Summer is here, the temperature is rising and everyone wants to get out into the playground. While this is great for our wellbeing and vitamin D levels, there are times when the heat can be overbearing and the UV levels too high for young skin. So, aside from sunscreen and hats, how do we ensure the kids can get outside, stay cool and get some shade? Here are some tips to help.
1. Clever playground design
How hot a playground becomes depends upon where the light comes from at the warmest parts of the day. Clever playground design can take this into consideration, using existing buildings, trees and hedges to create play zones that provide shelter from the brightest sun. Zones can also be placed away from sun traps where a lack of air flow prevents a cooling breeze from moderating the temperature. This is particularly important for areas where physical activities take place, such as playing on climbing frames or taking part in team games.
2. Change surfacing colour
Traditional playground surfacing, like asphalt, tends to be black, a colour that rather than reflecting light, absorbs it. Studies in the US have discovered that in playgrounds where the outdoor temperature reaches over 30 degrees, the surface of the asphalt exceeded 50 degrees. That heat gets released back into the air and can make playground temperatures unbearable, especially if there is no breeze.
Today, however, there is a whole variety of different playground surfacing available and most of these come in a range of different colours. Choosing a lighter colour for sun trap areas can help regulate air temperature on hot days.
3. Add greenery
Using trellises and planters to add some greenery to a playground can also help moderate temperatures. By adding a touch of nature, you create a microclimate in your playground. Not only do living walls, climbers and plants provide shade to people, they stop surfaces getting hot and warming up the air in the playground. In addition, plants also go through the process of evapotranspiration, where water is released and then evaporated into the microclimate to keep it cooler. Adding greenery to school walls helps keep both the playground and the school cooler during the hot summer months.
4. Water play
There’s nothing better when you’re feeling hot than to stick your hands into cold water. It has an instant cooling and refreshing effect. Having water in the playground also helps keep the area cooler as it absorbs heat from the air and cools through evaporation.
The great thing about water play is that it’s fun and kids just love to do it. Thankfully, there are quite a few ways to introduce this into your playground, such as sand and water play and magnetic water walls. If you have a nature area, you can also add a water feature.
A pergola is a great way to add shade that lets some of the sunlight through. With planters, you can grow climbers up the side and across the beams to create a beautifully dappled area for children to cool off in. There are now pergolas specially designed for schools, large enough to accommodate whole groups of pupils, some with planters or shaded covers built in. There are even large pergolas that come with seating and decked floors.
6. Sail shades
Sail shades are a great way to protect children from the sun during summer and give shelter from the rain for the rest of the year. Cost-effective for what they achieve, many schools have incorporated them into their playground designs. With the largest sail shades covering up to 64 square metres, they offer protection for lots of children while enabling them to keep playing.
Perfect for both outdoor lessons and shaded play, the latest playground shelters come in a range of sizes and designs from small play huts to large octagonal shelters that accommodate a whole class of children. What’s more, they provide a range of features to suit the needs of different schools. From simple shelters with just a roof, to more sophisticated versions with decked floors, side walls and built-in seating. A great place to keep children protected from the sun on hot days and somewhere to keep a little bit warmer and drier during autumn and winter.
Keeping children cool and protected from UV is important during the hottest days of the school year. Hopefully, these tips have shown you that there are plenty of ways you can make your playground environment more comfortable and safer for your pupils.
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