How to Prevent Playground Burns on Hot Days in Summer

The sun comes out, all kids want is to go outside, even when they are at school. With the sun comes sunburn, heatstroke and fatigue. How can schools help make playgrounds burn-proof during the long hot days of summer?

The first step in protecting kids in a playground comes with a co-op. Teachers and parents need to be on the same page. Parents need to ensure they send their kids to school with suitable clothing, hats and, if possible, sun cream protection. Teachers then need to police the wearing of hats, and the application of sun cream. Teach kids to be helpful and get them to rub sun cream on each other. Not only are they helping but it means teachers can concentrate on dealing with the less able children whilst the rest protect each other.

What is meant when a parent is asked to provide suitable clothing for a sunny playground at lunch or break? Hats are obvious, and not just for boys. Girls, especially those with short hair or fair skins also benefit from wearing a hat which shades the face and protects the nape of the neck. Most schools have some form of uniform and the fairly standard t-shirt or summer dress will usually suffice as bodily protection.

There are some schools were children are free to wear whatever they want. Such cases require attention to clothing choices. Make sure halter tops, sleeveless or vest tops and short skirts or trousers which leave a lot of exposed skin are kept to a minimum. Go with knee-length for the bottom half and cap or half sleeves for the top in light breathable materials. Loose-fitting clothes also help children stay cool as these maximise airflow over the skin.

Sun cream should be a minimum of SPF 15, – SPF refers to Sun Protection Factor – preferably higher and should be applied to all exposed areas of skin, including the nape of the neck, arms, legs, faces and remember the tips of the ears!

As to the playground environs, the most important point is shade. Not all schools are lucky enough to have shade trees in the grounds, but there are alternatives. Large sheets or tarps can be stretched across poles or attached to fences to give pockets of shade. Large parasols, usually associated with golfing or with protecting outdoor tables, can be erected as further shady areas. All such constructions obviously need to be safety checked.

Talk to the school community. There may be options for donations of materials, skills and time which can lead to the constructions of solid structures to give shade in exposed playgrounds. Local businesses may be willing to sponsor such efforts too.

It is also worth thinking about moving the lunch hour. Most schools break between 12-1 for lunch, during the hottest possible part of the day. Moving the time forward or back by an hour, or breaking up the length of time spent outside into more frequent, shorter periods can also help in the fight against heat and burning. Children, already fatigued from the heat, will also benefit from shorter periods of enforced concentration, the break allowing them to recover some energy.

Having water available is also vital. Some schools have drinking fountains in the grounds and this is ideal. For those without, constant access to water, perhaps provided in cups from the kitchen area or main hall, is a useful alternative. Teachers and lunch-time supervisors need to keep an eye on children and ensure all are taking in enough fluids.

Whilst talking about burns, there is a small area which is worth mentioning. Metal gets very hot in the direct heat of the sun. Children need to be warned not to touch metal pipes and surfaces. These areas could be made off-limits or covered to prevent unintentional contact.

Finally, if a child does suffer heatstroke or sunburn there needs to be at least one qualified first aider available to deal with the situation. Further advice for dealing with such an eventuality can be found at the NHS website for sunburn and at kids health for heat stroke.