Scraped knees have a place in the childhood memories of today’s adults. Of course, children stumble and fall also today, but where their little knees and palms land can be for us to influence. According to the safety standard EVS-EN 1176: 2017 in effect in Estonia, there must be a safety surface under the attractions on children’s playgrounds to soften the impact. The first thought and preference is probably sand. Is sand the best choice of all possible solutions?
If we see the main purpose of the safety underlay in minimizing children’s injury risks and in softening impacts, then there is nothing to say against sand. Parents who keep an eye on their children playing on a sand-covered playground are well aware of the fact that sand sometimes also ends up in shoes, eyes and mouths. But that is all part of being a kid. The minus side of the sand underlay is somewhere else – in shoes carrying sand to playground’s attractions. If your playground is not maintenance free (meaning that your stairs and platforms are made of laminate timber), then sandy footwear work like sandpaper. The surfaces wear out, the colours fade and more attention needs to be paid to the maintenance of the attractions.
The alternative to sand is rubber, and this where we immediately have more room to play. Coloured rubber safety tiles are often used as underlays for playgrounds. The tiles can be installed on concrete and onto asphalt pavements and are very easy to maintain. Take a brush or a broom and just wipe them clean! The same applies to EPDM granule coating. It is a cast safety surfacing that is specially designed for use on playgrounds and sports grounds. It is available in a wide range of colours thanks to which it is possible to design very cool and unique playgrounds. The third option is rubber mulch which looks quite similar to natural tree bark. The mixture of rubber mulch and glue forms a monolithic, soft and safe safety underlay which can be designed in different colours.
When comparing sand and rubber as possible underlays, one has to admit that one of them inevitably leaves the other behind. Rubber as a material simply offers many more options. One benefit is the choice of colours. The colour variety gives you the opportunity to design just the kind of underlay that suits your environment and your attractions. The other benefit is that of maintenance. Compared to sand, it is easier to clean rubber surface from debris, leaves and snow. And the coolest things are the 3D rubber animals that are making a more frequent appearance on all playgrounds! Children are crazy about them. You can climb on rubber animals, they are brightly coloured and help to create a fun environment. In most cases, the rubber animals are attached to the ground, but sometimes they are also left loose. This way they can be moved and used to create new play areas.
To make it easier to decide which underlay is best for a playground that is either being completed or renovated, it is worth looking around at many different playgrounds. If possible, it is also worth to check out their manager’s experience with site maintenance. In the case of sand cover, see if and how the sand has affected the condition of the attractions and what is the situation with needles and debris, which are more difficult to remove from the sand. When you get to a playground with a rubber underlay, try to fall. Not joking here! Each of us has probably landed in the sand as a child, but the rubber underlay must ensure the safety of today’s children. It is worth making sure first hand that they can do that safely.
By the way, rubber mats or mulch are also perfectly suitable for your backyard at home. We might be used to having a small hole in the ground under our home swing, or having the sandbox spilled over into the grass a long time ago, but some rubber mats can literally work wonders here. With a rubber underlay, the play area is easier to maintain, more beautiful to the eye and safer for children to play on. There will still be falls, but at least the knees will remain healthy and happy!
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