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      Reimagining spaces where children play: developing guidance for thermally comfortable playgrounds in Canada


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          Planning and designing thermally comfortable outdoor spaces is increasingly important in the context of climate change, particularly as children are more vulnerable than adults to environmental extremes. However, existing playground standards focus on equipment and surfacing to reduce acute injuries, with no mention of potential negative health consequences related to heat illness, sun exposure, and other thermal extremes. The goal of this project was to develop proposed guidelines for designing thermally comfortable playgrounds in Canada for inclusion within the CAN/CSA-Z614 Children’s playground equipment and surfacing standard.


          The project to develop guidance for thermally comfortable playgrounds was initiated with a municipal project in Windsor, Ontario, to increase shade, vegetation, and water features at parks and playgrounds to provide more comfortable experiences amid the increased frequency of hot days (≥30°C). The lack of available information to best manage environmental conditions led to a collaborative effort to build resources and raise awareness of best practices in the design of thermally comfortable playgrounds.


          A group of multidisciplinary experts developed technical guidance for improving thermal comfort at playgrounds, including a six-page thermal comfort annex adopted within a national playground and equipment standard. The annex has been used by Canadian schools in a competition to design and implement green playgrounds.


          Both the technical report and the thermal comfort annex provide increased awareness and needed guidance for managing environmental conditions at playgrounds. Thermally safe and comfortable play spaces will help ensure that Canada’s playgrounds are designed to minimize environmental health risks for children.



          À l’ère des changements climatiques, le confort thermique n’a jamais été si important pour la planification et l’aménagement d’espaces extérieurs, surtout car les enfants sont plus sensibles que les adultes aux chaleurs brûlantes. Cependant, les normes qui encadrent actuellement les aires de jeu s’articulent autour d’une logique de prévention de traumatismes. Elles portent donc principalement sur les équipements et leurs revêtements plutôt que sur les conséquences des canicules, des malaises liés à la chaleur et des insolations. L’objectif du présent projet est de rédiger un projet de directives pour favoriser le confort thermique des aires de jeu au Canada et d’intégrer ces directives à la norme CAN/CSA-Z614 Aires et équipements de jeu.


          Les origines du projet remontent à une action municipale à Windsor, en Ontario. Celle-ci avait pour but d’augmenter la quantité de zones d’ombres, de végétation et de jeux d’eau dans les parcs et les aires de jeu en vue de favoriser le confort thermique vu la fréquence croissante des canicules (≥30°C). Le constat de lacunes d’informations autour de la gestion des conditions écologiques a suscité une concertation pour créer des ressources et faire rayonner des pratiques d’aménagement optimales pour l’amélioration du confort thermique des aires de jeu.


          Une équipe transversale d’experts a rédigé des directives techniques pour améliorer le confort thermique des aires de jeu, ainsi qu’une annexe de six pages sur la question qui a été intégrée à une norme nationale. Dans le cadre d’un concours, des écoles canadiennes se sont servies de l’annexe comme référentiel pour penser et aménager des aires de jeu vertes.


          Le rapport technique et l’annexe mettent en valeur le besoin d’encadrer la gestion des facteurs environnementaux des aires de jeu. L’amélioration du confort thermique de ces espaces et la réduction des risques environnementaux permettent de protéger la santé des enfants au Canada.

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          Most cited references9

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          Nearby Nature: A Buffer of Life Stress among Rural Children

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            Beyond Physical Activity: The Importance of Play and Nature-Based Play Spaces for Children's Health and Development.

            The reduction of child obesity continues to be a challenge worldwide. Research indicates that playing outdoors, particularly in natural play spaces, boosts children's physical activity, potentially decreasing childhood obesity. We present evidence that natural play spaces also provide for more diverse forms of play for children of varying ages and competencies. This is crucial because play spaces designed expressly for physical activity may not increase physical activity among less active children. Moreover, when researchers only examine physical activity in play, they overlook the valuable contributions that play makes to other aspects of children's health and development. To enhance research on children and their play environments, we introduce the theory of play affordances. To assist in the creation of more natural play spaces, we describe the Seven Cs, an evidence-based approach for designing children's play spaces that promotes diverse play. We end with some preliminary insights from our current research using the Seven Cs to illustrate the connections between play, nature, and children's healthy development.
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              Hot playgrounds and children's health: A multiscale analysis of surface temperatures in Arizona, USA


                Author and article information

                Can J Public Health
                Can J Public Health
                Canadian Journal of Public Health = Revue Canadienne de Santé Publique
                Springer International Publishing (Cham )
                15 June 2021
                15 June 2021
                August 2021
                : 112
                : 4
                : 706-713
                [1 ]National Program for Playground Safety, Cedar Falls, IA USA
                [2 ]GRID grid.253363.2, ISNI 0000 0001 2297 9828, Biomedical Engineering Department, , Bucknell University, ; Lewisburg, PA USA
                [3 ]GRID grid.266878.5, ISNI 0000 0001 2175 5443, Department of Health, Recreation, and Community Services, , University of Northern Iowa, ; Cedar Falls, IA USA
                [4 ]GRID grid.215654.1, ISNI 0000 0001 2151 2636, School of Sustainability, , Arizona State University, ; Tempe, AZ USA
                [5 ]GRID grid.264756.4, ISNI 0000 0004 4687 2082, Department of Geography, , Texas A&M University, ; College Station, TX USA
                [6 ]Strategy and Stakeholder Engagement Branch, Standards Council of Canada, Ottawa, ON Canada
                [7 ]Environmental Sustainability and Climate Change, City of Windsor, Windsor, ON Canada
                [8 ]GRID grid.57544.37, ISNI 0000 0001 2110 2143, Climate Change and Innovation Bureau, , Health Canada, ; Ottawa, ON Canada
                © This is a U.S. government work and not under copyright protection in the U.S.; foreign copyright protection may apply 2021

                Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

                : 1 April 2020
                : 29 March 2021
                Funded by: Standards Council of Canada
                Award ID: Standards to Support Resilience in Infrastructure Program
                Innovations in Policy and Practice
                Custom metadata
                © The Canadian Public Health Association 2021

                child,playground,microclimate,environment,environment and public health,recreation,enfants,terrain de jeux,microclimat,environnement,environnement et santé publique,récréation


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