Caring for Our Children (CFOC)

Chapter 6: Play Areas/Playgrounds and Transportation

6.1 Play Area/Playground Size and Location

6.1.0 Shading of Play Area

Children should be provided shade in play areas (not just playgrounds). Shading may be provided by trees, buildings, or shade structures. Metal equipment (especially slides) should be placed in the shade (1,2). Sun exposure should be reduced by timing children’s outdoor play to take place before ten o’clock in the morning or after four o’clock in the afternoon standard time (3).
The shade will provide comfort and prevent sunburn or burning because the structures or surfacing are hot. Access to sun and shade is beneficial to children while they play outdoors. Light exposure of the skin to sunlight promotes the production of vitamin D that growing children require for bone development and immune system health (8). Additionally, research shows sun may play an important role in alleviating depression. Exposure to sun is needed, but children must be protected from excessive exposure. Individuals who suffer severe childhood sunburns are at increased risk for skin cancer. Practicing sun-safe behavior during childhood is the first step in reducing the chances of getting skin cancer later in life (4). Placing metal equipment (such as slides) in the shade prevents the buildup of heat on play surfaces. Hot play surfaces can cause burns on children (5,7).
A tent with sides up, awning, or other simple shelter from the sun can be available. Parents/guardians can be encouraged to supply protective clothing and age-appropriate sunscreen with written permission to apply to specified children, as necessary (6).

For more information on appropriate clothing and footwear when playing outdoors, see Standard

Center, Early Head Start, Head Start, Large Family Child Care Home, Small Family Child Care Home
RELATED STANDARDS Playing Outdoors Sun Safety Including Sunscreen Possibility of Exit from Windows Policies and Practices that Promote Physical Activity
  1. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). 2008. Public playground safety handbook. Bethesda, MD: CPSC.
  2. National Program for Playground Safety. Tips for limiting sun exposure.
  3. Healthy Children. 2010. Safety and prevention: Sun safety. American Academy of Pediatrics.
  4. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 2009. Sunwise kids.
  5. Hendricks, C. 2005. Healthy Childcare Consultants. Safe fun in the sun. Fun in the Sun Booklet color.pdf.
  6. California Department of Public Health. Skin cancer prevention program.
  7. Fiene, R. 2002. 13 indicators of quality child care: Research update. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation.