Whether for swinging, zooming down a slide or climbing, children love to spend time on playgrounds. Their active enjoyment, though, relies very much on the surface of the playground. Running and jumping can lead to spills and skids, and a poor playground surface can result in injury. Today, most playgrounds feature surfaces specifically designed to keep kids safe and healthy.
While actual grass is one option, many playgrounds today feature a green turflike surface. This surface is actually synthetic and consists of polyurethane, rubber and other products. Primarily used for outdoor playgrounds, the porous surface allows water to drain and provides a cushion for children to reduce the incidence of injury. The surface also keeps children from becoming soiled with dirt. Most turf surfaces are rolled over a poured base surface. The turf is applied in much the same way that in-home carpeting is installed.
A popular playground surface today is mulch composed of granulated tire rubber. The rubber provides a cushion that also allows water to pass through. Additionally, the rubber mulch is inexpensive and helps the environment because it is composed of recycled rubber tires, which might otherwise be tossed into a landfill. One consideration with this mulch is that it might include some of the wire that is encased within rubber tires. One company, PermaLife, claims it removes 100 percent of the wire from the tire rubber before it is poured for playgrounds. The mulch can be raked for equal distribution. One downside is that it is difficult to maintain; trash and glass can become mixed with the mulch.
Rubber tile specifically designed for playgrounds is another option. Like rubber mulch, this tile also is manufactured from used tires, but the rubber is formed into square tiles. Some tiles cover about 4 square feet of playground and provide shock resistance to protect children from hard falls. The tiles come in many different colors and different thicknesses. The most common thickness is between 2 and 3 inches. The tiles can be glued in place with a special bonding agent, and they can be joined together with metal clips. Rubber tile can be applied over concrete, dirt or grass. Unlike mulch, rubber tile is easy to clean; it can be swept or mopped.
Mulch and Sand
Sand and wood mulch are alternatives to synthetic playground flooring. Both allow water to drain, and both provide some cushion for children. Sand, though, washes away, and wood mulch decomposes. Mulch comes in many different colors, due to dye added to the mulch. The dye eventually washes away.