American Society of Directors of Volunteer Services

What makes a safe playground?

The right playground surface can enhance a child’s sensory experience and encourage their physical development. However, playgrounds are not just for children; they are also a popular amenity for adults to exercise and socialize with friends and family. As such, it’s important to choose the proper surfacing for your play space to ensure safety and comfort.

While there are many options for playground surfacing, it’s crucial to remember that not all surfaces are created equal. There are two primary considerations when choosing a surface: accessibility and impact attenuation. While ADA-compliant surfacing is essential, so too are high levels of impact attenuation to prevent injuries from falls and other hazards.

One option for achieving both of these objectives is to choose a unitary surface. This type of surfacing is made of tiles or mats that are bonded together and often come in different colors to fit into your specific play area surfaces design. These types of surfaces are very durable, require little maintenance, and are long-lasting.

However, the initial cost of these units can be higher than other surfacing options. As such, they may not be ideal for parks on a tight budget.

Other surfacing materials, such as shredded rubber or engineered wood fiber (EWF), are more affordable but lack the durability and long-term benefits of unitary surfaces. Additionally, a loose-fill material like EWF must be monitored frequently to ensure that there is enough depth for safety.

Loose-fill surfacing can also suffer from erosion, especially in high-traffic areas or where impacts happen frequently. This can leave bare spots and cause trip hazards.

Poured in place rubber is a great option for parks that are looking for ADA-compliant and high-impact attenuation. It is a durable and long-lasting material that can be molded into shapes to create unique designs for your playground. This material also requires less maintenance than other surfacing materials, such as sand.

Modular rubber tiles are another synthetic, unitary surfacing option. These tiles are molded into 2-by-2-foot squares and install with durable subsurface clips to provide an easy-to-install and versatile solution. The cushion layer can be customized on-site to meet your equipment’s critical fall height.

Another benefit of modular rubber is its ability to withstand the elements. This material is water-resistant and is an excellent choice for areas that receive heavy use, such as underneath swings and slides. This material can also be used as a base for natural surfacing, such as grass or mulch. This helps to preserve the environment and provides a more natural look for your park.

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