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What is Playground Mulch?

Playground mulch is a protective surface used in play areas to cushion falls and enhance safety. Typically made from wood chips or rubber, it's designed to absorb impact, reducing the risk of injuries. Its natural appearance blends with outdoor settings, making it a popular choice for schools and parks. Wondering how it's installed or maintained? Continue reading for insightful tips on playground upkeep.
G. Wiesen
G. Wiesen

Playground mulch is a type of mulch designed to be used on playgrounds and yards in which children are likely to play. It is made using small pieces of rubber, sometimes recycled from old tires and similar sources, and is designed to allow children to avoid injury more easily due to the soft texture and bounciness of the mulch. This type of mulch is fairly affordable, resilient, and can be found in a wide array of bright colors to complement just about any kind of yard, park, or playground. Playground mulch can also be used in gardens, flowerbeds, and around trees in a way similar to other types of mulch.

Sometimes called rubber mulch, playground mulch is made out of small pieces of rubber, usually in chunks or circles. The rubber is typically cleaned and made in a way that is in accordance with child safety standards, though it should not be eaten. This means that smaller children should be watched when playing in an area covered with playground mulch. It is sold in bags and can be used to cover ground areas of any size.

Rubber mulch is often manufactured from recycled tires.
Rubber mulch is often manufactured from recycled tires.

As long as enough of the playground mulch is used to create a sturdy but soft surface for children to play in, the mulch will provide a fairly safe environment for kids. Children falling on the playground mulch are less likely to be injured than children falling on concrete or even grass and dirt. The rubber will absorb much of the impact of a fall, and it can be easier for kids to run and play on. This type of mulch is also typically designed to ensure quick water drainage, allowing children to play on it after only a short time following heavy rain, without creating a slippery surface.

Playground mulch is designed to give children a safe, soft place to play.
Playground mulch is designed to give children a safe, soft place to play.

Playground mulch can be found in a wide variety of colors, though red, black, green, and blue may be the most common. An area of mulch can be contained using rubber curbs around the mulch, keeping the mulch from spreading too much while still providing a safe, protective area for play. Playground mulch can also be used around plants such as bushes and trees much like other types of mulch. The rubber will allow moisture to pass and reach the ground to ensure the plants remain properly watered, while preventing weeds from being able to pass through. This mulch can also help keep root systems and plant bases warm, though other sources of nutrients may be needed as well.

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Discussion Comments


@SarahGen-- I disagree. I don't think that we are fully aware of the side effects of rubber mulch yet. This mulch might release chemicals or dangerous gasses into soil and air.

I don't know why rubber mulch is so popular for playgrounds. Playground chips made of wood are actually cheaper than rubber mulch and as long as it deep enough, it provides the needed cushion for children in case they fall. It's natural, environmentally friendly and absolutely hazard free. All of the municipal schools in our area use this type of playground mulch.


@ysmina-- I think rubber playground mulch is safe. My kids play at a playground where there is rubber mulch and we have not had any problems. I have seen a few small kids picking up the mulch and looking at it, but they were under supervision so it was fine. Like the article said, as long as the kids don't eat it, they won't be harmed. Plus, rubber mulch is great when kids fall on it because they don't get hurt.


In the beginning, it was thought that rubber mulch used as playground mulch is safe. But opinions seem to be shifting. I have actually read several articles where the authors claimed that rubber mulch is not safe and should not be used in playgrounds.

I'm a bit confused because the people manufacturing the rubber mulch for this purpose are very confident about their products and say that it is non-toxic and safe for children. But opponents are not random people either. In fact, a university studied the rubber mulch used in playgrounds and found it to be hazardous.

So which is true? Are our children safe at these playgrounds?

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    • Rubber mulch is often manufactured from recycled tires.
      By: Andres Rodriguez
      Rubber mulch is often manufactured from recycled tires.
    • Playground mulch is designed to give children a safe, soft place to play.
      By: ftlaudgirl
      Playground mulch is designed to give children a safe, soft place to play.