With a sly smile, Kyle Gayle, 6, clambered out of a shallow wading pool, his navy cargo shorts saturated with water.
He had just succeeded in convincing his mother to stop by the water park in Mattapan on their way home from day camp.
“He bugged me all day today,’’ said Donna Gayle, 45, of Dedham, rolling her eyes in mock exasperation. “I said, just half an hour. He doesn’t even have his swimsuit. And he has football later.’’
Gayle watched her son jump back into the pool and crawl on his two hands like a lizard toward the other children.
It was hot, it was free, the boy was begging, how could Gayle say no to a sliver of a day at the pool?
With record heat hitting Boston this summer, families have flocked to the city’s neighborhood fountains and pools during the long, hot days.
Recently, Boston Centers for Youth and Families recorded 25,725 visits in one week, an unprecedented number, at its 20 pool locations, an 80 percent increase from last year’s numbers for the same week, according to spokeswoman Sandy Holden.
Holden attributed the spike in visits to the hot weather and the weak economy, because families can bring children to community pools for little to no cost.
During the day, families with young children crowd most of the parks and pools, though Holden said that teenagers and adults also take advantage of open swim hours.
“We’re definitely seeing more and more families,’’ said Jill LaMonica, administrative coordinator of the Boston Centers’ Leahy-Holloran Community Center in Dorchester, which welcomes 500 swimmers a day. “With the economy, people are looking for things to do in the city instead of going away.’’
In Mattapan, Gladys Carrasquillo, 52, takes her two children to the wading pool just around the block every day.
“I can’t afford to put them in camp, no money, too far,’’ said Carrasquillo, sitting on a blanket under a sapling’s shade. To keep Armani, 9, and Nashaly, 4, active, Carrasquillo said, she often takes them to the library before they go to the water park, where they like to splash in the sprinklers and wading pool.
“We picked up books today,’’ she said. “I try to teach Nashaly the ABC’s and 123’s.
“You know, there’s only one more month before school,’’ she said, handing Nashaly a packet of Sour Patch Kids candy.
Her brother raced out of the pool, clutching a quarter in his small, tanned hand.
“Usually if I find a quarter somewhere, I like to put it in the water and see which one of my friends can find it first,’’ he said.
On this day, he planned to save the quarter.
His mother, he explained, recently started charging him a nickel for every English word he used in an effort to get him to speak Spanish at home.
“I made 65 cents off of him,’’ Carrasquillo said, laughing.
Though dogs are not allowed at the pool, Trinity Johnson, 5, said her terrier-Chihuahua mix, Lexie, likes the water as much as she does. “She takes baths in the sink,’’ Trinity said.
She and her 4-year-old sister, Charity, splashed a group of boys in the pool, giggling as they ran to the pool’s edge.
Sitting on the grass next to two small pairs of white sandals the girls left behind, their mother glanced up from a 300-page book every so often to check on the pair. “They’re very daring; they love being underwater,’’ said Angelita, 34.
Chad Bigsby, 34, of Jamaica Plain, started taking his 3-year-old daughter, Madalen, to their neighborhood water park to address her fear of water and taking baths. “She grew up so terrified of baths, so the fountains were a big part of acclimating her,’’ Bigsby said.
Wearing purple floral swimwear, Madalen pattered to the fountains with a plastic cup, shrieking with pleasure as the cold water splashed her.
“I like bringing cups to the bathroom,’’ she said, before running back to refill her cup.
The cups did the trick, Bigsby said, and Madalen no longer puts up a fuss during bath time.
Nearby, a boy squirted his younger brother with water, prompting an indignant reaction and the universal threat children make: “I’m telling!’’
Lauren Clarke-Mason, 42, made the trek from Roxbury to Jamaica Plain with her 7-year-old son, Noah, for the water park.
“A lot of the parks in Roxbury have graffiti with inappropriate words,’’ Clarke-Mason said. “It spoils them.’’
Though Noah prefers pools to water parks — he likes to swim underwater — he was itching to get wet, and danced in place as his mother tried to find his waterproof shoes. It turned out she had left one shoe at home. Undaunted, Noah dashed off barefoot. “I like to do water sports, sometimes water fights, but I don’t really like water guns,’’ he said. “I like to do all these things, but I just like running in the water.’’
June Q. Wu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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