My youngest daughter is only 5 years old, but she already knows that before she flings herself down a slide, whether it's in our backyard or at a playground, she has to check the slide with her hand to make sure that the ride won't burn her butt off. If it's too hot, she takes a pass. And that goes for all of the other equipment at the playground, too.
It doesn't take a genius to know that kids don't like to play on hot playground equipment. Instead, they'll sit in the shade or skip the park altogether in favor of indoor activities like watching television or playing video games. You don't need a scientific study to know that hot playgrounds directly expose kids to the sun's rays at a time when it might do the most damage to their skin.
It's because of these two factors that a new movement is underfoot to promote better shade at playgrounds, parks and pools around the country. According to a recent article in USA Today, a growing number of advocates are working to increase shade in these play areas to protect children's skin and help kids stay more active.
According to dermatologists, most people get the bulk of their sun exposure in childhood. Even one bad sunburn during childhood can double a kid's risk of developing melanoma later in life, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.
To help fund the cause, the American Academy of Dermatology and the nonprofit Shade Foundation (started by a melanoma survivor), are awarding grants to help communities build shade structures in community play areas. But as you can imagine, these grants are going fast. The groups have already given out all of their funds for 2011 and have not yet found sponsors to meet the needs for 2012 grants.