the frogs would move in and then you would need to keep a filter going and the water moving. The sand would be a problem - great filter, it would end up full of everything. (like letting kids play in the pond filter) Better to turn on the water at the top when they play and let it dry out/drain between. Sand and a garden hose can keep kids busy forever.
My pond has a beach area (with rocks and gravel) that is constantly rearranged to make tiny pools for the frogs. With a tiny pump and tubing to bring water in. The gravel eventually ends up in the pond and is cleaned out with leaves and such. I keep adding new gravel to the beach. Amazing things live in that gravel - I stir it up frequently and run the garden hose into it to wash it a bit. The fish love to eat the things that wash into the pond.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2014 at 6:46AM
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waterbug_guy(Phoenix AZ (Melrose))

Microbes in the pond? No reason to waste money on testing. You can just look at what microbes are found in virtually all untreated freshwater.

Take just one of the thousands of kinds of microbes almost certainly in every pond called Aeromonas hydrophila. It's the bacteria in "Aeromonas Alley" that Koi keepers love to hate. It's also the bacteria responsible for Aimee Copeland losing both hands, one leg and the other foot. The flesh eating bacteria case that made lots of money for CNN, Fox every local news station and 7/8ths of the web a couple of years ago.

A person could try to Howard Huges it and live in a closet...but Aeromonas hydrophila is in there too!

I prefer good old common sense and not getting info from pretty much anything on TV or on the web.

"Self-filtering ecosystem" is a yummy term we use when we want to think something is good. It sure sounds good. But. Aeromonas hydrophila is one of the creatures that plays an important part in most self-filtering ecosystems.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2014 at 7:31AM
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