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HELP! Ground cover for kids play area????

February 12, 2007

We have a 500 sq/ft area in the back yard that can't take grass, too much shade. It's going to be a kid's play area with trampoline and swing set. Does anyone have ideas for what ground cover to use?


Comments (11)

  • irene_dsc

    I'm hoping to do a play area in my yard, and I was figuring on doing wood chips as a relatively cheap, and readily available soft surface. I am open to other ideas, however.

  • tibs

    Check and see what the school playgrounds and local parks use under playground equipment

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    No groundcover will hold up to the play of active kids. In my area they sell a wood product called "play chips" - essentially wood chips that are ground in such a fashion that there is little chance of splinters. They also sell a playground mulch that is made from ground-up recycled tires - pretty cushiony should some little darling take a tumble from the trampoline or other play equipment.

    Here is a link that might be useful: rubber playground mulch

  • irene_dsc

    They used the rubber mulch at the playground at our old subdivision. One caveat - the black color tended to rub off and get hands dirty. It looks like it would be pretty pricey to cover a big area, but it's something to think about.

  • mad_gallica

    Our playground uses the play chips. Yes, small children and dogs have been known to chew it, but they would probably chew most anything. It isn't a local product, but comes from New Jersey. I don't know if that was a price or availability decision.

    We happened to be there the last time it was delivered. I had never seen a semi-trailer/dump truck before. Actually, I haven't seen one since, either. It was quite amazing watching that thing go up, up, up to unload.

  • gardenergwen

    After doing a great deal of research, we used pea gravel in our last play area. Here's why . . .

    Mulch decomposses and molds and requires refilling/refreshing 1-2x/yr.

    Sand is frequented as a litterbox by animals and will end up being tracked inside by those playing in it.

    Rubber Mulches - We weren't convinced on the safety aspect of our children playing in what is basically recycled tires (although we liked the eco-friendly aspect).

    In the end we chose pea gravel because it is durable, alot of fun for the kids to play in (much like sand in the ability to scoop and pour without the mess), and very easy to "clean" it by just blowing lightweight leaves out with our yard blower.

    Although gravel doesn't seem like it would be a "soft" material it actually has an amazing amount of give and movement in the small pea-sized form.

    9" of compressed (material listed below) will adequately provide safety for equipment with critical heights up to:
    wood mulch /10'
    double shredded bark/7'
    uniform wood chips/6'
    fine sand/5'
    coarse sand/4'
    fine(pea) gravel/6'
    medium gravel/5'

    We put about a foot deep of pea gravel in our space. A HUGE truckload cost us around $150 delivered.

  • watergal

    I used to work at a day care that used pea gravel. I did not care for it. Some kids found it the perfect size to insert in a nostril or ear. It stuck in the treads of their tennis shoes and got tracked inside. The kids would throw it at each other, or carry it around and pour it out of the gravel area into other parts of the playground (on the asphalt, for example, where it acted like ball bearings and made the kids slip). The tinier pieces would also imbed in skinned knees really well when kids did slip on the asphalt.

    I would vote for mulch chips instead.

  • Brent_In_NoVA

    I am also not a huge fan of pea gravel. Shredded wood mulch is by far the favorite at the schools and playgrounds in my area (though I do see pea gravel used occasionally). I consider my kids play set a "temporary" item. Maybe it will be around for 10 years but at some point I hope to reclaim that part of my yard and I would not want all that pea gravel to deal with.

    A large dump truck load for $150 seems like quite a deal. I just checked my local place and they list 3/8" Pea Gravel for $72 per ton. At that price it would been over $800 for me to go with pea gravel.

    - Brent

  • diggerb2

    I would also recommend pea gravel for a home play yard. for the reasons stated above: its cheap, easy to clean, stays in place, is removable and is 'kid friendly'

    I lined the back 3rd of my yard with pea gravel fro my kids-- 20 footx 50 foot= 1000 sq feet about 6 inches deep. it took 18 tons of pea gravel. it cost me $ 182 plus taxes to have it delivered. I reccommend that you line the area first with newspaper, the landscape fabric before you lay down your gravel. also having a way to retain the gravel is a good idea.

    I bought my gravel directly from the gravel yard. The delivery charge was $25 for any delivery.


  • rays-ford

    I am getting ready to do my backyard. I have seen rubber mulch at one of the parks in my area, and everybody I talked with seems to think it is great. It is a little pricey though.
    I have also checked into synthetic grass. That is even more expensive.
    I work for the local school district and we use sand and wood chips under the toys. Both get thrown around and have to be replenished. It also gets compacted and does not drain well.
    There is a poured in place rubber mat that we use also, but it is very expensive.
    I have heard about pea gravel being used with no complaints except that it gets thrown.
    I will probably end up using the rubber mulch.

  • Embothrium

    "The Bottom Line
    Â Rubber mulch is not as effective as other organic mulch choices in controlling weeds
    Â Rubber mulch is highly flammable and difficult to extinguish once it is burning
    Â Rubber mulch is not permanent; like other organic substances, it decomposes
    Â Rubber mulch is not non-toxic; it contains a number of metal and organic contaminants with
    known environmental and/or human health effects"

    Here is a link that might be useful: Rubber Mulch

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