A lot of schools still use traditional playground surfacing like asphalt or tarmac, however, over time and with constant use they degrade: edges crumble, busy pathways wear away and bare patches begin to appear. Surfacing materials like loose gravel and bark mulch also deteriorate. Paying for regular repairs and maintenance that can leave your playground looking like a patchwork quilt is not always the cost-effective solution. Modern playground surfacing uses materials that are safer, longer lasting and better value for money. In this post, we’ll look at four reasons why it might be time to change your playground surfacing.
1. Your current playground surface is a safety hazard
Safeguarding has to be at the top of any school’s list of priorities and this includes making sure your playground doesn’t put children at risk. If there are obvious signs that your current surface is becoming defective, it may become a safety hazard.
Defective surfacing can cause children to trip or slip, risking broken bones or head injuries. Loose gravel is not only slippery but can also be sharp and break the skin. Materials like bark mulch, which is biodegradable, can cause splinters when it begins to break down and if it is harbouring fungi or unsavoury microbes, could cause an infection.
Besides the risk of injury, there are financial implications, too. As many schools will testify, there are quite a lot of parents today who will head straight to the solicitors if their child gets hurt in the playground. A tumble on the tarmac often results in a significant settlement.
2. Playground maintenance has become expensive
Another reason you may want to change your playground surfacing is if you are continually having to spend a lot of money on its upkeep. Resurfacing tarmac or asphalt doesn’t come cheaply, even if you are only patching specific areas. If this is happening constantly, that money could be more wisely spent on a safer and longer lasting solution that won’t need so much maintenance. The same applies to re-gravelling or replenishing bark mulch.
There are hidden savings to be made from investing in a better surface too. For example, a safer surface may reduce your liability insurance costs. You may also cut down the number of hours that your caretaking staff need to spend looking after your surfacing. Bark, for example, get easily blown around creating potential slip hazards. By replacing it, it won’t need to be swept up every time it gets a little windy.
3. Better surfaces, cleaner schools
Many traditional surfaces can be dirty, especially in the rain; particularly areas surfaced with grass or soil which become muddy after they have been trampled on by a swarm of school kids. Of course, when the bell goes, all this dirt gets brought into school.
Mud left by one child quickly becomes a trip hazard for those following behind, especially on stairs or tiled flooring. You also end up with a completely messy floor, littered with pale grey footprints, that your caretaking staff will need to spend time cleaning and polishing after school. Of course, when the mud dries, all those tiny bits of grit are going to scrape the shine off your newly varnished wooden floors, shortening the amount of time the varnish will last. If you have carpets, they too are going to get dirty and will need cleaning more regularly.
Modern surfacing is much cleaner and whilst it won’t fully eradicate every piece of dirt that gets brought into school, it can help reduce it, meaning less wear and tear of your indoor flooring and less time needed to keep it clean.
4. Your playground is a dreary space
When children play together, especially in larger numbers, there is more opportunity for them to develop important social skills. Many of the markings used for sports and games will help pupils with key skills such as turn taking, patience, respect for others and empathy.
At the same time, children will need to interact in order to play together or when asking other children for a turn on a game. This will help them become better negotiators and improve their ability to resolve disputes. It can also lead to new friendships.
Is it time for a change?
Great playground surfacing can revitalise your outdoor environment. Surfaces can be created from a range of materials and colours and come with a wide range of playground markings that create sports pitches and games areas.
There are several examples of modern surfacing that are worth a mention. A highly popular solution is Wetpour surfacing. Wetpour is a soft surface that is very effective in reducing injury from falls. It’s ideal for putting under climbing equipment or for areas where children are involved in active play. What’s more, it’s long lasting, colourful and can be created in a range of intricate designs.
If you currently use bark mulch on your play areas, a safer, cheaper and longer lasting alternative is to use rubber mulch. Made from recycled tyres, this coated, shredded rubber comes in a range of colours and can even look like natural bark. However, unlike bark, it’s bound together, so it doesn’t get blown away, can’t get chucked around and doesn’t rot.
If you need a hard surface, then a much better alternative to asphalt or tarmac is resin bound gravel, a highly attractive surface with a smooth finish using naturally coloured stones bonded together using resin. Tough, long-lasting and available in a range of colours, it’s the ideal hard surface.
If you want grassy areas that don’t get muddy, there are two other surfacing options. You can cover existing grassed areas in grass matting or you can replace your natural grass with artificial grass. This is great for sports areas and comes with the advantage of never needing to be watered, fed or mowed.
For more information about all our surfaces, check out our playground surfacing page.