What you put under your playground is vitally important. You want to make sure you are doing the best thing for your children when choosing a material for your playground’s surface.
In this article, I’m going to go through some of the things you should think about and look for when choosing the best material for your playground surface. This is not an exhaustive list, but will definitely get you thinking about what is right for you and your children.
You really want to think about what makes the material good. What is it made out of? What makes it good for a playground? What makes it safe or unsafe?
What makes a good material?
First, you have to start with what are the base elements used to make the material. There are products made of wood, plastic, rubber, rocks, and natural elements. Each of these materials can have their pros and cons.
Then, you have to consider the manufacturing process and where they source their materials. For instance, you can have plastic made from good material or materials that have lead and other toxins in them. You can have rubber that is sourced from nature and rubber that is made from recycled tires.
Each of these elements contribute to the quality and safety of the material.
What makes it safe or unsafe?
The ability for the surface material to absorb the impact of a fall is the most important consideration when thinking about how safe your playground will be. But there are other things that affect the safety of the material. When choosing what is best for your playground you also need to think about how the environment will affect the material.
Rubber mulch is used in many playground’s. It is good at absorbing the impact of a falling child. But there are safety concerns with rubber mulch. First, most rubber mulch is made out of recycled tires. This material, when heated by the sun, can give off toxic fumes. If you are not in a very hot climate, then this may not be a factor for you .
Second, because rubber mulch is made of little pieces of rubber, it is very easy for sharp objects to be hidden in it. If glass or nails accidentally fall into rubber mulch, you may not know it is there.
Objects falling into the surface is a problem for all materials made up of small pieces. Wood chips, pebbles, and rubber mulch are all subject to small, hazardous objects hiding in them.
Generally, though, if you can keep your surface free of dangerous objects hiding in it and keep it in a safe condition, wood chips, rubber mulch, rubber mats, artificial turf, and grass are safe.
We’ve already explored the dangerous objects hiding in the material. Now we need to talk about what it means to keep your playground surface in a safe condition.
Any surface you use will break down over time. Weather conditions will erode it. Kid’s running and bouncing on it will slowly destroy it. But not all material will wear down at the same rate. Also, some wear is easier to spot on certain materials than others. The cost of maintaining some materials are higher than others.
Keeping your surface in a safe condition means inspecting it regularly for damage. If a problem is detected, fix it before allowing anyone to play on the playground.
The IncStores 2.5” thick Jamboree playground surface tiles are rated for indoor and outdoor use. They are 24” x 24” and weight 24lbs each. The Jamboree tiles are fall height rated for a 4 foot fall. The tiles are made from recycled rubber. They come in four different colors, black, gray, green, and red. They are made in the USA.
- Heavy duty
- Rated for a 4 foot fall
- Made in the USA
- Firmer than most other playground tiles
- Made from recycled rubber
- Not bouncy
The RevTime Easy DIY Interlocking Outdoor Rubber Tiles are high density and non-slip. They connect together with a snap in pin system. This keeps the tiles from separating from each other. They are 1 inch thick. The micro-porous design allows water to pass through them.
We could not find a specific rating for fall height on this product.
- No fall height rating
These tiles are 2.75” thick and have a fall height rating of 7 feet. They are made out of eco-friendly rubber. They use an interlocking dowel construction to connect the tiles together. They are water permeable and have a 3-year manufacturer warranty. Colors available are red, green, and blue.
Playsafer also makes 1” and 2” tiles.
- 2.75” inches thick
- 7 foot fall rating
- eco-friendly rubber
- 3-year manufacture warranty
- None we could see
Natural Rubber mulch
As I stated earlier, many rubber mulch products are made from recycled tires. These products can be toxic and contain pieces of metal. A better product to use for your playground surface is natural rubber mulch.
This mulch is made from the trimmings left over from rubber tiles. It is virgin rubber and is certified non-toxic. It doesn’t contain any harsh chemicals or metal. It is certified for fall height safety.
You can buy it by the ton. One ton will cover 167 sq. ft at a 4” depth. It comes with a 20 year warranty.
Rainbow Mulch is another natural rubber mulch. It is made from a proprietary blend of raw rubber, baking soda, zinc, and a few other natural elements. It is 100% tire rubber free. You can buy it in bags 15 lbs bags or in larger quantities.
It meets ASTM standards. Rainbow mulch comes in several different colors. They will even send a sample of up to 3 colors to you for free.
Some experts don’t recommend grass. Not because it isn’t a good surface for playing, but because it is hard to keep grass safe.
Grass can become worn and the soil underneath can become compacted. This makes if very dangerous for falls.
But, if you have light play in grass, it is well maintained, and isn’t compacted, grass can be a good material for your playground surface.