Playground Sunshades and Styles – What You Need to Know

Playground Shade Sails

Picture this.  It’s a beautiful and HOT 87 degree summer day with your children (or neighbors, friends, cousins, etc.) and you’ve just hit the local park to play.  The kids are swinging, running, burning off all of that stored up winter energy when suddenly 20 minutes into playing, they’re ready to leave saying things like, “It’s too hot to play” or “Ouch, I just burned myself on the slide – I’m ready to go.”  You suddenly think to yourself, “Man, I wish this playground had a sunshade so we could stay longer!”

Shade is one of the things that many people tend to forget about when designing their new playground.  It seems like an “extra” to many people.  But as many studies continue to show, including this article from the CDC – shading young ones from the damaging UV rays should not be an afterthought.  The bad news is that it is not the first thing on a wish list for most people planning for a playground.   The good news is that there are many solutions out there today.  More than there have ever been in the past. 

Many states and cities have actually started introducing legislation that will require playgrounds to have a certain square footage shaded, although strict requirements aren’t likely to happen anytime soon.  They will likely be structured by the amount of children that will be playing on the equipment.  

Sunshades and canopies not only ensure playground goers are protected from the outdoor weather – think sun and rain; but they also help guard your outdoor recreation investment for years to come!

Reasons to Consider a Sunshade for Your Playground

There are several reasons you should consider a sunshade for your commercial play set including safety, appearance, protecting your investment and overall usability, just to name a few.  


Playground equipment can get hot in those long summer days.  A sunshade or canopy can keep it from getting too hot and burning little one’s playing.  Studies have shown that having a properly installed sunshade can reduce temperatures by up to 30 degrees. 

As referenced earlier, the importance of protecting young ones from UV rays at a young age is crucial.  Luckily, utilizing a sunshade, you can block up to 98% of harmful UV rays.  


UltraShade Fabric FeaturesUltraShade Structural Information

Shade structures have worked out a lot of the issues and problems that plagued shades in years past.  New technology and innovations have ushered in a variety of useful features and benefits that make it a great and easy time to buy.

Fabrics that provide the shade have been reinforced, engineered and overall improved.  Fabric is now inherently mildew and rot resistant.  Likewise, most manufacturers employ raschel-knitted fabric that prevents frays and unraveling.  High quality fabrics are designed and engineered to maintain their color in all weather conditions.

Posts that are now being used utilize powder-coated tubing that is extremely corrosion resistant.  All posts are free of sharp edges and corners, meeting or exceeding ASTM standards. Formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials is an international standards organization that develops and publishes voluntary consensus technical standards for a wide range of materials, products, systems, and services.

And on top of all of that, most framework is engineered to withstand wind gusts up to 90 mph with fabric and up to 150 mph with fabric removed.   



Given the amount of styles, fabrics and colors Playground Outfitters has to chose from, you’re bound to find the perfect sunshade or canopy to fit perfectly with your playground structure – plus they look pretty cool, too!  A myriad of styles and vibrant colors let you make a statement that can both accent and enhance the artistic and architectural look of your entire playground project.   

Protecting your investment

Help prolong the life of your playground equipment by protecting it from the harsh sun and other natural weather elements, which can lead to fading, chipping and overall sun damage.  Sunshades will help keep it looking great while maintaining all of the safety standards for everyone to enjoy for years to come.  

Overall Usability

Sunshades and canopies can keep play areas cooler than those without one.  Remember, they can provide shade for parents, grandparents and of course the little ones.  This allows the whole family to stay and play longer, especially in those hot summer months!

Geographic Area – Where You Live and Why It Matters When Choosing a Sunshade 

Where you live will likely dictate the requirements of your shade structure.  Some people are under the impression that a shade just has to shade from the sun and hold the weight of the fabric, but this is not the case. 

Many different areas require serious enhancements and reinforcements based on inclement weather.  For example, the upper midwest, in certain areas will require snow and snow load specifications.  In coastal areas, wind load requirements need to increased to 150 mph or more.  And on the west coast, earthquake codes will add additional requirements and enhancements.  Absolutely where you live is something you have to consider when making a sunshade purchase.  

Playground Shade Structure Costs and Grants

You might now be thinking to yourself, “Okay this all sounds great but how much does it cost?” 

A basic playground structure that is 12 feet x 20 feet will cost around $2500 for the whole sun shade system.  Fancier and more comprehensive solutions can get up over $100,000.  But no big surprise here, the biggest factor that plays into cost is the actual size of the area that needs to be shaded.  The larger the playground area, the larger the shade structure that is required to shade that area.  And don’t forget that you will have some additional costs wrapped up in labor and installation after that. All systems will require concrete footers to meet local building codes, so your installer will need to have experience in concrete work. 

In addition, some organizations offer grant programs to help cover the cost of installing permanent shade structures for outdoor locations that aren’t protected from the sun.  For example, the American Academy of Dermatology, Inc. will award $8,000 through its AAD Shade Structure Program to a non-profit or public school who provide services, programs and curriculum to children and teenager who are 18 and younger.  For more information on this program you can visit the AADA Shade Structure Program.

Sun Shade Ideas & Styles

Playground Sun Shade Styles

At Playground Outfitters, we offer a wide variety of shade structures to meet your budget and design aesthetic.  Some common types of sunshades include; modular, umbrella, hip and ridged and sail shades.  

Modular Shade

Modular Playground Shade

One of the most popular options is the Modular Shade.  These are very versatile and can be added into a new or existing playground space.  With no footing to install and a canopy top, it’s a very affordable option.


Umbrella Shade for Playground

While umbrellas typically aren’t going to protect your playground equipment, they can provide a shady spot for children and adults to cool off and get out of the sun. 

Hip Rectangular

Hip and Ridge Shade Structure for Playground

This style of sunshade is used a lot as it can be a very affordable option.  These shades come in a large variety of colors, sizes and fabrics to choose from and often a great choice if you’re looking to cover a large area. 

Sail Shade

Rectangular Sail Shade Over Playground

With the fun coloring options and triangle design, your playground design can really come to life when adding a sail shade.  

Shipping & Preparation Time

Most shade structures are custom in nature. There are vast amounts of fabric, colors, shapes and patterns available to choose from. Similar to custom furniture, they are typically not just sitting in a warehouse, rather they are made to order. Once you figure out exactly what you need with your Playground Outfitters expert, we can get you an accurate quote for shipment and some designs to look over. This whole process typically takes at least 2 weeks in lead time.  Be sure to leave some time for revisions.  

Ready to Get Started? 

Well, you think you’ve found a style that you like? Not sure what size you need or how to start measuring?  Head on over to How to Measure for a Playground Shade Structure to get an idea of what you will need.  And remember, don’t get overwhelmed, our experts at Playground Outfitters are here to help you through this process.  


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