Parks and playgrounds are a great place for children to get exercise, have fun … and sustain sun damage. Sustaining five or more sunburns in youth increases lifetime melanoma risk by 80 percent. Unfortunately, in a recent study, 83 percent of children between the ages of 12 and 18 reported at least one sunburn during the previous summer, and 36 percent had three or more.
Luckily, there are many ways to make sure your child is safe in the sun — researchers estimate that regular sunscreen use by children could reduce subsequent skin cancer development by 78 percent, for instance. The tips and suggestions that follow will help remind parents and caregivers that sun safety is equally important at neighborhood parks, playgrounds and other outdoor public spaces.
- Distribute brochures and display posters from our Health Fair Kit at the park entrances, at picnic tables, and in changing areas and restrooms to promote sun safety. Also create signage that directs park and playground visitors to shaded locations, and warns them of less sun-safe areas.
- Perform a shade audit to determine how to best provide shade in playgrounds, skateboard and/or skating arenas, ball fields, picnic areas, and jogging tracks. Shade can be provided by densely-leafed trees as well as built structures such as shade sails or gazebos. Shad planning software can also help developers find the most sun-safe site for additions to the park or playground. Read more about shade structures.
- Adopt a long-term vision for the future: plant shade trees. These trees will be aesthetically pleasing and the decision to plant then is an economical one, as the longevity of these trees provides greater cost benefit to the local government.
- Host a community health fair at your local park or playground to help educate parents about how they can protect their children from the sun.