Every parent knows the importance of protecting their children from sunburn and other long-term health problems caused by ultraviolet (UV) rays. Many parents take the necessary preventive step of applying sunscreen on their kids before they go out to play.
Sunscreen isn’t the only way to help protect children from long-term sun exposure. Shade is also necessary in the battle against health problems caused by the sun – for children as well as parents and other caregivers supervising on the playground.
According to WebMD, most people’s skin will burn if there is enough exposure to UV radiation. However, some people burn particularly easily or develop skin reactions to sunlight. This condition is called photosensitivity and is often referred to as a sun allergy.
People with photosensitivity have an immunological response to light — most often sunlight. They can break out in a rash when exposed to sunlight. The amount of exposure required to cause a reaction varies from person to person.
One of the causes of photosensitivity is taking certain medications that many children with disabilities take. Other medications produce side effects that cause a child to have trouble sweating, a problem that is exaggerated in the heat.
Because of the increased risks of sun exposure in children with disabilities, the authors of the Inclusive Play Design Guide recommend that playgrounds provide spaces – if not the entire playground – where children can play in non-direct sunlight. To reach this goal, the Guide suggests including established shade trees and freestanding fabric shade structures, such as those offered by Playworld Systems (see below for more information). The Guide also advises placing shade over seating and gathering areas.
One of the ways to help fund a shade structure on a playground is to apply for a Shade Structure grant from the American Academy of Dermatologists. The organization offers one-time only $8,000 grants to help pay for the purchase and installation of a shade structure. As in any grant, there are specific conditions you must meet to qualify.
There are many great products available that offer respite from the sun on the playground. Playworld Systems has listened to the needs of families and developed a line of shade products specifically for playgrounds. Items such as Hex Roofs and LolliTop Roofs not only add shade, but help inspire imaginative play.
For coverage over a larger area of the playground, Playworld Systems offers Hat Shades and Shade Canopies. These shades use a one-piece fabric solution for maximum square feet of shade coverage, blocking 94 percent of sunlight and protecting children from harmful UV rays.
For the health of all the visitors to your playground, adding shade is the right thing to do.
Do you take into consideration how shady a playground is before you go to visit?