What Type of Mulch Is Safe to Use for a Child's Play Area?

By Emily Taylor

A common concept in the construction of playgrounds and play equipment is that if a child can do it, he will do it. Any playground designed with safety in mind must provide some sort of shock absorbing material under and around the equipment. One of the most popular materials used in public and private play area construction is wood mulch.

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Mulching a play area can provide a safer environment for children.

Select for the Purpose

Mulch intended for use around plants often is designed to decompose and provide fertilizer. Mulch intended for use on footpaths may contain chemical preservatives that could harm children. A wood mulch intended for playground use should be free of chemicals and offer no nutrients if used with plants.

Recycled vs. Virgin Wood

Wood mulch can be made from recycled wood or new, virgin wood. Recycled wood is safe so long as it is not treated to resist decay. Treated wood can contain toxic chromated Copper arsenate or CCA. Mulch from virgin wood will come from new, untreated wood and be guaranteed to be free of CCA.

Climate Concerns

Wood mulch is a coarse particulate material. Water can easily get into packed mulch and freeze in cold temperatures. Wood mulch provides a safe ground cover because it moves and compacts to absorb the force of falls. Frozen mulch will neither move nor compact, thus losing it's safety benefits.

Annual Maintenance

Wood mulch will decompose over time. At the beginning of each play season, playground mulch should be raked to loosen compacted areas. New mulch should be added to provide a uniform safe thickness.