Re: play area surface
From: Robert P. Arjet (rarjetLearnLink.Emory.Edu)
Date: Fri, 11 Jan 2002 12:25:01 -0700 (MST)
For what it's worth, I taught preschool for four years, and have been a
parent for six, and I've seen a lot of playscapes.  I have a strong
preference for gravel for several reasons.  If it's done right (i.e., laid
down in adequate depth) it's actually one of the softest things you could
fall on.  A friend who used to work at an indoor climbing gym said they
used it for exactly that reason.   It doesn't track like sand, bio-degrade
like wood chips, and it will never, ever compact into a hard surface like
almost any other natural  material will.  (I've seen compacted sand that
was as hard as concrete.  You can roto-till it, but if you go too deep,
you mix in the dirt, and then it will compact even worse.)

The biggest fear I've heard about gravel is that little ones will put it
in their noses.  The school that I worked at which had gravel said that
they had never had a problem, not even with the 2 and 3 year-olds, and I
never saw anyone do it.  The biggest real problem with gravel is that,
like sand, it gets in people's shoes.  Kids don't seem to mind, but
grown-ups do, and they also have to watch out for kids who take off their
shoes on carpet, spilling out piles of gravel.  

Now, as long as the gravel stays in its place (good, tall barriers help)
it's really nice to fall on.  If, however, it gets onto a concrete
sidewalk, landing on it is a real drag.  Nothing like picking gravel out
of that big strawberry on your knee.  Yuck. 

Does anyone know about the recycled rubber surfaces that are starting to
appear?  I've seen ones that looked and felt great, with no apparent
drawbacks.  My guess is that they're terribly expensive.  I would also
guess, however, that they don't need to be replaced as often as say, sand
or wood chips.  On the other hand, I saw one a while ago that was coming
up in big, ugly chunks.  Does anyone know about these?


Robert Arjet
Central Austin Cohousing

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