Playgrounds serve an important role in the early development of our children, introducing them to outdoor fun and encouraging active, creative play. Sometimes, particularly during the deep heat of the summer months, those playgrounds can be blisteringly hot, uninviting spaces. However, they don’t need to be and a new report from the Standards Council of Canada and the National Program for Playground Safety lays out some best practices for keeping our kids cool while they play.
Outdoor spaces and equipment are made safer by standards for playground design and materials. As climate change increases the number of hot summer days and worsens the effects of urban heat islands, the temperatures at playgrounds are an increasing concern for designers, manufacturers, educators, and parents. Extreme temperatures can cause harmful injury to children through sunstroke or burns from hot surfaces, while extended exposure to harmful UV radiation can raise future risk of skin cancers. Thermally Comfortable Playgrounds: A review of literature and survey of experts presents a significant step forward for reducing these risks through playground design.
Thermally Comfortable Playgrounds collects the latest research and practical knowledge into one document. It draws upon a literature review and a survey of experts while summarizing design practices and site features that create safe and comfortable playgrounds for all seasons of play. The report considers factors such as natural and artificial shade features, material and colour selection for equipment and surfaces, and playground equipment placement before presenting a set of evidence-based recommendations that can be included in equipment and design standards.
“Sun exposure, air movement, humidity, and temperature are environmental factors that combine with activity and clothing to affect what is known as “thermal comfort”, a description of the condition of being satisfied with current environmental conditions. Each playground has its own distinct micro-climate, with unique patterns of temperature, wind, and radiation. Making playground equipment and spaces thermally comfortable in summer helps ensure that children can go outdoors, play, be active and remain at a play area for a longer period of time.”- National Program for Playground Safety
Development of the guidelines in Thermally Comfortable Playgrounds was facilitated by research conducted by the National Program for Playground Safety at the University of Northern Iowa. The project was supported by the Standards Council of Canada’s Standards to Support Resilience in Infrastructure Program, with guidance from the Climate Change and Innovation Bureau at Health Canada. In 2019, the results of this research were provided, for consideration, to the CSA Group technical committee responsible for CSA Z614:20 Children’s playground equipment and surfacing. The 2020 edition of CSA Z614 includes an informative annex on thermal comfort that draws on the recommendations of this report.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many playgrounds around the world have been closed to support collective efforts to slow the spread of the virus. NPPS has also identified best practices for playground visitors and facilities staff as communities begin to lift restrictions to playgrounds and other recreational facilities.
About the National Program for Playground Safety
The National Program for Playground Safety (NPPS) at the University of Northern Iowa works for all children to have access to safe environments for play. Initially created in 1995 with a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Injury Prevention, the NPPS operates as a national advocacy agency to disseminate research to raise awareness on playground safety.
About the Standards Council of Canada
The Standards Council of Canada (SCC) is a federal Crown corporation responsible for promoting standardization in Canada. SCC leads and facilitates the development and use of national and international standards and accreditation services in order to enhance Canada's competitiveness and well-being.
SCC’s mission involves working with its stakeholders and customers to promote efficient and effective standardization that strengthens Canada’s competitiveness and social well-being.
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