Re:play area surface
From: Lynn Nadeau (
Date: Mon, 14 Jan 2002 12:02:01 -0700 (MST)
I respond as a former preschool teacher (8 years). 
I have no experience of the ground up tire stuff, though I am not 
surprised that it leaves black marks, and wonder what chemical effect it 

Bark chips are not ideal: they need replenishment fairly often, hold 
moisture, and mainly, cause splinters. 

Pea gravel is a fair compromise. It was used on two playgrounds I used 
daily for some years. This is not "crushed rock", which is angular (and 
thus what you'd choose for a path, since it packs well). Pea gravel is 
more rounded, with the result that it smooshes when stepped on. It 
doesn't migrate much if you define the edges of the area with RR ties or 
a concrete curb or such. It does give, making it a legally acceptable 
fall zone, for insurance purposes, if supplied at the recommended depth. 

A side benefit is that it can be used for digging. It's nowhere near as 
attractive for children as sand, in that regard, but neither does it 
attract cat deposits, create slippery tracking outside the area, or get 
very wet. It works well enough that kids will shovel it into buckets, or 
play in it with toy bulldozers and trucks. 

(If you have a lot of young children using your play area, you might 
consider investing in, or creating, a sand/water play table, typically 
waist high for the children, and about 4" deep, which can be covered, and 
fairly easily emptied. Preschool equipment catalogues always have some. A 
simple variant could be made using standard plastic dishpans, supported 
on a wooden frame.) 

I don't have the fall-zone requirements on hand, but play equipment 
manufacturers, for public-use/ school equipment, will define both area 
and depth. 

Lynn Nadeau, RoseWind Cohousing
Port Townsend Washington (Victorian seaport, music, art, nature)

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