Can you remember it? The feeling of flying through the air on the swing at the park? For most of us, we have memories from our childhoods of pumping our feet, believing we were on top of the world, and then, when daring, taking that big leap off the swings. Do you remember the landing?
Today’s playgrounds continue to advance and develop with new structures we did not have, though children at play actually look a lot like we did. They continue to run and chase and hang upside down. Safe landings continue to be of utmost importance for our playgrounds.
Unlike the play areas of our childhoods, which were sometimes simply the compact ground beneath our feet, or an area filled with sand, today we have more options: wood chips, mulch, pea gravel, and recycled rubber provide safer environments for our children.
While it may be tempting to simply lay down mats or use existing material, playground injuries from falls are common; working to implement a better ground covering product can help make those injuries from falls a more rare occurrence.
Playchips require ongoing inspection and depth testing to ensure the minimum level of playground woodchips are met and help keep the kids safe.
What are your options for playground cover?
There are a few products that can provide a safe playing environment such as the following:
Aliphatic Thermoplastic Monomer (ATP) Rubberized Unitary Surface is made up of consistent layer spherical particles. These particles are made from rubber material and are about one-sixteenth of an inch. These particles are also chemically bound to a protective layer of shock-absorbed Engineered Recycled Foam (ERF). The material is sun-fade resistant and is durable long term, as the product can last up to 10 years. However, it is important to know that this product is a more expensive one.
Shredded/Shredder Rubber is made from shredded rubber tires. Being 1 by 1/8 inches in size, these loose particles absorb shock very well and are spread on the surface of the play area. There are a couple of challenges with shredder rubber. It is not wheelchair accessible, and the particles tend to move and shift which can create uneven surfaces. Shredder rubber also tends to get very hot and could cause burns. Areas of placement are most likely underneath swing sets and at the bottom-base of slides.
Mulch is very popular as well for playgrounds and is very similar to wood chips. The material is soft and is packed deeply for better shock resistant capabilities. Mulch is more health-friendly just like wood chips and provides any play area a natural appearance.
Playground wood chips are made from biodegradable virgin wood, shredded into different size. The material size is determined by specific sieves, as the product must be springy, but firm enough to absorb impact. Using clean, virgin wood, the covering is chemical-free and when layered, creates a spongy surface that is easy to walk on.
With all these great options, you may still be curious about using sand and gravel. Though commonly used at playgrounds, sand and gravel are not too sanitary compared to the other products. Cats and dogs tend to frequent these areas, thinking of them as outdoor litter boxes, which obviously causes problems. Other issues include the development of ant hills, and when sandy gravel gets wet, it clumps together and hardens. With the hard edges of rock gravel, it is also possible that more scrapes and cuts can occur.
So which one is the best for my playground area?
With the options we have listed, we recommend you consider playground wood chips as the best option that provides an absorbent area, free of chemicals, with limited potential issues, and good value for your dollar.
When ready to purchase wood chips for your play area, we encourage you to implement these three tips prior to final purchase:
Make sure the materials meet the ASTM F-1291 Safety Standards.
Once you have done your research and ensured these standards are met, consider installation requirements! You will want to fill the complete area of use. As time passes the material will settle and compact, which is normal. The surface material should extend outward around the equipment in all directions at about six feet.
When installing, consider marking the supporting posts to ensure the ground cover level is set. After install, scheduling a frequent check to assess depth, and ordering extra materials as needed, will help to keep your playground looking fresh, and maintain safety.
Watching your kids take the big leap off the swings and wanting to find out more about playground wood chips? Denbow has you covered with the best wood chips on the market.