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Staying in the Shade this Summer

It’s hard to make the most of the weather when we are constantly worrying about the alarming effects of the sun. But it’s also important to make the most of whatever elements are thrown at us. Vitamin D is very important for our wellbeing and the sun is the best source of vitamin D you can get! So how do we allow children to play in the sun and be safe about it? Here are some hints and tips to guide you over the next few weeks.

Posted on Wednesday 25th July 2018

Sun protection and hydration

Sun Cream:

We are advised to wear sun cream, even when it is cloudy and overcast as the sun’s rays can penetrate through the clouds. Even in shade, sun cream is important. However, it is vital to wear it when the sun is shining to avoid painful burns as well as the possibility of more serious health risks later in life. Always check that your sun cream contains protection for both UVA and UVB rays. The SPF (Sun Protection Factor) should always be at least 15 and the higher the factor the more the child is protected. In the UK there will also be a star rating on the protection. At least 4 stars are recommended for optimum sun coverage. Cream should be applied 30 minutes before going out and reapplied every 4 hours. Some parents recommend an 8 hour sun cream to cover children throughout the school day, so this may be one to try.


Be an example for the children by applying sun cream yourself. The children can copy your motions to learn how to do it independently. Advise parents that children should wear loose fitting clothing that covers hard to reach places so that they are fully protected from the sun’s rays. Carry a bottle of water with you at all times so that children can see that you have water too. Advise parents to provide sun cream, a hat, sunglasses and a bottle of water with them over the summer months.


Water activities will keep your little ones cool but do bear in mind that water may wash off any sun protection so the activities should be done with caution. Perhaps save water for warmer days where there isn’t too much sunlight or when in the shade of a tree.

Hydration is key during the warmer months. Ensure all children have access to water at all times and keep an eye out for any signs of heat exhaustion. This can be tiredness, dizziness, slight confusion or high temperatures. For younger children, encourage them to drink and offer them additional top ups of water in their bottles. For the more independent older children, gently nudge them into thinking about their hydration levels – “Have you had a drink recently?” Try encouraging frozen water bottles to keep water colder for longer in warm classrooms. It will soon melt in the heat and can be topped up when only ice is left!

Finding Shade

There is plenty of natural shade you can use to your advantage, trees especially. Remember to bear in mind that you can still get sun beams coming in through scattered leaves etc. The best shade for a child is hats and sunglasses! A big floppy hat can help add shade to children’s ears and necks as well as their faces. You might recommend a ‘shopping list’ of items for children to bring in every day (hat, sunglasses, sun cream, clothing etc.)

You could make a fun activity by creating a shaded environment with the children. Give them pegs and sheets or tarpaulin and try to get them to hang them up for themselves, working out how to do it. Offer encouraging advice and ask questions such as ‘Does it work better to drape it over gently or fix it down firmly?’ They can decide if it’s better to attach the material to trees or structures already in the setting.

Canopies are a great way of having fun with shade. There are activities you can do with the children, similar to building your own tent shade, around decorating and positioning. An outdoor weaving canopy made from Hessian is great for decorating. Children could write out wishes, you could pick activities off the canopy or they could tell their own story. A wall mounted canopy and wall mounted awning  are perfect for pulling out to create shade and then storing back. A pop up den makes for a quick space with shade to play and the beautiful Rainbow Shelter has plenty of space for sheltered play. A favourite for the playground is a wooden Gazebo – ideal for storytime or a packed lunch in the shade – this one comes in 3 sizes!

Playhouses are a great way to incorporate role play into outdoor play. You can encourage the children to stay in the shade of the housing, whilst they play their games. Perhaps you could create your own gazebo to attach to the house. Playhouses are obviously protective in rainy weather too, making them a year round staple.

Finding shade in a playhouse

Create your own holiday

Using a caravan in your setting can be another creative way of keeping in the shade this summer. Children can pretend that they’re having a holiday! Why not add in a sand pit to make a beach too? Caravans are great ways of staying in the shade but children should still have hats and regularly apply sun cream.

You might erect tents for a pretend camping trip, with an imaginary camp fire for when the nights are cooler!

Shade in a tent

Remember that the sun is at its peak between 11am and 3pm. Where possible you should avoid taking children outside during those hours. If necessary to do so, ensure they have all the shade you could possibly provide and that the children are appropriately dressed and covered.

Read our How to keep cool in the summer months blog here – with plenty of activities and ideas!

With thanks to Charlotte Swinscoe for writing this post.