Safety First: Choosing the Right Mulch for Your Playground

Whether it’s a playground or a backyard, mulch is a great way to improve soil health and prevent erosion. There are several different types of mulch that can be used for children's playgrounds, but what type of mulch is best?

Creating a backyard playground is an absolute dream for your kids. Monkey bars, swings, and slides can add more fun to your backyard and help your little ones create long-lasting childhood memories. While this may seem all fun and games, you need to do everything possible to ensure your child’s safety. Keep in mind that a simple fall can be catastrophic if your playground isn’t surface isn’t covered with the right material. One of the most preferred playground surfacing materials is mulch.

But what kind of mulch is best used in a playground? The most common types of playground mulch are wood chips, rubber mulch, bark mulch, and pea gravel. Each has its pros and cons, but overall, they’re all great options for your playground. Wood chips are relatively inexpensive but attract bugs and pests. Rubber mulch is a bit more expensive but doesn’t attract bugs and pests. Pea gravel is relatively inexpensive but can shift and move around, creating a trip hazard. Generally, the best type of mulch for your playground depends on your budget and preferences.

This blog post discusses the different types of playground mulch while highlighting the pros and cons of each option to help you make an informed decision. Read on to learn more.

What Is Playground Mulch?

Before diving into the different types of playground mulch, it’s essential to understand what it is and why it’s so important.

Playground mulch is a layer of material spread over a playground’s surface to cushion any falls and protect kids from injury. It also provides a soft, comfortable surface for kids to play on.

It can also help keep the playground clean by absorbing spills and preventing dirt and mud from being tracked inside your home.

Blue paint rubber mulch.
Playground mulch is a layer of material spread over a playground’s surface to cushion any falls and protect kids from injury.

There are a variety of different materials that can be used as playground mulch. The three most common options are wood chips, rubber mulch, and pea gravel.

Each mulch type has its own pros and cons that will be discussed in more detail below.

Garden Mulch vs. Playground Mulch: What Is the Difference

When most of us hear the word “mulch,” we think of the wood chips or shredded bark that’s often used in gardens.

While this type of mulch can also be used in playgrounds, it’s important to note that there is a difference between garden mulch and playground mulch.

Garden mulch is typically made from organic materials like wood chips, leaves, and shredded bark. These materials break down over time and need to be replaced regularly.

On the other hand, playground mulch is typically made from inorganic materials like rubber or pea gravel. These materials don’t break down over time and don’t need to be replaced often.

The other difference between garden mulch and playground mulch is that playground mulch is designed to provide a softer, more comfortable surface for kids to play on.

Therefore, before you purchase playground mulch, it’s essential to make sure it’s specifically designed for playgrounds.

What Are the Different Types of Playground Mulch?

Now that we have a better understanding of playground mulch, let’s take a closer look at the most common types.

1. Wood Chips

Wood chips are perhaps the most popular type of playground mulch. They’re relatively inexpensive and easy to find. You can usually purchase wood chips from your local hardware store or landscaping company.

Wood chips are made by shredding and chipping tree branches and bark. The size of the wood chips can vary, but they’re typically about 1-2 inches in diameter.

A boy playing woodchips.
You can usually purchase wood chips from your local hardware store or landscaping company.

One of the biggest advantages of wood chips is that they’re natural and eco-friendly. They’re also easy to spread and can be used in various ways. For example, you can use them to create paths or designate different areas of your playground.

However, there are a few disadvantages of using wood chips as well. Perhaps, the biggest drawback is that they can attract bugs and pests. This can be a significant issue since no one wants bugs crawling around their backyard playground and eventually finding their way into your house.

Another downside is that they can be messy. Wood chips can be tracked inside your home and can be challenging to clean up if they’re wet.

Furthermore, they can shift and move around, creating a trip hazard. So, before you install wood chips, ensure that you have a way to keep them in place.

2. Rubber Mulch

Rubber mulch is made from recycled tires. It’s typically black or dark brown and has a wood-like appearance.

One of the biggest advantages of using rubber mulch is that it’s extremely durable and long-lasting. In fact, it’s often used in commercial playgrounds because it can withstand heavy foot traffic and harsh weather conditions.

Rubber mulch is also relatively easy to install and maintain. It doesn’t attract bugs or pests, and it doesn’t need to be replaced as often as other types of mulch.

Another plus is that it provides a softer, more comfortable surface for kids to play on. However, there are a few cons to using rubber mulch as well.

Typically, rubber mulch is more expensive than the other options. It’s also not as eco-friendly as wood chips mulch since it’s made from recycled tires.

In addition, some research has shown that rubber mulch can release harmful toxins into the air. They include lead, cadmium, and zinc.

So, if you decide to use rubber mulch, make sure it’s made from 100% recycled tires and has been tested for harmful toxins. If you’re concerned about the environment, this might not be the best option.

3. Pea Gravel

Pea gravel is a small, round stone typically used in landscaping projects. It comes in various colors, including white, black, and brown.

However, it also serves as an effective playground mulch since its shock absorption capabilities can help protect kids from potential injuries in case of a fall.

Like rubber mulch, pea gravel is relatively easy to install and doesn’t require much maintenance. It also provides a softer surface for kids to play on.

Pea gravel is often used in commercial playgrounds because it can withstand heavy foot traffic and harsh weather conditions. However, it can be more expensive than wood chips and rubber mulch.

A pea gravel.
Pea gravel is relatively easy to install and doesn’t require much maintenance, it also provides a softer surface for kids to play on.

Another potential downside is that pea gravel can shift and move around, creating a trip hazard. So, before you install it, ensure that you develop a comprehensive plan for keeping it in place.

One way to achieve this is by using edging materials, such as bricks or pavers, to create a border around the area where you’ll be placing the pea gravel.

4. Bark Mulch

Bark mulch is made from tree bark that’s been shredded and chipped. It comes in various colors, including red, brown, and black.

Bark mulch is often used in playgrounds since it provides a natural look and feel. It is also relatively soft and comfortable for kids to play on since it has good shock absorption capabilities. This is critical to protecting kids from potential injuries in case of a fall.

Bark mulch is relatively easy to install and doesn’t require much maintenance. In addition, it is an eco-friendly option since it’s made from recycled tree bark.

However, it can be more expensive than wood chips and rubber mulch. Furthermore, it can attract bugs and pests. And, if it’s wet, it can be challenging to clean up since the bark will start to break down and decompose.

So, What Is the Best Playground Mulch?

There is no easy answer when it comes to deciding which type of playground mulch is best.

Each option has its own advantages and disadvantages that you’ll need to weigh carefully before deciding.

Yellow paint rubber mulch.
If you’re still not sure which option is best for you, consult with a professional playground designer.

Consider the pros and cons of each type of mulch, as well as your budget and the needs of your playground, before making a final decision.

If you’re still not sure which option is best for you, consult with a professional playground designer. They can help you choose the best type of mulch for your specific needs.

Can I Install Playground Mulch Myself?

You can install playground mulch yourself, but it’s not a simple task. You need to keep a few things in mind before you get started, such as the type of mulch you’re using and the size of your playground.

A worker installing a rubber mulch.
You can install playground mulch yourself, but it’s not a simple task.

If you have never installed playground mulch before, it’s best to consult with a professional. They can help you develop a plan and ensure the job is done correctly.

Wrapping It Up

In conclusion, the best playground mulch largely depends on your specific needs and preferences. Rubber mulch is a good option if you are looking for a soft surface that will cushion falls.

If you want something that will help keep the area clean, wood chips or pea gravel may be better choices.

Ultimately, it is essential to consider all factors involved before deciding on which type of playground mulch to use.

You can also consult a professional who can help you choose the right mulch for your playground and give you tips on installing it correctly.

Last update on 2023-07-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

read this next

The benefits of natural playgrounds, shown to positively impact children’s health and performance, are many. However, it comes as no surprise that these benefits extend beyond the physical. Natural playgrounds inspire curiosity, creativity, imagination and particularly a sense of wonder—what we commonly call “play.”
Kids exploring the forest.
Outdoor play helps kids develop social and emotional skills. So why is it becoming harder for parents to find safe places for their children to play outdoors? This book identifies the benefits of outdoor play, explains why it’s important for health, safety, and academic achievement, and offers practical tips on helping children develop self-esteem, resilience, courage, perseverance—and even a sense of humor.
It is usually a lot of fun for children to play in or around monkey bars. But, for parents and caregivers, it can be a bit of trial and error finding the best material to put under the monkey bars. There are many alternatives; some of them are better than others for several reasons.
A asian boy playing at the seasaw.
Playground Seesaws may be simple to look at but can be a lot of fun for children. Prices vary based on size, options and where you buy it from. Most playground seesaws are made out of metal or wood and come in either red or blue colors.
For kids who love to climb, our wide selection of fun and playful toys is sure to be a hit. From indoor climbing walls to rock climbing sets, or innovative climbing products that encourage creativity, this section has everything you need to build your ultimate fort!
The goal of every playground is to provide a fun, exciting environment that allows children to have fun and be carefree, but also be safe. Even the most thrilling playgrounds can pose a threat to children. Although there are many things you can’t control within a playground; here are 7 important tips for parents and kids using a playground.
Installing a playground in your backyard can be an exciting process that will bring you years of enjoyment and memories with your family. However, before you embark on a playground installation you’ll want to figure out just how much it will cost you. We are here to help!
A monkey bar is a playground structure consisting of metal bars and rungs that children can walk on to play. It’s meant to be climbed, swung from, and generally used as a jungle gym. Most commonly found in public parks, monkey bars are great exercise toys for kids of all ages.
A colorful playground.
Teeter-totter is a classic outdoor activity for kids, and now these wooden playthings have come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Whether you’re looking for an indoor teeter-totter for rainy days or an outdoor one that can withstand the elements, our buying guide will help you find just the right one.
The cost of an outdoor playset varies depending on the type, size, construction materials and the place that you purchase it. An average price is just under $2,000 to have a basic playset with swing, slide, surfacing and picnic table which is about 6 feet by 6 feet. The more elaborate or larger variety will most likely cost more.

Receive the latest news

Get Our Playground Newsletter

Stay updated with the latest promos, tips, advices, and much more!

Your privacy is important to us.