When building a playground for a preschool, early childhood center, daycare or childcare facility, safety is the most important priority. If your playground isn’t safe, children will incur unnecessary injuries and parents won’t want to use your facilities any longer. To ensure your playground is safe and enjoyable for families to use, it must incorporate the latest safety features.
Perhaps the most important aspect of playground safety is the surfacing. Safety surfacing is designed to cushion a fall. Each year, more than 200,000 children ages 14 and younger are treated for playground-related emergencies. A bit of protection goes a long way in reducing the impact of these injuries.
Let’s cover the best types of safety surfacing for preschool playgrounds.
Unitary Safety Surfacing
Poured-in-place rubber is durable, soft and long lasting. It’s shock resistant and you don’t have to worry about chemical sensitivities. Unitary rubber is also ADA compliant so that children with mobility devices can move about easily. Make your preschool playground bright and colorful by choosing a solid color or a rainbow of colors. Poured-in-place rubber allows you to theme areas or add trike paths around the play area.
Other options for unitary safety surfacing are bonded rubber and rubber tiles. These are similar to poured-in-place rubber but tend to cost a bit less. Still, they are all great options for preschool and early childhood playgrounds because they are soft, durable and ADA accessible.
Loose Fill Safety Surfacing
There are two options for loose fill safety surfacing - engineered wood fiber and shredded rubber. These materials are economical and have good shock absorption. However, they do degrade and can be easily displaced. Obviously, if the surfacing is thin, it won’t be as effective at protecting children from falls. Be sure to maintain this surfacing and keep it well filled, particularly underneath swings and slide runouts or consider adding mats to those high impact, high traffic areas.
Loose fill safety surfacing is not recommended for early childhood play areas as they tend to crawl around and put things in their mouth. We recommend a unitary surface for this age group – 6 months to 23 months. Of course, loose fill safety surfacing works fine for ages 2-5 and tend to be more cost effective initially than unitary surfaces.
If you want your preschool playground to have a more subtle, natural look, artificial turf is a great solution. Artificial turf can also be ADA compliant, though you need a qualified installer to ensure all requirements are satisfied, including ADA accessible pathways. This type of safety surfacing is also weather resistant, durable and allergy friendly.
When it comes to choosing safety surfacing for a preschool playground, a unitary rubber is probably your best option because of its firmness and stability. Contact Park and Rec Pros to learn more about our options for surfacing and which one is right for your project. Our surfaces are also certified to meet all ASTM standards.