Learning Environments

Covered Area that Provides Shade and Protection from Rain

an outdoor space with paths encircling a gazebo with play equipment insideCovered areas provide a protected place to play when it rains and a cooler place to play when the weather is hot and sunny.1 When planning for shade, think about where the sun is in relation to the outdoor play space. Locate the sunny and naturally occurring shady areas. Consider how those areas change with the seasons. This information will help determine the best place to put a covered area.

Programs may already have a permanent covering, such as an awning or a covered porch or deck. However, programs can also create more flexible protected areas, especially for shade, that accommodate the movement of the sun at different times of the year. Such flexible shade covering does not have to be costly. For example, create a large cube structure using long PVC pipes. Clip waterproof tarps, sheets, or canvas to the top and sides to create a portable shade structure. Make sure to anchor the structure securely enough so that it does not catch wind and blow away. A playhouse with a roof is another portable option.

Some play equipment also needs protection from sun. Climbing and sliding surfaces may become too hot from direct sun contact. Placing slides so they face north is one way to reduce this direct contact. Slides embedded in the ground may also be cooler. If slides cannot be moved, cover them with waterproof tarps or canvas.

For home-based programs, this is a good opportunity to ask families about what they think about taking their children outside in different weather conditions. It is also an opportunity to provide information about how best to protect their children and the fun and benefits of being outside in rain, snow, sun, or wind.

1Lally et al., Guide to Setting Up Environments, 58–59.