little boy crawling across playground steppers

How to Keep Playgrounds Cool When the Weather Is Hot

Overhead view of a playground

There’s nothing more rewarding than giving children the opportunity to play outdoors. It boosts cognitive development, encourages social interaction, and gives them precious time outside. Climbing temperatures can cause concern for playground visitors during warmer months, but how hot is too hot for playground equipment?

Kids require special care and attention when playing on outdoor playgrounds. Thermally comfortable playgrounds with shade structures can keep children happy and comfortable in hot weather and, most importantly, help keep them safe from the effects of hot weather.

How Hot Can Playground Equipment Get?

Playground equipment gets hotter than we would think — recorded temperatures have reached 189 degrees Fahrenheit, which can burn the skin in less than three seconds. Common sources of burns from playground equipment include:

  • Metal equipment: Many playground materials are made of metal to keep them sturdy and increase longevity. Uncoated metal can get hot in the sun, but you can get metal pieces coated in heat-resistant materials.
  • Equipment with seats: Children often enjoy playing in shorts in summer. When they sit down on a slide or swing, their bare skin can make contact with the hot surface and may result in burns.
  • Plastic equipment: Although metal equipment has been replaced with plastic in many cases to reduce heat absorption, plastic can still get hot.
  • Concrete and asphalt: If you’ve been in a parking lot on a sunny day, you understand how this surfacing material can heat up.

Uncovered playground equipment is at the mercy of the sun throughout the day. Children have more sensitive skin than adults and can get burns from coming into contact with playground equipment that’s absorbed the sun’s heat. Excited children often don’t pay attention to the temperature in their play areas, and in their enthusiasm to enjoy the equipment, they make contact with their bare skin.

How Hot Is Too Hot for Playground Equipment?

With surface temperatures around 120 degrees Fahrenheit, children can burn within minutes, and you might not notice how hot the equipment is just by touching it at first. And from around 140 degrees Fahrenheit, it can take seconds for someone to experience burns.

As much as we would love to let children frolic in the playground throughout the day, there comes the point where the temperature is too hot for them to continue safely. Consider the outdoor temperature and the temperature of the equipment for a full view of where to draw the line.

Burns aren’t the only concern when playgrounds get hot. Heat-related illnesses can also occur when temperatures climb. Children are at increased risk at temperatures of 90 degrees Fahrenheit and up, and caregivers can pay careful attention and take steps to avoid sunburn, exposure to UV rays, heat stroke, and heat exhaustion.

How to Keep Playground Equipment Cool

So, how do you keep playground equipment cool? No one wants to keep children indoors when the sun is shining, and all they want to do is go to the playground with their friends. Consider the following methods to keep playgrounds thermally comfortable:

Think About Shade

Protecting your equipment from direct sunlight is the most effective method of keeping temperatures down. Help keep children safe and let them play longer by installing shade structures in your playground. Depending on the size of the playground and structures, there are several different options for adding shade into the mix, including:

  • Umbrellas
  • Canopies
  • Awnings
  • Pergolas
  • Shade sails

Get shade structures made of appropriate shade fabric to add another layer of protection against UV rays, and consider the placement of your shade structures with care.

Kids playing on a playground with "Options for Shade" text

Try to provide shade at the bottom of covered slides, for example, to help protect the uncovered area at the bottom. You could also provide shade coverage in areas where children have the most contact with equipment, such as swings.

Plant Some Trees

Trees provide shade and can lower playground temperatures by a few degrees. They’re aesthetically pleasing and good for the environment. Consider indigenous trees when planting for your playground, and allow plenty of room for them to grow without damaging your equipment.

Stick to Light Colors and Reflective Materials

Darker-colored equipment absorbs heat, while light colors reflect it. Think of it in terms of what you wear — it’s much more comfortable wearing white when you’re in the sun. The same principle applies to playground equipment, so opt for lighter colors wherever possible.

Reflective materials will provide further assistance in helping lower playground temperatures. Common examples  light-colored playground surfacing and perforated playground tiles. Consider heat-reflective paint, where applicable, to cover metal surfaces and help minimize the chance of burns.

Incorporate Some Water

The addition of a water element can help keep things cool, but it also adds a new and exciting way of play for children — they can take a break and cool off without even knowing it. Common water elements include sprinklers, water fountains, and splash pools.

Consider different age groups that use your playground and provide appropriate safety measures around water. Moving water is often an excellent choice, as stagnant would have to be replaced often.

Encourage Safe Play

Encourage caregivers to keep shoes on children, have kids wear long pants when possible, and check the temperature of the equipment themselves before allowing children to play there. You can also provide printed reminders for kids to wear sunscreen and stay hydrated to help reduce the chance of heat-related illnesses.

Consider Cool Surfaces

Many common playground surfacing components absorb heat from the sun and become hot. Consider the coolest surfacing available when installing or upgrading your commercial playground. Make sure the surface is light in color or rubber to provide an extra heat barrier at ground level.

Conduct Regular Inspections

Routine inspections will help you identify areas of concern regarding temperature and more. As you’re always looking to improve the playground experience for users, inspections can also help you identify areas that need further attention, such as where you may need a shade structure.

Keep Your Playground Cool With Shade Structures from Little Tikes Commercial

"Keep Your Playground Cool With Shade Structures"

Help keep your playground area usable with shade structures from Little Tikes Commercial. Children can use your equipment with better protection from the elements, and caregivers can rest assured that you’ve provided an extra layer of heat protection.

If you’d like more information on how we can provide quality shade structures for your commercial playground, please get in touch with us today.