Whenever young children play outdoors, whether it be during the weekday at school or on the weekend at their local park, they can develop sunburn from prolonged exposure to the sun’s UV rays. While wearing a good sunblock with the proper SPF rating can help, more and more facility owners and operators are opting to add playground shade anyway as added protection for kids and families.

But what style of shade is right for your location? Here is a breakdown of shade structures and their use.

Types of Shade Solutions

Cantilever Shade Structures

For theme parks, hotels, or city splash pads, finding the right shade solution for children can be a tough task at hand. Taking care of guests, whether they are kids or adults, takes commitment and research on frames and fabrics to ensure a long-lasting shade can be installed on the property in question.

Cantilever shades are often used in these cases, because the shade posts are left to the rear and you can get more shaded space without interference from a steel frame. The cantilever style of shade is a common sight above bleachers, there to protect fans during athletic games. The most common sizes of cantilevers are 10’ x 20’, 12’ x 20’, and 14’ x 24’.

Sail Shades

Of all the shade types, probably the more practical and affordable solution is the sail shade. Although similar to those found on the mast of a sailboat, these sails are made of a tougher fabric that is impervious to water. Shade sails are made to be very flexible and easy to work with. They can be tied down to steel posts, or a combination of steel posts and fixed objects such as the side of a home.

These sails are often used to shade playgrounds, pool areas, and other spaces where children gather to socialize and play. Protecting them from UV rays is what matters, which is why landscape architects are encouraged to incorporate more shade into their layout plans.  These fabric shade structures can be stretched to form odd angles or tiered to form an artistic design while providing shade. Sail shades are used often at city parks, over patio dining spaces, or at country clubs for tennis or golf. Shade sails are made in different shapes; triangle, square, rectangle, or hexagon.

Waterproof Umbrellas

Commercial shade umbrellas offer protection from the sun, rain, and light hail.  These large umbrellas are also used at swimming pool venues. For ocean-close environments, we suggest an umbrella with a cantilevered arm. These types of waterproof umbrellas are designed to withstand gusty winds, but if needed they can be closed quickly with the removable crank handle near the baseplate.

The Vista waterproof umbrella by Superior Shade has a cantilevered, retractable design so that it stays out of the way of guests yet provides more than adequate shade and rain protection. This offset column can be ordered in several powder-coat colors. The cantilever style has been popular for a number of years simply because it puts the shade over the guest and not all around them.

Cabana Style Shade

This type of shade is similar in design to something out of a 1920’s movie. The square shade structure comes in 10’ to 13’ standard sizes. By design, this shade is similar to a military field tent where an occupant can decide to draw curtains as needed to keep the heat in or allow it to go out. Superior Shade offers their shaded Cabana in 13 designer fabric colors.

These shades are used as a convenience at many hotels and resorts, where they are rented or offered as an upgrade to room packages. For particular resort guests, this level of privacy and luxury is worth the extra few dollars. Cabanas can be rented out by families as well, and the privacy of the structure provides a place for the children to change in and out of their swimsuits.

Other Sun Protection Ideas

The Use of Sunscreen

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, children under six months of age should be kept out of the sun entirely. This is because their skin has not developed enough melanin to protect on its’ own. Once children reach this age they should wear a water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen with a minimum of 30 SPF. Several dermatologists recommend sunscreens made of zinc oxide or titanium oxide because they tend to apply more evenly than sprays.

Sunglasses and Hats

Covering up the body in a towel or sweatshirt is a good way to avoid getting sunburn. Younger children and babies should wear a wide-brimmed cap or hat that will cast a shadow on their face.

Exposure to the sun can damage the eyes as well as the skin, so it’s best to bring along an umbrella or sun canopy of some kind and allow your children to rest underneath it every so often. Wearing sunglasses is a great idea, as problems can develop later in life such as cataracts or blurry vision.

In the Event of Sunburn

Even when trying to be careful, people can forget to shield themselves and sunburns will happen. Should you or your children get a sunburn, follow these steps for your comfort and healing over the next few days.

  • Apply a cool cloth compress to the affected area to ease pain and heat that was absorbed.
  • Apply natural aloe vera gel to any sunburned surface of the skin.
  • Allow your child a small dose of acetaminophen or ibuprofen to relieve pain and itching.
  • Apply a moisture cream to rehydrate the skin.


This post written by Larry Hall and Edited by Emily Lipton

Larry Hall is a Marketing Manager at SRP Shade, a division of Superior Recreational Products. He has been a coach for youth soccer and tennis for over 15 years. SRP Shade offers sun protection with our tensile and canopy shade structures for commercial and recreational use.

Categories: Parenting


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