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Bark vs wood chippings: Which makes the best surface for a children's play area?
22nd July 2020

Bark vs wood chippings: Which makes the best surface for a children's play area?

Designated play areas are full of fun and adventure for children, though for parents there is the worry of all those bumps and scrapes and the possibility of an awkward fall from a climbing frame or swing. Thankfully, the risk of injury can be greatly minimised by covering the hard ground with a layer of absorbent material such as bark or wood chippings.

Such surfaces are usually commonplace in public play areas in parks and school playgrounds, along with more expensive options such as the rubber surface layer you sometimes see beneath the larger climbing frames. They can also be employed in private play areas in gardens to make the ground less dangerous to fall on.

What to Consider When Choosing a Play Area Surface?

There are several materials you can use that will pretty much have the same impact-absorbing effect you want, so within these options your considerations will largely revolve around factors such as the price, aesthetics and durability.
The safety of the children is of course the primary concern, but natural mulches and chippings are as safe it gets for the children and are often the most cost-effective option as well. Certain types of bark and wood chippings have different colours and may differ significantly in price, so really these are the main issues when choosing which material to opt for.
The depth of the absorbent surface layer is the next important factor to consider. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) recommend filling a public play area to a depth of 300mm, with domestic play areas filled to a depth of 150mm. If there is tall climbing equipment present, then you may want to consider laying a even thicker layer of absorbent surface material.
The RoSPA as well as other safety organisations such as BSI, NPFA and CAPT, offer plenty of play area safety advice on their websites regarding how to calculate exactly what you need for your play area surface.

Play Bark or Wood Chippings?

The best options for a natural look that is also cost-effective will be bark or wood chippings, which are both play approved products available to buy in bulk.
They are both exactly what their names suggest they are, wood chippings being very small chips of wood and bark being chopped pieces of bark. The main difference between the two is that bark is softer, perhaps giving it the edge as a play area surface material. However, small wood chippings also serve this purpose well enough, plus they have the advantage of being more durable than bark.
Bark will also produce a darker aesthetic look, though both bark and wood chippings look and feel natural and can be an attractive addition to any garden. They also absorb water which makes them less slippy than rubbery surface materials often used in more public areas and school playgrounds.
If you want to buy woodchips or bark bulk bags, then contact Springbridge via our website or call today on 0845 370 1921 for more information about surface materials for child play areas.