The surface you put under your climbing frame needs to be safe, clean and easy to maintain.
You will be far more relaxed watching your children, as well as family and friends, playing on the frame, when you know that they are adequately protected from a fall.
Let's take a look at some of your options:
It's tempting to take advantage of the flooring nature already provides in your garden. In the Spring and Autumn the ground will feel springy, and offer some fall protection. But since your climbing frame will be used all year round, you need a playing surface that's effective for 12 months of the year. In the Summer, when the ground dries out, the mud will be so hard that any impact could cause injury. In the Winter, wet weather will make the ground near the frame vulnerable to damage, especially at the bottom of the slide. You could quickly end up with a mud pit, and you won't be very popular with parents of friends who come round to play.
These offer an inexpensive solution and are often used to cover large areas. There are two things you need to be wary of with bark chippings. Firstly that their lightweight nature means they often stray from the area you intended, requiring frequent top-ups. The other is that they can attract local cats looking for a place to use as their litter tray.
These are often made from recycled car tyres, so you can feel good about protecting your children, and helping the environment at the same time. These chippings are heavier than bark, so they tend to stay in place, and don't get blown around the garden.
Gridded rubber mats, like these Plum Protektamats, are the easiest option to install. The mats lock together, creating one continuous play surface. There's no digging or ground preparation required, simply lay the mats on your lawn. Over time the grass will grow through the grids, so you won't be able to see the mats. Things to consider when choosing your ground cover:
- Initial cost, plus ongoing maintenance top-up costs.
- What is the critical fall height the surface protects to? Is this adequate for the height of your climbing frame?
- How will the surface look in the context of your garden? If you are keen gardener, you won't want your outside space looking like the local recreation ground.
- Is the surface abrasive? How will it feel when a child skims the surface as they come off the end of the slide?
- Check for non-toxicity, for both children and your garden. This surface will be exposed to lots of rain, which could wash any toxins into your soil.
- If you choose a loose ground cover, such as bark or rubber chippings, putting a weed control membrane will help suppress weeds and grass from breaking through, but will also effect drainage of the area.
Choosing the right kind of play surface is a careful balance between cost, and protection, both for your children, and your garden,. It's a worthwhile investment so your family can safely enjoy their new outdoor play equipment all year round.