Child-Friendly Grass vs. Playground Surfaces

The benefits of playgrounds are essential to consider. Safe play can help improve kids’ social skills while encouraging physical activity. What surface should you put the playground on? Can you put playground equipment on the grass? Pros and cons of just grass, if you should consider other playground surfacing materials, what is the safest surface to use under equipment? two basic types of surfacing materials acceptable for playgrounds, cheap options to start with

Can you put a Playground On the Grass?

Can you build a playground on the grass? Well, you can, but there is more to it. At first, it may be nice and lovely to look at the lush, green grass on a playground. However, as time goes on, it will gradually wear out. It will become uneven and have bad spots where children can easily trip and hurt themselves.

On the bright side, natural grass can be heat tolerant, unlike other artificial surfaces. So, if you want to have a picnic with your child, the ground will stay cool enough to enjoy.

Keep in mind that maintaining natural grass is no joke. You will have to rake or blow leaves off the grass. Other weekly maintenance tasks will include watering, mowing, fertilizing, weeding, edging, and more, but it is an aesthetically pleasing option.

Since natural grass is one of the highest regular maintenance options out there for children to play on, it may be a bit expensive to work with. Furthermore, bad weather conditions can quickly muddy the grass playground, or scorch and neighbourhood cats also use a natural surface like grass as a litter box.

Besides, don’t forget that it is a playground after all. Grass will die very quickly as more children run, stomp, and grind on it daily, causing uneven spots.

What Surface Should You Put The Playground On? Cheaper Options For Playground Surfaces!

Mulch Surface under Swing
Mulch Surface under Swing Photo by https://unsplash.com/@rasho

As natural grass may not be the best budget option for a playground surface, let’s have a look at the other cost-friendly alternatives:

Engineered Wood Fiber Or Wooden Mulch

Wooden mulch or Engineered Wood Fiber (EWF) is a popular choice for lots of reasons. Some main ones are that it is a loose-fill material relatively easy to install on a playground. It is also widely available in the market and is cheap to start with.

If saving money is a high priority for you, this loose-fill ground covering choice might be worth the upfront cost. Considering, It is also somewhat eco-friendly thanks to the non-toxic natural material used to build it.

Moreover, it does not contain chemicals, paint, or additives. Although it can contribute to deforestation, it is still biodegradable and does not need constant upkeep in making wood mulch an optimal safety choice for a backyard playset.

Rubber Mulch

Similar to wooden mulch, this loose-fill rubber mulch is also a cost-friendly option made from recycled tires. It is a bit pricier than wooden EWF since the shipping options and installation can be somewhat tricky. But, its safety standard and the cost are still up there with the best cheaper choices.

Rubber mulch is usually fully recyclable. As a consequence, it’s a brilliant approach to keep discarded rubber out of landfills. Not to mention, it comes in many colours, sizes, and shapes. So, if you want to build a home playground surface with a limited budget, try exploring this one.

Pea Gravel

Pea gravel is another budget-friendly option for playground owners, and it is widely available. The installation process is easier to set up. The only thing required is site preparation, gravel dumping, and taking it to the desired level.

It is also eco-friendly as it is a natural material and avoids adding synthetic chemicals, dyes, or additives but also has a few negative aspects as it is not recommended for playgrounds intended for toddlers, as it can be a choking hazard. Pea gravel does not meet ADA accessibility standards and can be difficult to navigate for people with disabilities.

Sand

Sand is a common loose-fill option for playgrounds. Not only is it cheap, but also ready to install in case you need it urgently. You can always get these if there is an emergency to fill holes, as they are popular.

You shall never have to be concerned about a child falling or tripping on a sand a reasonably soft surface. Unlike any other playground surface, it has a decent impact absorption feature if installed correctly.

Pros And Cons Of A Field With Grass Surface

Pros

  • Natural grass provides softer and cooler surfaces during hot and sunny days.
  • Ideal ground surface and open space good for a fun picnic with your kids
  • It does not cost much to repair small patches and spots
  • You can fill up bare spots with seeds very easily
  • Very aesthetically pleasing to the eye, especially on a warm sunny day
  • Grass: is naturally heat tolerant and is often 50 to 60 degrees less hospitable than other plastic surfaces

Cons

  • As per the Consumer Product Safety Commission, Grass is “inappropriate” for playground surfaces.
  • Not the best ground beneath for children to land on when jumping off a swing set.
  • It will take longer to dry after rainy weather.
  • Bad weather conditions and improper usage will cause the grass to die, flood, or become muddy.
  • Requires weekly mowing, which is not exactly environmentally friendly as it takes fuel for mowers to operate.
  • One of the highest maintenance choices for playground area with other maintenance needs are watering, fertilizing, weeding, edging, along with many more

If You Should Consider Other Surface Materials, What Is The Safest Surface To Use Under Equipment?

Poured-In-Place Rubber

Due to its high cost, poured-in-place rubber is often avoided for local playgrounds. However, it is still one of the safest materials for playground surfaces. Because of its high level of the stable surface, It will also outlast the test of time. So, if you are considering a home playground surface, you can try checking out one.

As with rubber tiles, the Poured-in-Place Rubber surface’s thickness will depend on the height of your play equipment, i.e. the further a child could fall, the thicker the surface needs to be. These surfaces are definitely wheelchair friendly if that is relevant to you.

Here are some of the benefits:

  • It lasts a very long time
  • The top-tier stable and firm surface
  • An excellent option for ADA compliance

Disadvantages:

  • Expensive choice
  • Installation requires you to hire professionals
  • Exposure to UV light or high temperatures might cause it to harden over time.

Synthetic Turf

Synthetic turf or artificial grass is a safe surface material that is constantly developing. It is a common choice for athletic fields nowadays – it is not hard to see why!

Unlike natural grass, synthetic turf is highly stable and lasts a long time. When it comes to indoor and outdoor playgrounds, this is a safe option.

Let’s see some of the benefits:

  • Easy maintenance
  • Available in lots of colours
  • No need to worry about safety and dangers
  • Long-lasting than most options

Disadvantages:

  • You will need to hire professionals for installation
  • Costs more than the average materials
  • Barely heat resistant

Two Basic Types Of Surfacing Materials Acceptable For Playgrounds?

Loose-Fill: Wooden Mulch, Rubber Mulch, Pea Gravel, Sand & More

These are more popular and typically used to install by hand to cover the entire playground. Loose-fill surfacing materials can be child-friendly, have lower upfront costs, and are easier to install. However, note that it also needs more maintenance to remain compliant with ADA and safety regulations.

Unitary Materials: Pour-In-Place, Rubber Mats & More

Pour-in-place, rubber mats, and other mixtures of energy-absorbing materials held in place are great examples of unitary shock-absorbing surfaces. These basic surfacing materials help to protect children against falls.

These can be quite expensive than the average surfacing costs. However, the safety standard makes up for such downsides. If anything, they are cheaper to run in the long run, thanks to the low maintenance costs and high durability.

It’s Important To Consider The Advantages Of Playgrounds

When you hear about a playground, you probably think of a joyous and happy place full of laughter and fun which is important. Behind the smiles and giggles, there are some essential things to consider. Such as emotional, physical, and cognitive benefits that come from friendly play on a playground.

Check out this link to see if you can find a playground that is perfect for your toddler!

Physical

While being playfully active, children gain reflexes, and they will learn to have better movement control. They also develop flexibility, balancing, fine and gross motor skills.

Physical activities such as climbing, swinging, or running helps to strengthen muscles. Not to forget, the bone density will increase with better physical movements.

It improves the respiratory system and the heart while also combating diabetes, obesity, and high cholesterol.

Emotional

Climbers and activities of varying skill levels are familiar in playgrounds. In a child’s eyes, the greater the skill required, the higher the risk of failure.

When young kids overcome these obstacles by tackling the bigger ladder or challenging climbers, they gain a sense of accomplishment, increasing self-esteem.

There’s more to pretending to play than meets the eye. It allows them to dig deep into their imagination and express themselves. They do this to express their feelings and emotions, which they do not know how to talk about. It’s a way of learning to cope with their scary experiences and fears.

In the long run, this will help them to manage their daily life emotions better.

Cognitive

Children’s language and cognitive skills are improved through play. It encourages problem-solving and independent thinking, as well as improved focus and behaviour awareness.

Children need to learn about the causes and effects of their actions. Play experiences teach them about the consequences and dangers. As they get older and have to make difficult decisions, this will be vital.

Safe Play Can Help Improve Kids’ Social Skills While Encouraging Physical Activity.

One big reason children enjoy playing in a playground is because it allows them to see their friends outside of school. Not only does it help to socialize and spend time with their friends, but also to meet new peers to play imaginary fun games with.

Playing with other companions can be very important in a child’s life. It teaches them social roles and cultural values, as well as proper teamwork skills. Moreover, this allows them to learn public social languages, such as verbal and body language.

Children also learn independence and socially acceptable group activities, which they will develop as they get older. Those who participate in group plays are better prepared to interact with people for the rest of their lives.

Whether it is physical activities or playing equipment, they will learn to take turns and respect boundaries. Nevertheless, a playground will lay the foundation for children to grow into socially adjusted adults.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to installation, the choice is all yours. It would be best to consult your local playground equipment manufacturer about their preferred surfaces for play area safety.

Homeowners who wish to install backyard kids play area on grass should expect more maintenance compared to other playground surfacing options out there.

The grass alone is not always the best type of surface for children to land on when jumping off play equipment for safe play. I’m sure with the above information, and you’ll be able to make the right choice for your home Playground Surface.

Thanks again for reading this blog post!

Sources of Informaton 

Landscape Structures Inc, King, S., & King, B. (n.d.). Playground Surfacing Types | Landscape Structures, Inc. Www.Playlsi.Com. Retrieved September 19, 2021, from https://www.playlsi.com

Craven, B. (2021, August 24). The Importance of Playgrounds for Children. LTC. https://littletikescommercial.com

Schriefer, A. (2020, February 9). Best Playground Surface Options: Pros and Cons. Usgreentech.Com. https://blog.usgreentech.com

A. (2021, May 4). Pros & Cons: Natural Grass or Dirt for Playground Surfaces. AdventureTURF. https://www.adventureturf.com/article/pros-and-cons-natural-grass-and-soil-for-playground-surfaces/

4 thoughts on “Child-Friendly Grass vs. Playground Surfaces”

  1. You are so right that there a big pros and cons to all those surfaces. We have a grassy lawn area, but it is so uneven and especially when learning to walk it can easily cause a child to trip and fall.

    Sand is a great option as long as you can keep dogs out of it… 

    I like the mulch option although younger kids tend to try and eat it, but it is great to play on as it is soft enough and can easily be replaced and refreshed. 

    Reply
    • Thanks, Petra. The grass is the first stop, and then if we want to improve playground safety, Mulch should be the next upgrade and important because slides, swings and seesaws involve heights, so anything that could potentially hurt someone that’s going up Funny high kids eats almost everything even worms from their garden (but let’s try not to do this).

      Reply
  2. You brought up an important topic, namely creating a safe play environment for kids outdoors. Until you brought it up I never thought about the heat resistant comparison between the two. It was very helpful to highlight some of the pros and cons of both types of grass. My preference is natural grass, as long as it is maintained by others.

    Thanks for bringing up a viable option in the use of high-quality synthetic grass. 

    Cheers! 

    Edwin

    Reply
    • Natural playground surfaces are usually a great way to get started, but you may need something more permanent if your budget doesn’t allow for natural grass. Mulch can be an option depending on the type of soil in question and its safety considerations- keep them patchy, so children aren’t tempted into playing at-risk spots too long without supervision!

      Reply

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