Top Advantages of Equipping Your Playground With Sun Protection for Kids
Playing on outdoor playgrounds exposes kids to the heat of the sun and UV rays. Too much exposure to either can cut playtime short as kids need to return to a cool, shady area. By installing a playground shade structure, you offer protection from direct sunlight, which can benefit the kids who use the playground, the equipment under the structure and adults supervising kids in the area.
Read the full article or jump ahead to a specific section:
- The Importance of Sun Safety for Kids
- The Harmful Effects of Sun Exposure
- The Advantages of Playground Sun Protection
- How to Implement Sun Protection
The Importance of Sun Safety for Kids
Kids need protection from the sun when outside. During the day, the most intense solar rays occur between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. This often includes the times that kids go outside. Unfortunately, 67% of playgrounds are under full sun exposure between these hours.
Even on cool or cloudy days, kids can experience sunburns or other damage to their skin. Additionally, reflective materials on or near the playground may increase the amount of UV radiation kids have exposure to. For instance, snow, sand, concrete and water reflect more sunlight than grass, which increases the total amount of UV rays that impact kids. Shading areas with these surfaces reduces the amount of reflected sunlight that kids have exposure to.
Even without nearby trees to offer natural shade, playgrounds can have shaded play areas with canopies, sun shades, sun sails or other forms of protection. These structures create shade that makes the playground cooler for kids to play on.
Playground shade is one way to encourage kids to stay safe from solar overexposure when outside. Sun safety is especially crucial to younger kids and toddlers. During their younger years, kids have thinner, more delicate skin. This thinness makes kids more susceptible to skin damage from the sun. As they age, they develop slightly better resistance to showing signs of sun damage. The increased resistance to burning does not mean that kids become immune to the negative effects of the sun.
Even before a child burns or tans, they may already have changes in their skin cells. Sun damage effects accumulate over the years. In fact, it can take two decades before skin cancer develops from excessive sun exposure.
Shade is the best method to reduce the negative impacts of sunlight. By providing kids with shady areas to play in, they can reduce early exposure to excessive sunlight. Combined with personal sun protection habits that include wearing sunscreen and hats, kids can reduce their chances of skin cancer later in life.
The Harmful Effects of Sun Exposure
Sun exposure is especially harmful to kids both in the short term and over time. A child or teen who has one sunburn that blisters has almost twice the chance of developing skin cancer as someone who didn’t experience a severe burn. Additionally, exposure builds over time, with each burn contributing to lifetime UV exposure and cancer risk.
Of more immediate concern, especially for parents, is the chance of kids becoming sunburned while outside. A sunburn may develop in fair-skinned children within 15 minutes of being outside without sun protection. Not all kids develop sunburn immediately or while out in the sun. Some don’t show signs of sunburn until hours after they were outside. Minor sunburns often cause redness, itchiness and pain in the affected areas.
Sunburns can become medical emergencies. Kids who develop any of the following symptoms with a sunburn need immediate medical care:
- Fever and chills
- Blistering sunburn
- Confusion, headache or dizziness
- A sunburn over a large area
- Swelling in the face
- Symptoms of dehydration, which include dark urine, thirstiness and dry eyes or mouth
Too much UV radiation without wearing sunglasses can contribute to severe problems in and around the eyes. Kids’ eyes don’t filter UV rays as effectively as adults’ eyes so they are more likely to become damaged by the sun. Common eye issues that may develop over time from excessive exposure to UV rays include the development of cataracts, macular degeneration, sunburned corneas and cancer of the eyelids.
By keeping kids in the shade on the playground, adults can lessen these harmful impacts of sun exposure. However, to get the greatest benefits of sun protection, adults must combine shaded playgrounds with encouraging kids to use sunscreen and hats and to drink plenty of water while at play.
The Advantages of Playground Sun Protection
Sun protection can make your playground more appealing to kids and the adults in their lives. Kids don’t want sunburns while playing and their guardians want sun protection for their kids. Shade structures can fulfill both needs and much more. Adding a playground sun shade enhances the safety of the playground, the longevity of the equipment, the appearance of the space, the uses for the play area, the time that kids can play and much more.
Some types of playground equipment can become hot to the touch when under direct sunlight. Shading the playground helps reduce the chances of the equipment absorbing sunlight and reaching temperatures that could cause pain or burns when touched.
Kids’ skin is also extremely sensitive to the effects of UV rays. For some kids, as little as 11 minutes in direct sunlight can cause sunburn. Protecting kids with shade structures helps increase the safety of the play area by reducing their exposure to direct sunlight and their chances of getting sunburns.
Heat can also be a problem on playgrounds, especially during the summer. Shade structures covering the area can help keep temperatures from reaching extreme levels. Proper sun shades can keep the temperature beneath them up to 20 degrees cooler. Depending on the outside temperature, this difference could reduce the chances of heat illness in kids playing on the equipment.
Regardless of the presence of shade structures, adults should always supervise kids on the playground. Kids should have regular breaks and access to water to prevent heat illness. Sunscreen and hats can reduce sun exposure, even for kids playing in shaded areas. Adults should always touch the surfaces of the play area to check for possible sites that could cause burns.
Shade structures should be resilient enough to withstand everyday elements like moisture and light wind. Strong supports and fabric can help them resist wind, sun and participation as outlined in the structure’s documentation and warranty information.
To ensure that you get the most resilient structures, look for sturdy supports and strong fabric. Fabric options should indicate the level of UV protection. Thicker fabrics generally offer greater levels of shade and protection from ultraviolet rays, but they shouldn’t be too porous, trap heat or block light from entering at all, as something like canvas would. Specialized fabrics for playgrounds can give you the best of both worlds.
Good shade structures can also make your playground elements more resistant to the effects of the sun. By reducing the strength of the sunlight reaching the equipment, the shade structures may contribute to playground pieces that resist fading from sun exposure.
Shade structures tower above everything on the playground. These brightly colored elements can draw kids’ attention and entice them to the play area. They also provide a pop of color to the landscape.
With numerous colors for the fabric and supports, you can easily customize the shades to match the colors in your playground. A variety of forms let you choose shade structures to align with the overall aesthetic of your play area, too.
A new structure over your playground defines the play space and adds an interesting visual element to the space. By choosing from shapes such as dramatic sails, a sophisticated mariner pyramid or the traditional hip cover, you can impact the impression kids and their parents will have of the playground even before they see the equipment. Installing a new shade structure can provide the visual accent an existing play space needs to become more popular.
Protecting Your Equipment
Your playground equipment should provide several years of use. Sun shades over the playground helps reduce the impact of UV rays on the finish and the equipment to reduce sun damage. They may also offer some protection from precipitation. Even covered playgrounds should have adults check that the equipment does not have water, ice or snow on it after a weather event before allowing kids to play on it.
Under strong sunlight, some types of finishes may fade, making the playground look dull and old. However, by keeping the equipment out of the full sun with sun shades or sails over it, you can help protect its appearance and keep it looking great.
When ordering playground shades, consider the brand. Not all makers use the same material quality in their products. To get the most from your sun protection, look for options that use strong fabrics that require little to no maintenance. These types of shades provide the protection your equipment needs to help extend its longevity without requiring extra work to keep up the appearance of the shades or their supports.
A survey found that 74% of parents reported that they feel more concern for their kids’ sun protection than their parents felt for them. In response, these parents will seek out play areas that offer more shade, especially during the middle of the day. By installing sun shades over a playground, you can increase the usability of the play space by keeping it cooler and more accommodating to parents who want more sun protection for their kids.
For schools, shaded areas near the playground can offer alternative classroom locations. Learning outside presents teachers with ways to integrate nature into their lesson plans. Kids can get fresh air while they learn under a shade structure near the playground.
Instead of only allowing kids on the playground before 10 a.m. and after 2 p.m., install sun shades over the area. Kids will be able to play longer, even during times of intense sunlight. The playground under the shades can provide a cooler, more comfortable place for kids to play.
When you have a playground with ample shade, you’ll see more kids using the space for more hours of the day. They may prefer the shady play area to other full-sun activity sites nearby. Also, kids will want to play longer if they are cooler and more comfortable. Parents will be happy to allow them to do so if they are equally comfortable sitting on shady benches.
Create a Comfortable Space for Parents
Parents and teachers who supervise kids on the playground should also have shady areas to stay in. Shade structures can protect the adults near the play area from UV rays.
Setting up a playground sun shade over a bench or other seating areas creates a comfortable place. Adults sitting in this area stay comfortable and protected as they supervise kids on the playground. When adults feel more comfortable, they may be more willing to allow their kids to stay out on the playground longer.
Shaded rest areas can also help kids. If kids need to take a break, they can sit on a bench under the shade to catch their breath and stay out of the sun.
How to Implement Sun Protection
Shade structures come in a variety of styles, colors and materials. They can be installed over existing playgrounds or new ones.
By installing sun protection on your playground, you can easily reap benefits for your equipment and the kids who use the area. With the right style, you’ll also improve your playground’s appearance and make it more inviting for kids and their parents.
Retrofitting Is Easy
Retrofitting an existing playground with a playground sun shade is simple. These elements have a variety of pole arrangements that fit around your existing play structures and require minimal maintenance once in place.
You can find sun shades for your playground that require only a single post when you need to cover a smaller area without installing multiple support poles. For more extensive coverage, you can choose robust options that have support poles at the edges of the shade structure to minimize the impact on the playground’s play area.
For example, single-post pyramid cantilevered shade structures have the support post offset from the shaded area. With these, you can have the shade structure supports outside the play area. They’re a great choice for smaller areas and for covering certain elements like a bench, picnic table, Congas or chimes. These cantilevered structures also may be easier to install in existing playgrounds since you don’t need to find a place between playground elements to place the support post.
Another option for retrofitting is using integrated shade structures. These structures use the playground equipment’s existing poles as supports for the shade material. They minimize the disruption to your playground and may eliminate the need to install separate poles for support.
Once you’ve decided to install sun protection, either to a new playground or retrofitted to an existing space, you need to decide the style you will have for the shade structures.
Choosing the Right Style
The right style of sun protection for your playground will depend on multiple factors. You will need to look at the overall design of the structures, materials and colors before finalizing your decision. These elements all contribute to the look and performance of the shade structure.
Structure designs correlate to their areas of coverage. For smaller coverage areas, styles that use a single support pole often suffice. For example, a pyramid shade structure on a single pole can shade up to 260 square feet. A cantilevered variation on this single-pole pyramid shade also covers up to a 16-by-16 foot space.
Full cantilever covers have two posts outside the shaded area. These allow for coverage up to 10-by-20 feet, making them ideal for protecting seating areas or covering freestanding playground elements.
For greater shade coverage, you may need a playground canopy that has multiple supports on its corners. Hip structures can stand individually to protect spaces up to 30-by-40 feet. These structures differ from pyramids in their straight line across the top, giving them a clean, neat appearance. For additional space coverage, consider joined hip shade structures that share their middle posts to maximize coverage while minimizing the number of supports. These joined hip structures can shade areas up to 30-by-60 feet.
Pyramid structures have support posts at the corners. These shade structures feature raised areas in the center for taller playground equipment. You have the options of plain and a Mariner pyramid, the latter of which has a layered look while covering the same 30-by-30 foot space as standard pyramid structures.
Materials for the playground shade sails vary in their amount of UV protection and color. When choosing shade cloth options for the playground canopy, look for materials that offer the highest level of UV filtration. Playground shade material designed to block out 94% of UV rays has the equivalent sun protection as SPF 15 sunscreen.
Find the colors for the fabrics and supports to best compliment the color palette of your playground. For example, if you have an ocean theme, you may consider shades of blue for the shade material and supports. Brown or dark brown supports paired with green shades work well in playgrounds with themes inspired by nature.
If setting up playground shade for a school, use the school’s official colors for the shade structure parts. With a wide range of powder coating color options and shade cloth material colors, you’ll find the right combination for your play space.
If you need playground shade ideas, check out examples of these structures over play areas to see which style you would like to replicate for your play space. Covered play areas are among the top trends in modern playgrounds, so updating your play space should include a shade structure over it.
Protect Your Space With Miracle Recreation’s Playground Shade Structures
Choose the right playground shade structures to protect your play space. As an industry leader in playground equipment and accessories, Miracle Recreation offers a variety of sun protection solutions. Integrate one or more of our sun shades into your playground area.
Start today by building a quote for your selections. With sun protection over your space, you can reap the benefits of these structures. Help protect your equipment and the kids who use it from the harmful effects of the sun.