a play set outside a building

Top 5 Benefits of Shade Structures For Your Playground

If you have ever spent a Summer afternoon outside in the South, you know that that it doesn't take long before you're dripping with sweat (or glowing for some people) and feeling the heat on your skin as the sun beats down. When the temperature gets into the 90s, play equipment can get seriously hot. While we love to give children the opportunity to spend time outside - getting active and exploring creative play - we also want them to enjoy playing without the risk of overheating, sunburn, or exposure to UV rays.

Adding shade structures to your playground is one of the ways to mitigate the risks of overheating, sunburn, and UV ray exposure. Let's walk through some basics of school shade structure benefits, so you're armed with relevant information. We'll discuss:

  • Shade structure basics
  • Top 5 benefits of playground shade structures
  • Different shapes and sizes shade structures can take
  • Some great playgrounds with shade structures

What Are Shade Structures for Playgrounds?

Shade structures are an essential element to playgrounds, acting as the covering over playground equipment. They protect children from the sun's heat and prevent playground equipment from getting too hot - just a few of the many benefits of shade structures. They also happen to be available in many sizes, styles, and colors to match your existing equipment and enhance the look and feel of your play area.

Top 5 Benefits of Shade Structures

  1. Provides Protection from the Sun

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the sun's rays are strongest between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm - the primary times that children will be at school and likely to have recess outdoors. To protect from overheating, sunburn, and harmful UV rays, it is important to consider investing in playground shade structures. In fact, many years ago, the CDC, published a lengthy shade planning document that guides schools on how to plan for shades. However, there are still many playgrounds that are still shadeless. Shades are especially vital in the months when children may wear shorts and t-shirts, and extended sun exposure becomes a concern.

2. Keeps Playground Equipment Cool

With summer temperatures in direct sunlight easily reaching 90+ degrees, your playground equipment will heat to extreme temperatures. To ensure the safety and comfort of children at play, one of the great benefits of shade structures is that they keep the playground material cool. With playground shades, you will not have to worry as much about accidental burns from sun-exposed play equipment.

3. Extends the Life of Playground Equipment

Without shades, your playground equipment will be constantly exposed to sunlight, which will cause the rotomolded materials like slides and roofs to fade. However, one of the benefits of playground shade structures is that they help extend the life of your playground equipment by reducing the amount of direct sunlight. Shade structures will also reduce damage from other elements, including rain, hail, and snow - ensuring your fun community playground will stay in great shape for many many years.

4. Allows Children to Play Longer Without Overheating

When kids are having fun playing outside, they may not realize when they are becoming overheated or sunburned until the damage is done. But another remarkable benefit of shade structures is that the added shade allows children to play for longer without overheating. The same goes for adults that can rest more comfortably under shaded benches or picnic tables.

5. Ensures Easy Use at Any Time - Rain or Shine

For playgrounds that have no cover or shade, too much heat or the start of rain means the end of playtime - unless you have playground shade structures. With various shade structures covering the majority of your equipment and resting areas, children and adults can remain comfortable even as the weather changes.

Best Ways To Incorporate Shade

When choosing how to incorporate shade into your playground, consider not just the playground itself but also surrounding benches, picnic tables, and playground components. The four types of shade options below will ensure that your entire playground area stays cool and comfortable.

Natural Shade

The easiest way to protect your playground equipment from the sun is using any natural trees and shrubs for protection. Utilizing natural shade like trees and shrubs often enhances the aesthetics of the play area and provides a low-cost alternative to large shade structures. However, when using natural shade like trees, it's important to keep the ASTM guidelines in mind.

Hip Shades

Hip shades work very well when an entire play structure or play area needs to be shaded. They are very sturdy and give the play area a clean look. Additionally, a typical hip shade roof also offers protection against adverse weather conditions because snow or rain can simply roll off the edges of the shade.


Roofs not only make a play structure more visually appealing by adding shapes and colors, but they also protect children from harmful UV areas and give the children at least some space to rest in the shade while playing. Roofs can come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes and are often made from roto-molded plastic and securely fastened to posts of the play structure.

Swing Set Canopies

Because children tend to swing for a long time once they get started, swing set canopies are a great shade structure to integrate. Swing set canopies are an easy way to keep children cool and protected from the sun.

Single-Post Umbrellas

It is important to shade both large play areas and smaller playground components like water tables, play panels, and freestanding playground climbers. Single-post umbrellas and crawl tubes are great ways to integrate sections of shade, giving you the benefits of shade structures even in remote areas.

Our Recommendations for Playgrounds with Shade Structures

At EcoPlay, creating safe and fun playground structures is our mission. We recognize the many benefits of shade structures and have incorporated them into most of our playground designs. We have highlighted several great options below that feature an ideal amount of shade coverage, ensuring you receive all the benefits of playground shade structures.


The Center for the Visually Impaired (CVI) playground illustrates how a hip shade can be utilized to cover the entire play area. The large amount of coverage provided by the shade significantly reduces the areas where children could be harmfully exposed to the sun.


The Harvest play structure is a large sized model outfitted with roofing units over the entire structure. In designing this model, we wanted to maximize the benefits of shade structures! With its roomy design, large groups of children 2-12 can comfortably play on the three slides and multiple climbing structures.


The Trinity play structure is another large model that could comfortably suit the needs of schools, neighborhoods, and public parks. This playground includes four roofs to give you the best benefits of playground roofs and allow children to enjoy a long afternoon of outdoor play. The Trinity also has the most versatile play options with multiple slides, climbing walls, and imaginative play areas under the playground.

Consult EcoPlay's Experts About Your Playground Needs

At EcoPlay, it is our goal to not only provide safe, long-lasting playgrounds but also do our part to protect the environment for future children who will play on our equipment. Our eco-friendly initiative turns recycled materials into durable, easy-to-maintain playground equipment with a long lifespan. In fact, we are so confident about the excellence of our products that we guarantee a 50-year warranty on EcoPlay® lumber.

Curious to learn more about what makes EcoPlay the best playground equipment provider in the south east? See Why EcoPlay or Contact Us for a quote. We would love to help you pick all the best playground equipment, including shade structures, to create a safe and comfortable play area year-round.

Call Us @ 470-280-7529

Let's begin a dialog about your needs for playground equipment or amenities. Then, we'll walk you through options for playgrounds that meet your budget, configuration, age group, and space requirements.

Let's Discuss Your Project!