Best Mulch for Playground in 2020 – 10 Options to Choose From

Having been in gardening for over ten years, I am worried that nowadays, it is much harder for people to learn about different groundcovers and mulch, as well as choose the best solution because of the current market saturation. There are so many options available today that I fully understand how challenging it may be to select some gardening tools or solutions for those who don’t do gardening as a hobby. I have, therefore, found a need to write this blog to educate beginner gardeners and people looking for assistance on this matter on tips of choosing the best mulch for playground. 

For starters, choosing between the best product and the best value for money is a big problem. It is vital to have a source you can always rely on when it comes to playground and gardening concerns. In this post, I will  talk about how to choose the best mulch for playground area so that you could pick the right solution for your place. 

What to Consider When Buying the Best Mulch for Playgrounds

Children enjoy playing on covered surfaces, and the mulch protects kids from falls and injuries. However, it is vital to know what types of mulch are safe for children and fit playgrounds best before making a purchase.

When buying the mulch, there are many factors you need to consider, including the landscape you have and the cost of the solutions. I have selected ten mulch options that are the best in terms of affordability, ease of use, and safety for kids. Each product is worth purchasing as the best mulch for playground, but there are distinctive features of each mulch you need to know. So, check all the options and pick the right one for you.

The Rubber Mulch For Playground

The Rubber Mulch for Playground

It is one of the most popular options available on the market. The rubber mulch is easily affordable and requires low maintenance costs. The best rubber mulch for playgrounds is safe and drains water immediately, thus, reducing the occurrence of fall-inflicted injuries. It is also resilient since rubber doesn’t decay.

The 6-inch deep rubber mulch can protect children from a 16-feet fall height. However, during the hot days, rubber produces an unpleasant smell. It can also contain some contaminants as this product is recycled from car tires.

The material is most suitable for the children’s playgrounds. It is all-season effective and ideal for those under a strict budget. Below are the listed pros and cons of rubber mulch for playgrounds.

  • Low maintenance costs
  • Durable as it doesn’t decompose 
  • Ideal impact absorption

  • May contain contaminants 
  • Produces an unpleasant smell on hot days

The Natural Grass

Natural grass mulch

Green playgrounds add decor to your yard and are natural, thus, healthy for kids. The cost of natural grass is relatively affordable. The only upkeep processes required with it are weeding, fertilizer application, mowing, and watering. Grass grows naturally, so you won’t have to worry about seeding or replacing it. 

However, I want to remind you that grass playgrounds get slippery when it rains. They offer poor impact absorption, and they’re prone to pests.

Moreover, frequent watering can damage the installed playing equipment.
Natural grass is most suitable for backyards, parks, and playing fields. It provides an ideal relaxing scene for all and looks beautiful during the warm weather.

  • Natural grass grows easily
  • Low upkeep costs
  • Eco-friendly

  • Gets slippery when it rains
  • Poor absorption impact

The Engineered Wood Mulch

Engineered Wood playground mulch and slide

The engineered wood mulch is usually colorful and provides a superior visual appearance to the playground as it matches any landscape. Engineered wood chips are affordable, although slightly more priced than other options. This option is one of the most durable with a low upkeep cost. 

The material, however, may contain shattered glass pieces and requires constant replacing to ensure a bright appearance. When considering the best wood mulch for playgrounds, choose the one that is dye- and chemical-free. The engineered wood mulch fits these characteristics, and it is ideal in erosion prevention.

  • Appealing look
  • Affordable
  • Long-lasting

  • May contain dyes 
  • May contain shattered glass pieces

The Pine Bark – The Best Wood Mulch for Playground

Pine Bark mulch

This material is obtained through pine bark tree shredding. Its biggest advantage is that there are different options of the pine bark chips in terms of tenderness, as you can pick between finely shredded pieces or bigger ones. 

The pine wood mulch for playground also looks colorful. Moreover, it doesn’t easily decompose as compared to cypress mulch for playground. This option helps to prevent the spread of soil-borne diseases, as well as increases the soil moisture retention ability.

  • Durable and doesn’t require frequent replacement
  • There are pieces of different size
  • Colorful and organic

  • Can be easily washed by the rain or blown away by the wind

The Synthetic Turf – A Plastic Mulch for Playgrounds

The synthetic turf and artificial grass don’t require any weeding, watering, or cutting. It’s a bit pricey to put all over the place, but there are no upkeep costs afterward.

Its main advantage is the way the artificial grass covering doesn’t get slippery and offers cushion-like impact absorption. Its only con, however, is that it heats up during sunny days. All in all, the synthetic turf suits sports playgrounds best.

  • Considerably low maintenance costs
  • Anti-slip covering
  • Cushion-like impact absorption

  • Costly to install 
  • Gets extra hot when it’s sunny

The Pea Gravel Border for Playground Mulch

Pea gravel mulch

The pea gravel compresses into a hard surface that can inflict injuries during playtime. It isn’t safe for children’s playgrounds. However, this option is affordable and common for many playgrounds.

I highly recommend using the pea gravel on walkways or pavement borders only. It is also easy to put in place. Pea gravel suits more for car parks, as this material doesn’t offer good fall impact absorption. If you have been told to use the pea gravel for the children’s playground, I recommend taking a look at the other safer options reviewed here.

  • Easy to put in place
  • Affordable
  • All-season solution

  • Unsafe for children playgrounds
  • Low impact absorption ability

The Poured Rubber and Rubber Tiles

The poured rubber and rubber tiles are better options when compared to cheap rubber mulch. They come in different thicknesses to meet your needs and preferences. The material is easy to put in place, and it is slip-resistant and requires low upkeep costs.

The poured rubber is most suitable for neighborhood parks. It is the safest material available on the market nowadays. Both the poured rubber and rubber tiles are all-season options, but they can be used only by those without a limited budget.

  • The safest option out there
  • Anti-slip
  • Low upkeep costs
  • Easy to put in place

  • Highly-priced

The Play Sand

Play sand playground mulch

The play sand is an affordable option to consider as it doesn’t retain water. A thin layer won’t absorb the impact as desired, but a thick one should work great for a children’s place. It is ideal for playgrounds at any time of the year but may lead to knee scrapes. 

Note that you will need to refill the play sand frequently. Moreover, it can be easily carried into the house.

  • Affordable
  • Easily accessible
  • Absorbs fall impacts well

  • Requires frequent replenishing
  • Causes knee scrapes

The Engineered Wood Fiber

The engineering wood fiber is among the most popular options being used currently. The material offers a perfect cushion for falls. It’s an excellent soft mulch for playgrounds. Cedar mulch for playground is a common choice for playgrounds thanks to its high impact absorbing capacity.

Its only con is the way such a wood fiber is a bit expensive. Also, it degrades over time, so it requires frequent replenishment. The biggest advantage of the engineered wood fiber is that it is an all-weather option. This fiber is contaminants-free when extracted from virgin trees.

  • Provides an anti-slip surface
  • All-weather
  • High impact absorption ability

  • May contain contaminants if you buy a cheap product
  • A bit expensive

The Recycled Tire Mulch for Playgrounds

This material is a cost-effective option. However, there are many cons associated with the recycled tire mulch. First, the rubber gets hot on warm sunny days. Moreover, as the recycled tire is produced from car wheels, most of the products contain contaminants. It is a suitable option for schoolyards and playgrounds, but I don’t recommend going for this option if the summer in your area is really hot.

  • Cost-effective
  • Cushioned fall surface
  • Low maintenance costs

  • Contains contaminants
  • Gets heated easily

Answering the Question What Type of Mulch is Best for Playground and More

With the variety of options available on the market, it would be unfair to wrap up this post without answering popular questions about the playground mulch. It is for this reason I have created this section, which contains helpful information on playground mulch specifics.

Pea gravel is a bit coarse and gets hard with time. It gets absorbed and forms a hard surface with poor impact absorption ability. The mulch is, therefore, the best option as it is comfy and safe for children. Bear in mind that safe rubber mulch is the first option you should consider. It is cost-effective, protects your kids from fall injuries, and doesn’t require much maintenance.

The rubber mulch can be between 4 to 6 inches deep. The 4-inch deep mulch provides up to 10 feet fall-height protection, while the 6-inch deep one offers up to 16 feet fall-height protection. For anyone wondering, is rubber mulch safe for playgrounds, I can profoundly say that there’s no other material that offers better fall-height protection.

Safe rubber mulch for playground is the best material for such places. It is affordable and requires low upkeep costs.

Ensure you have the proper tools, such as a rake and a shovel. Prepare the ground through raking and leveling it. Remove weeds and dig between 3 to 6 inches, depending on the cushion type you need. Lay a fabric before placing the mulch (optional). It will help in keeping weeds off. Spread the mulch over the selected area. Distribute the mulch smoothly using a rake.

If you doubt about the rubber mulch safety, it is essential to note that this material drains water immediately. It significantly reduces the chance of occurrence of fall-inflicted injuries. I can, therefore, confidently assure you that the rubber mulch is safe and comfy.

The wood mulch is safe, comfy, and popular on many playgrounds in the US. Wood chips are cheap, even though they require frequent replenishing due to the speedy decaying. However, this material is a bit hard for playgrounds. The wood mulch doesn’t decompose fast, but it still doesn’t beat the rubber mulch’s effectiveness.

What is the Best Mulch to Use for Playgrounds in a Nutshell

As I finish my reviews on the best playground mulch, I hope you are now ready to purchase the right material for your place. Most of the options reviewed above perfectly suit children’s playgrounds. That said, what mulch option appeals to you most? What material have you been using for the playground so far? Share your stories with me in the comment section below.

Last update on 2020-04-06. The post includes Affiliate links. Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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