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

Eric Kennedy, Heather Olsen, Jennifer Vanos, Daniel J. Vecellio, Marla Desat, Karina Richters, Alexandra Rutledge, Gregory R.A. Richardson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Setting: 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. Intervention: 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. Outcomes: 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. Implications: 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)706-713
Number of pages8
JournalCanadian Journal of Public Health
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2021


  • Child
  • Environment
  • Environment and public health
  • Microclimate
  • Playground
  • Recreation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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