Ocean vs. Pond

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My mother and I have a constant debate going over which is better to visit with kids – the ocean or a pond. For my own swimming/enjoyment, I like both equally, but there are definite pros and cons to each when it comes to visiting either one as a mom with a 7-year-old and a 2-year-old in tow.

OceanThe Ocean

Pros

  • Fun waves
  • Soft sand
  • Creatures to catch
  • Snack Bars/bathrooms
  • OMG – the ocean is HUGE!
  • OMG – look at the MILES of beach!

The ocean is amazing – it’s huge, beautiful, has waves kids can body-surf to shore and has miles of soft sand for digging, building sand castles or sand-sculptures, very often there is a snack bar/bathrooms nearby, and there is of course, the wow factor for little ones who haven’t yet seen it. Lots of beaches have the added excitement of collecting shells, finding little creatures (hermit crabs) or big creatures (horseshoe crabs), and looking for beautiful sea-glass.

Cons

  • Possible under-tow
  • Waves that can get huge and knock over little ones
  • Bitey creatures
  • Larger crowds
  • OMG – the ocean is HUGE!
  • OMG – look at the MILES of beach!

With the ocean, comes the possibility of an under-tow and waves that can get dangerously large for a toddler who isn’t yet aware that bigger isn’t always better. Those creatures that can be so fun to watch or build little habitats for can pinch curious fingers. Then there is the issue of space – everyone with a very busy toddler knows that sometimes smaller space equals happier space. I don’t know about you, but I have a very difficult time picking a single person out of a crowd, and the idea of my little guy disappearing into a crowd of beach-goers is enough to give me nightmares.

The Pond

I am aware that every pond is different, but I’m going to use Morton Pond in Plymouth as my example, as that is the one we frequent and where my kids have their swimming lessons.

Pros

  • Limited space
  • Lifeguards
  • Warmer water
  • No scalding hot miles of sand between parking and water
  • Ice cream trucks
  • Bathrooms
  • Creatures to catch
  • “Regulars” that attend every year
  • No waves
  • Roped-off area for swimming
  • Shade
  • Picnic tables
  • Grills for cooking

We LOVE the pond we go to every year. There is plenty of shade, the picnic area has tables and grills so you can enjoy a hot meal and not worry about schlepping chairs with you, the park isn’t large enough that my 2-year-old can easily slip out-of-sight, and it’s pretty much the same families that come every year. We are acquainted with most of the lifeguards, the water is almost always just warm enough but not too warm, there are fish and turtles (we haven’t seen any frogs, but I’m sure they’re hiding in the taller grass), and when my toddler isn’t swimming, the park isn’t so big that I get tired or my feet get burned walking around with him. The area where swimming is allowed is roped off, and there’s no worries about big waves or undertow. We’ve even established a routine for when we go to the pond, and even when its just me and my 2 boys, I can enjoy myself and relax a little while we’re there.

Cons

  • Limited space
  • Limited parking
  • Ice cream trucks
  • Warm water
  • Less sand
  • No snack bar
  • Limited swimming area
  • No waves
  • Grills for cooking

Depending on perspective, space can mean a world of difference. We REFUSE to go to the pond we love so much on the weekends at all because it is PACKED. We live in a somewhat touristy town, and everyone loves the pond! Parking is limited, and sometimes we’re stuck parking over a gigantic, never-dries-up puddle of mud because that’s the last spot available. In such a small park, you are likely to notice fluctuations in the number of people around you more because the space fills up more quickly, and you are subject to visiting bus-loads of kids from camps and nearby cities a few times a year. As much as I love ice cream, it took a season to get my older son to realize that just because the ice cream man is there, doesn’t necessarily mean we’re getting ice cream (fortunately, I headed this off at the pass with my toddler, and I can tell him to say “bye-bye” to the ice cream truck without him having a melt-down or demanding ice cream). The sandy area at the pond is considerably smaller than what you would find at any ocean beach, and the water is WAY warmer than the ocean, so if you want miles of sand or cold water – the pond isn’t for you! There is no snack bar, so unless you are prepared and bring your own bag of goodies, you’re going to get awfully hungry, and there are specific rules the Lifeguards are there to enforce, so swimming beyond the ropes, rough-housing, and inflatable toys are big no-nos. The last con for the pond is the grills. I keep forgetting to prepare a meal to cook while we’re at the pond, and I worry about my toddler stepping on a hot coal that accidentally ended up on the ground (even though in 3 years, I’ve never seen one).

Conclusion

As anyone can easily see, there are both pros and cons for visiting either the ocean or a pond. I find that the trick to enjoying a visit to anywhere where there is water-fun to be had is to be as prepared as possible, and to know your children’s’ tendencies. My toddler tends to be very busy and doesn’t like to stick to one spot for too long, so the pond works out better for us. Once he has some swimming lessons under his belt (he’s going to start next year) and actually listens when you call his name, that may change, but I am quite happy in our little peaceful, shaded corner of summer fun for now. 🙂

Morton Park

This is a photo of the pond we visit – it’s beautiful! The photographer who took this – Janice Drew – did an amazing job of capturing one of our favorite places. Click on the image to see some of her other photography.

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