How To Choose The Right Softfall Playground Mulch

Whatever variety of softball surfacing is used in public kids' play areas, it has to meet Australian Standards for Playground Safety.  It therefore makes sense to choose a similar product for your own garden, and the most cost-effective option is mulch.  Remember that the softfall playground mulch only needs to cover the fall zone of your play equipment; the area outside of this may be covered by turf.


Most playground injuries are due to falls to the ground from playground equipment.  Mulch makes a perfect softfall surface as it has the ability to absorb the initial impact of a fall, reducing the likelihood of serious injury.    

There are two different types of mulch that are suitable for playground use: natural mulch and rubber mulch.

Natural mulch

Natural mulch is made from chipped or shredded wood and is the primary material used by gardeners to protect the soil and prevent weed growth.  Mulch comes in a variety of colours, textures and types. 

Hardwood, such as hickory, oak, beech, birch and chestnut makes a sturdy material and uses the tree bark only.  This heavyweight mulch is perfect for sloping areas because it is less likely to be blown away in windy weather or displaced by heavy rain.  Lightweight mulch made from shredded or chipped cypress or pine is ideal for flat, well-drained surfaces like playgrounds.

Wood chip and double-shredded bark softfall mulch placed in layers at a depth of six to 12 inches is proven to help prevent serious head injuries.  Both these types of covering provide far superior shock absorption than fine gravel and fine sand.  Of the options available, pine bark mulch is recommended, as it is softer and requires lower maintenance than other varieties.

Natural mulch does have a tendency to break down over time, so its ability to drain away water is compromised, and it will require replacement eventually.

Rubber mulch

Rubber mulch is made from scrapped or recycled car tyres that have had the metal component removed.  It's also referred to as 'crumb rubber' or 'tyre crumb' and is often used in synthetic turf sports areas, parks and playgrounds.  The material is very durable and long-lasting and provides excellent soil protection.

Rubber mulch is also very efficient at draining water quickly, thus avoiding the formation of puddles and providing a safe, non-slip play surface for children.  Its construction is soft yet strong and that together with good shock-absorption qualities makes it ideal for use in play areas.

In conclusion

With a little thought and planning, it's possible to create a safe play area for your kids to enjoy that's aesthetically pleasing too.