Did you know that climate change affects playground safety? Given that the number of extremely hot days is expected to more than double over the next 30 years in parts of Canada, experts recognize the increasing need for safety measures and have engaged in a series of activities hosted by the Standards Council of Canada (SCC) to outline a path to use standards to address extreme heat in playgrounds, parks, and other recreational spaces.
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. Increasing temperatures with climate change means designers, manufacturers, educators, and parents must consider the impacts of heat on the design and use of playgrounds and other outdoor recreational facilities.
Between January and March 2021, sixteen experts from across Canada and the United States discussed ideas to further advance the recommendations in Thermally Comfortable Playgrounds: A review of literature and survey of experts. Published in 2020, this report lays out best practices for keeping children cool while they play. CSA has incorporated guidance from the report into the latest edition of CSA Z614:20 Children’s playground equipment and surfacing.
The participants represented academia, early childhood educators, governments, and the private sector. Through a webinar, survey, and virtual focus group, they imagined what playgrounds might be like in 2050. A vision emerged of spaces that are comfortable in all seasons that foster connection and community, and which are accessible, equitable, and inclusive. To achieve this vision, the participants highlighted several important themes for future efforts:
- Expand the audience to engage and inform groups who design, use, and pay for playgrounds
- Collaborate across disciplines to have broader reach and greater impact
- Create practical tools to improve decision-making and support widespread use of the guidance
- Prioritize early action that keeps children and play in focus
A key output of the engagement series was a summary report capturing the feedback and recommendations. The report provides an overview of the discussions, general priorities for all stakeholders involved, and a roadmap of actions that SCC can lead to further address extreme heat through standards and related guidance for recreational spaces.
Kennedy Consulting facilitated the engagement activities, with funding from the Standards Council of Canada under the Standards to Support Resilience in Infrastructure Program. The National Program for Playground Safety at the University of Northern Iowa provided research used to develop the guidelines in Thermally Comfortable Playgrounds, with support from SCC and guidance from the Climate Change and Innovation Bureau at Health Canada.