Photo by Timothy Newman on Unsplash
Whether you are redesigning the playground at your school or in a public space, a lot of responsibility rides on your shoulders when it comes to creating a space that is not only inviting but safe.
For example, you should ensure that playsets and other fixtures are well-constructed and made from quality materials. However, you must also pay close attention to the flooring or playground surface, too.
After all, a recent report from the National Program for Playground Safety found that “over 70% of playground injuries involve falls, and the majority of those relate to falling onto an unsafe surface.” As a result, while concrete flooring may have been a standard fixture in playgrounds across the country, it is no longer a viable option, especially where health and safety is concerned.
Factors to consider when choosing playground surfaces.
When considering your playground surface options, there are many different factors you may want to consider.
Impact protection refers to the level of impact absorption offered by the playground surface in the event of a fall. For example, rubber flooring is shock-absorbent, which means it can reduce the severity of any injuries that occur should an accident take place. You can improve the impact protection offered by the playground surface by altering the thickness of the flooring in relation to the height of the playground equipment.
While health and safety should be your priority when looking at different playground surface options, durability is also an essential factor to bear in mind. After all, you want your playground to stand the test of time without requiring constant upkeep and maintenance. Again, rubber-based flooring is considered to be highly durable because it is porous and weather-resistant.
You should also consider how you want your playground to look when considering different playground surface options. For example, if you want to emulate grass to create a clean, natural finish, you may want to use artificial turf. Alternatively, rubber flooring can be customized in a variety of ways so that logos and other patterns can be added to the surface.
While you may be prepared to carry out regular maintenance on playground equipment (given that failure to do so is another fundamental cause of injuries within schools and outdoor play areas), you should also extend the same level of care and attention to your playground surfaces. However, your choice of surface can alter the amount of care and attention required. For example, rubber-based surfaces are often considered low maintenance, though they should be cleaned and inspected from time to time.
Budgets, especially within educational facilities, are often tight, so you may be on the lookout for the cheapest materials possible when it comes to choosing playground surfaces. However, it’s also crucial to consider the durability of the materials used when considering pricing- while something may initially appear cheaper, your costs will rise considerably if you need to replace it frequently.
Playground surface options.
Once you’ve developed an understanding of your requirements, it’s time to consider the different playground surface options you have at your disposal. This includes:
There are many different reasons why artificial turf, sometimes referred to as synthetic turf, is an excellent choice of material for playgrounds.
For example, this form of flooring meets all necessary safety requirements laid out by ASTM International, including the Critical Fall Height Attenuation Requirements. This means that you can install this surface throughout your playground, in conjunction with a range of playground equipment, such as slides, swings, and climbing frames.
If you live in an area where heavy rainfall is all too common, artificial turf is a welcome alternative to regular turf because it drains quickly and easily.
Furthermore, artificial turf provides you with a range of options when it comes to the overall look of your playground. For example, those looking for a more simplistic, natural look can use this to mimic grass in the surrounding areas. Alternatively, as the turf is created on-site, it’s easy to incorporate a range of designs onto the surface, including school colors, logos, games, and more.
Poured in place rubber.
Poured-in-place (PIP) rubber is another viable playground surface option, especially when it comes to durability. This is because it is specifically designed to sustain a great deal of wear and tear, making it the ideal choice for areas with high footfall, such as school playgrounds and outdoor playsets.
Again, it meets all of the necessary safety criteria that you must meet in order to prevent injuries on-site. For example, it provides ample cushioning against falls, which will reduce the number of accidents that happen within the playground or the severity of injuries when things do go wrong.
Furthermore, poured in place surfaces can also be heavily customized, depending on your unique design choices. The durability of the material used means that these designs, from school logos to geometric shapes, will also stand the test of time instead of fading away.
Bonded rubber mulch.
Bonded rubber mulch is similar to poured-in-place mulch; only it is instead made from recycled rubber tires held in place by specialist resin. This creates a durable, smooth surface that is great for playgrounds and athletic spaces, especially when upholding rigorous health and safety standards.
For example, many studies have found that playgrounds with rubberized surfaces are often home to fewer accidents and injuries – likely due to the fact that the materials are shock-absorbent. This means that they reduce the stress of the ‘impact’ (falling to the floor).
Another major benefit of using bonded rubber mulch as a playground surface is the material is highly porous. This stops water from sitting on the surface of your playground after a storm or heavy rainfall – which not only stops children from running and jumping through puddles and can also prevent slips, trips, and falls.