July 02, 2013 David Flanigan

How to play it cool at the playground

It’s summer, and the heat is on. Does your neighborhood playground look like it’s about to melt? This playground in Houston, Texas actually did:

When the temperature outside is 90-100 degrees, playground equipment and surfacing can get as hot as 130 to 150 degrees, putting kids are at risk of second-degree burns.  There’s a reason that hot cities suffer from “empty playground syndrome.”

But some cities are starting to wise up, making sure to incorporate shade elements into new playground designs and adding them to existing playgrounds. Not only does shade limit UV exposure, but its cooling effect is remarkable. Ian Smith, the Director of Athletics from the Boys and Girls Club of San Fernando Valley in Pacoima, CA says, “Before [adding shade structures], the kids were not able to play on the playground during the day. Now that we have shade, the temperature of the playground area is 15-20 degrees cooler and the kids are able to play safely!”

As Ian points out, during the heat of summer, shade can make the difference between an empty playground and one that’s crawling with kids. At a shaded playground, kids will stay longer and play more often.


At KaBOOM!, we try to incorporate shade into our playgrounds when possible. Left: The VIET playground in New Orleans stays crowded all summer long. Right: Kids rejoice in the shade at the Alliance for Women and Children playground in Abilene, Texas.  

Know a good shady playground in your area? Help other parents in your area by adding a photo on our Map of Play.

Know a playground that needs some shade? Don’t just wring your hands! Listen to this podcast to get some helpful hints for planning and budgeting for a shade project, plus check out these grants from the American Academy of Dermatology and the Shade Foundation of America.

Got any other tips for playing it cool at the playground?

bright ideas, summer, shade structures