Throwing Shade: Why Covering is Important for Playground Safety

Whether you’re planning a playground for a school, a daycare, or are fortunate enough to build one in your own backyard, including shade structures is imperative. And while it’s probably more fun to shop for tube slides than it is to pick out a shade sail or umbrella, shade structures are necessary for the safety of children and the longevity of your play equipment. Here’s why:

They Protect Both Kids and Your Equipment from the Sun

No matter how much sunscreen you slather them in, there’s still a chance that children will get too much sun exposure when playing outside. And while it’s true that some sun exposure is good for everyone, too much will increase children’s risk of skin cancer and eye damage. In the short term, children who spend too long in the sun may suffer sunburn, which can lead to skin damage if it’s severe enough. Since it shields them from direct sunlight while still allowing them to play outside, a shade structure is an excellent one-time investment to protect children’s health.

However, a sun shade will protect more than the children who use your play equipment–it protects the equipment itself, too. You’ve likely seen sun-faded play equipment, and equipment like this may reflect poorly on a school or childcare business. However, sun damage to equipment is more than just cosmetic. When play equipment is constantly exposed to sunlight, the plastic that makes it up will degrade, ultimately shortening the life of the equipment. Excessive sun exposure will also cause metal components to corrode more quickly.

They Keep Surfaces from Getting Hot

Most of us probably have a memory of accidentally touching a too-hot metal slide in elementary school. And while too-hot play equipment is unpleasant to touch, it can become dangerous in certain temperatures.

When the air temperature reaches 90 degrees, sun-exposed play equipment can reach temperatures ranging from 120 degrees to 150 degrees. For reference, you can cook an egg at about 160 degrees. Thus, hot play equipment can cause first-degree or second-degree burns. And if you operate a school or daycare, a child getting injured on your play equipment may open your business to legal action. Simply blocking the sun with a shade dramatically reduces the temperature of equipment, keeping it safe for children even in summer heat.

They Lower Playground Air Temperature

Structures like shade sails don’t just lower the surface temperature of plastic, metal, and wood play equipment. They also lower the air temperature itself. This is contingent on the shade structure covering a large enough area. While installing adequate shade structures may be a significant up-front expense, it serves the important function of reducing the risk of heat exhaustion.

You might not associate heat exhaustion with children playing outside. But when children are absorbed in play, they’re less likely to notice the early signs of dehydration. And since children at play don’t always remember to take breaks for water, taking extra steps to avoid heat exhaustion is a must. And because the air temperature will be lower, kids can safely play for longer periods of time. Particularly in the summer months, this feature gives parents (as well as anyone supervising children at play) peace of mind.

If you are purchasing shade structures for a daycare center or other commercial enterprise, they have another benefit: they may bring more business. When parents see shade sails or other shade structures over a play area, they see that you value their children’s safety and comfort. Just as worn-looking play equipment may communicate that your business isn’t focused on the safety of children, equipment with shade structures shows that your business is willing to take on an extra expense if it means children will be safe and comfortable.

All in All

After you’ve invested in a set of play equipment, you may not be eager to take on an extra expense. But particularly if you’re located in the southern or southwestern United States, children will be playing in high temperatures for a decent portion of the year. Although shade structures are another investment, they will save money in the long term by extending the life of your play equipment. And of course, you can’t put a price tag on their most important benefit–children’s ability to play outside safely and comfortably.

For more great tips for kids, check out the other blogs on Cyber Parent.

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