Best Approach For Choosing Shade Options At Childcare Centres?

Choosing the right shade options for childcare centres is key for protecting kids from harmful UV radiation. However, developing an effective shade plan can be complex, with many factors to weigh, like climate, costs, and usage needs.

In this post, we’ll explore considerations for selecting the ideal mix of permanent and flexible shade structures for outdoor play areas, eating spaces, and more. You’ll learn planning tips for getting staff input, comparing shade types like sails and umbrellas, and budgeting for maintenance.

With strategic planning focused on safety and comfort, centres can create outdoor environments where children and staff can thrive in the shade.

Why Shade is Crucial for Childcare Centres

Providing ample shade at childcare centres is not just a nice extra – it’s absolutely essential for protecting children’s health and safety. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun during childhood is a major risk factor for developing skin cancer later in life.

Children’s delicate skin can burn easily, and they are outside for extended periods at childcare and pre-schools compared to home environments. Creating shade with trees, shade sails, and covered areas limits their UV exposure and reduces sunburn risk.

Seeking shade also helps prevent overheating and heat-related illness in outdoor play during hot, sunny weather. Ensuring kids have access to shaded areas allows them to comfortably enjoy outdoor time, which is important for their physical activity levels and social development. Considering the benefits, incorporating adequate shade options should be a top priority when designing outdoor spaces at childcare centres.

What Should You Consider When Choosing Shade Solutions

Several important factors must be considered when evaluating different shade options for your childcare centre. First, consider your local climate and the sun exposure in different areas of the outdoor environment throughout the day.

Areas that get intense midday sun likely need permanent shade structures like covered pavilions or sail canopies. Also, assess the size and layout of outdoor spaces – larger open areas may benefit from shade trees and umbrellas, while smaller spaces may need attached awnings or shade cloth. Review the age range of children at your centre as well – older kids can reapply their own sunscreen, while young toddlers need maximal shade coverage. Additionally, evaluate installation and maintenance costs, appearance, durability, and flexibility of use for adjustable shade options.

Giving directors, teachers, and facilities staff input will provide valuable perspectives. Keeping these key considerations in mind will help guide you to optimal shade solutions for your centre.

Pros and Cons of Different Shade Structures

When selecting shade solutions for childcare centres, the three top options to consider are trees, shade sails, and umbrellas. Comparing the unique pros and cons of each will help determine the best fit for your centre’s needs and budget.

Shade Trees


  • Provide natural, cooling shade through large canopies of leaves and branches
  • Enhance outdoor environments with greenery and natural beauty
  • Require no installation and offer shade for decades when properly maintained
  • Lower air temperatures through transpiration


  • Take years to mature to provide useful shade
  • Require pruning and maintenance, which adds ongoing costs
  • Provide less flexible placement compared to structures like sails or umbrellas
  • Drop leaves, flowers, and debris that require cleanup
  • Roots may interfere with playgrounds, hardscapes, and plumbing

Shade Sails


  • Made of durable UV-resistant fabric or metal to withstand weather
  • Can cover large areas with customised shapes and sizes
  • Provide fixed shade that won’t blow away in the wind
  • Require little maintenance after installation


  • More expensive initial installation costs than umbrellas
  • Offer less flexibility in placement compared to portable options
  • Fabric sails may show wear and tear and require replacement over time

Shade Umbrellas


  • Very affordable shading solution
  • Portable to allow placement flexibility where needed
  • Easy to open and close based on weather conditions
  • Provide instant shade and sun protection


  • Smaller coverage than sails, requiring more units to shade the same area
  • Must be taken down and stored during windy or stormy weather
  • Umbrella canopies worn by sun and rain need replacement every 2-3 years
  • Require secure weighted bases for safety

Evaluating these key pros and cons will lead to the ideal shade solutions for your childcare centre, balancing shade needs, flexibility, costs, and ease of maintenance. Get in touch to discuss the options for your unique outdoor environment.

Getting Input from Staff to Choose the Best Shade Approach

The staff at your childcare centre will provide valuable insights as you develop plans for new or improved outdoor shade. Teachers and aides who directly supervise the children can assess which play areas get the most sun exposure throughout the day.

They may suggest specific spots that urgently need shade installations to allow for comfortable use. Maintenance crews can advise on any issues with existing shade structures that should be addressed or replaced.

Directors can share key priorities and budget considerations from an administrative perspective. Soliciting input from all levels of staff through surveys, meetings, or a shade planning committee will give you diverse views on current shade needs and future shade solutions. This collaborative planning process will help build consensus on the optimal shade plan and ensure buy-in for its implementation. With staff expertise guiding your approach to shade, you can create outdoor spaces that work for both kids and caregivers.

How to Create Shade in Both Fixed and Flexible Ways

The most effective shade plans combine permanent structures with adjustable elements to accommodate changing needs. A fixed shade like covered pavilions and gazebos guarantees accessible sun protection in key high-traffic areas.

These sturdy structures withstand weather and heavy use. Flexible options like umbrellas, shade sails, and removable canopy tents allow you to modify shade coverage based on the season, time of day, or program activities.

Portable shade can provide customisable protection from morning to afternoon sun in spaces like lunch zones. A fixed and movable shade balance also allows you to reconfigure shaded areas as programs expand or shift.

Planning for shade structures and materials that can be easily added, angled, rolled back, or moved will provide adaptable sun protection as needs evolve. The right blend of permanent and portable shade makes outdoor environments functional and comfortable year-round.

Planning for Future Maintenance and Repairs

When selecting permanent shade structures or trees for your childcare centre, be sure to consider long-term maintenance and repair needs to budget appropriately. All shade options will require some degree of upkeep – for example, shade sails may need cleaning, while trees need periodic pruning.

Seek shade materials that are resistant to weathering and normal wear-and-tear by kids. Look for shade options made with durable, vandal-resistant materials to minimise damage.

Check that suppliers provide warranties of at least 1-2 years on shade products to cover repair costs. Prepare for eventual replacement needs down the road as well – most fabric shade sails will last 5-10 years with proper care. Consulting with school facilities staff on experience with shade lifespan can provide realistic timelines for budgeting future maintenance of any new structures. Planning for repairs and replacement will ensure your childcare centre shade plan provides lasting, safe sun protection for many years.

Evaluating Shade Needs for Different Outdoor Spaces

When assessing shade requirements at your childcare centre, it’s important to consider the unique needs of each type of outdoor space. Active play zones for running and games require flexible shade, like umbrellas or shade sails, that won’t obstruct activities.

Eating areas need ample coverage with permanent structures like pavilions for comfortable outdoor meals. Sandboxes and water tables used in warm weather should have shade canopies or patio covers nearby.

Any infant play areas need almost full shade coverage to protect delicate skin. Ensure access to shade is convenient from all equipment and seating areas so kids can freely move between sun and shade.

Also, evaluate shade in parking areas and walkways between buildings to limit sun exposure during transitions. Conducting shade audits by area and consulting with staff will provide insights on maximising coverage where it’s needed most. Tailoring your shade plan to the specific uses of each zone will provide targeted sun protection across your centre’s outdoor environment.

Creating a Safe and Comfortable Outdoor Space for Children

Creating an effective shade plan requires weighing many factors, from climate to costs, to find the right solutions for your centre. Whether opting for shade sails, umbrellas, or trees, be sure to get staff input and focus on each outdoor space’s unique needs. With strategic planning, you can provide the ideal blend of permanent and adjustable shade to protect children’s health and create comfortable outdoor environments. Contact the experts at Aaron’s Outdoor for help implementing your childcare centre shade project.

Our team can assess your needs, recommend appropriate shade products and layouts, and professionally install durable shade solutions tailored to your programs and budget. With shades from Aaron’s Outdoor, your centre can keep kids safe and comfortable outdoors for years to come.

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