Let’s face it: playground surfacing is not cheap. After shelling out several thousand dollars for a quality play system, not too many people are excited about digging into their pockets for yet another playground expense. And so, pushing aside the niggling guilt feelings, the majority of parents decide, The ground under there is pretty soft already. What can happen, anyway?
Unfortunately, plenty. Each year, over 200,000 kids nationwide end up in the emergency room due to playground-related injuries, including fractures, internal injuries, and concussions. Of the non-fatal playground injuries reported over a ten year period, a whopping 81% of home playground injuries were caused by falls to the surface.
According to the CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission), the surfacing under and around playground equipment—particularly as related to the shock absorbent capabilities of the surfacing—is one of the most important factors in reducing the likelihood of life-threatening head injuries.
Not too many home playgrounds are built over concrete or asphalt these days. The vast majority of backyard playgrounds are stationed on grass or turf. Apparently, the ‘soft ground under there already is just not soft enough.
The good news is that there are several different options for appropriate playground surfacing, and there’s no need to break the bank. According to the CPSC, acceptable playground surfacing materials include unitary rubber surfaces; rubber mulch; wood mulch; pea gravel; and sand. Unacceptable materials include grass, dirt, and artificial turf.
Naturally, each of these options has its own pros and cons in terms of shock absorbency, durability, and price. Parents can do their own research and make their own decisions, based on their particular budget, location, and circumstances. But at the end of the day, it’s pretty obvious to any responsible parent that playground surfacing of one sort or another is as essential to the playground as swings and slides.
CPSC Fact Sheet, October 2009
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Fact Sheet