Swingset question - looks AND safety

BoopadabooApril 14, 2014

We are trying to figure out what to do under the swingset we will be putting in soon. It is being delivered on Wednesday.

What do you have under yours? there is much debate about leaving grass and whether that is safe enough; and if not, then peagravel, wood mulsh, rubber mulch?

Have you had any issues?

I have two boys. My oldest (5) is a daredevil and has been walking since 6 months and climbing since 9 months. I am not so worried about him. My 2 year old tries to do everything his older brother does. :)

This is the set we are getting......

I am really torn about what will look better and be safe. I think rubber mulch is the safest, but I don't like the chemicals or the cost.

I think peagravel will look nice, but not be that nice to land on.

The playground mulch is nothing like the mulch we use elsewhere around the house and yard, but I could switch to plain pine I am sure over time.

This is a big expense so want to be sure we are going to like the end result and minimize injuries :)

We are also debating rubber barriers or wood railroad ties, and digging down half a foot to make it flush with the grass around it or having it be above the grass.

Who would have thought there were so many decisions!

Some pinterest pics....

Flush to the grass with mulch....

raised borders...

The guidelines also say 6ft all around the swingset which will make a HUGE area, which is another reason we are debating :) That impacts costs and looks. Most of the pictures don't seem to follow those guidelines.

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so long as it isn't cement, don't worry about it.

Kids bounce. Grass is fine.

If they land the wrong way, no material is going to help.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 12:28PM
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We had ours with grass when my daughter was little but have since changed it to mulch, not for safety reasons but because the grass could not withstand the playing and was so thin by the slide and under parts of the structure and the kids would always get grass and mud stained whilst playing. The mulch, believe it or not, is cleaner than the thinned out grass area was:) and dries faster after a rain.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 12:39PM
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Yep, agree with roarah. We had dirt patches under the swings, which were a muddy mess when it rained.

We had a huge play set, and put sand under the whole thing, contained with heavy wood edging. Our kids played as much in the sand as they did on the swings, I think.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 1:34PM
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Sand can attract cats with full bladders, though, so be aware.

The mud argument is a good one against grass, IMO. On the other hand, don't kids LIKE playing in mud?

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 1:41PM
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I'd not do a raised border. Children will trip on it while running around.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 1:42PM
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I am glad to see you are considering this issue. I always worry about swing sets installed over grass as it is not safe. We have never had a home set so I can't provide any personal experience. I think the pea gravel looks really nice and my kids would enjoy digging in it as well.

Here is a link that might be useful: US gov't link on need for appropriate materials under play equipment

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 1:43PM
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Tib, kids don't bounce. They break bones. lol. I'm not familiar with mulch but pea gravel is pretty good. It gives a great cushion when falling.

Grass and dirt would be hard to land on. Plus the grass will thin out, then you'd end up throwing clothes away from the mud that won't wash out.

Wouldn't they get splinters from mulch? Rubber gets hot, so I wouldn't use that either.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 3:57PM
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we've gotten very wimpy, oakley.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 4:03PM
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Boop, we had ours just placed on the grass at both houses we lived in when the kids were small. The main injury comes from swinging kids whacking kids that don't pay attention and walk into the path of the swings ... the surface underneath makes no difference.

Neighbors daughter broke her arm because she did some fancy jump off their swings. The surface wouldn't have made a difference, her speed and the way she landed caused the injury.

Boop, you do know that boys WILL try to climb out onto the bar that holds the swings, hangs from it and drop themselves to the ground? Just warning you! My 12 year old now bikes all over town with friends and they go get lunch and ice cream on their own ... a swing set on grass was a lot less scary!! ;-)

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 4:04PM
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We had a 5' chain link fence around our play set, and didn't have problems with cats (I can't say the same about our flower beds). The fence didn't encompass the entire yard, so inside the fence was for swinging, climbing, sliding, and hanging; the rest of the yard was for running.

There was pea rock at our sons' child care center, and they almost had to take my son to the ER when he stuck a little rock up his nose (he was 3).

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 4:04PM
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We have playground mulch in our tot lot. It gets replaced every year.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 4:06PM
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>> kids don't bounce
>> pea gravel is pretty good. It gives a great cushion when falling
>> Wouldn't they get splinters from mulch?

You're funny.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 4:07PM
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oh, kids DO bounce. they're made much better than are adults to withstand bumps. I think we've gone way overboard on the whole kid protection thing. Might as well start wrapping them in bubble wrap.

Do not put cement under a swing set. head injuries are no joke. but other than that...

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 4:16PM
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I didn't even open this at first and am glad I did. We put up a set for our grandkids a few years back. DH put up a 6" border around it with pressure-treated 12x6 lumber; we lined it with 2 layers of weed preventer (after spraying grass killer first). The county had been through the area trimming trees along the roadway and chipping the limbs. They had made several large piles of the wood mulch, so we asked if we could have some. They said take all you want. We did and used it to fill up the 6" of border. After it settled a couple of years later, we added bark mulch to freshen. We still had to weed occasionally, but DH would spray grass killer occasionally around the edges to make sure there were no weeds creeping in. We just dismantled it a couple of years ago after about 8 years of use and turned it back into lawn space. I can't remember anyone falling out of a swing or out of the elevated playhouse, but there were lots of close calls and it really was 'springy' with the mulch. We breathed a lot easier knowing there was no hard ground.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 4:19PM
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Pea gravel would be awful, in my opinion. Hard to walk on, hard to fall on. We have it down the side of our house, and it is not pleasant to walk on. Railroad ties used to be treated wood, don't know if they are anymore, and also they splinter over time.

Would you consider installing the set and observing the kids for a while to see if you need more than grass?

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 4:27PM
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Not wimpy, smarter. Just like with car seats. The link I posted above opens with this: "Each year, about 200,000 children are treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms for playground equipment-related injuries ". We aren't talking about trying to prevent scraped knees, we are talking about serious injuries.

You can see in the link below that falls onto grass from residential play equipment can result in head injuries as well as fractures and other serious injuries.

I let my kids climb trees and play sports and my ten year old walks himself to and from school and all kinds of other things. There are lots of benefits to activities that come with risk so thy definitely are not wrapped in cotton wool. But I don't let them play on play equipment without a proper fall zone. There's just no upside to taking that unnecessary risk. We go to playgrounds that are properly designed.

Here is a link that might be useful: Grass under play equipment associated with head injuries

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 4:33PM
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Experts recommend rubber mulch..

I have a friend who is a forensic pathologist with a specialty in deaths of children from head injuries (traumatic brain injuries), and he says children die every year from falls from playground equipment. And a child doesn't need to be a daredevil or fall from high up -- he tells me there are a lot of verified reports of children dying from brain injuries after falls of just 3 feet. He says the way to prevent serious head injury is to insulate kids' playground falls, and by far the best insulation is rubber mulch. He's made a believer of me.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 6:38PM
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I will just say...rubber mulch is not environmentally friendly.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 7:06PM
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the risk is extremely low. CDC: Between 1990 and 2000, 31 children under the age of 14 died as a result of falls from playground equipment. Most deaths were from strangulation. FAR more children drown every year or die from a whole host of other causes.

The risk of a death from a fall from playground equipment is very, very low.

Here is a link that might be useful: cdc

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 8:14PM
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What do you have under yours? there is much debate about leaving grass and whether that is safe enough; and if not, then peagravel, wood mulsh, rubber mulch?

Grass gets worn into tracks and then they become mud pits. A good layer of wood mulch you can renew and rake will keep the mud pit effect away. Unless you have several feet of foam in a landing pit, like pro stuntmen use, nothing will be cushion enough to prevent all injuries.

Confine it with a rubber edging meant for flower beds and it should stay tidy and not be a tripping hazard. If you want to enclose the area, make the enclosure high enough to be obvious, not just a small 2x4 on the ground.

Also, in a head injury, even soft material will not prevent a concussion - it's the sudden stop the skull makes and the brain keeps going and whacks into the inside of the skull. I got a dandy concussion with absolutely NO head impact at all - it was a whole bunch of sudden stops when we were jousting on bumper cars.

And I have seen plenty of concussions and broken bones and sprains where the skier or snowboarder hit beautifully groomed slightly packed powder.

More people get hurt, and hurt badly sometimes, because they are afraid of the fall. So they try desperately to not fall and make some really bad landings.

Teach the kids how to fall: how to break their fall correctly and how to land into a forward roll or a judo-style fall on hip and side. I used to be able to bail out of a swing and land with a forward roll or two and end up on my feet.

I spend a lot of time on "sled hill" teaching kids how to fall (turn loose and roll to the side) off their sled safely instead of riding it all the way down if they are going too fast for their own comfort.

The ski and snowboard instructors teach how to fall safely in the first 10 minutes of class. They have fewer injuries now than they did when they weren't teaching falling.

Here is a link that might be useful: Children need risk

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 8:56PM
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The CPSC link makes it clear that nearly 60 percent of the 200,000 kids in the US that end up in the ER from a play equipment related injury every year do so from FALLS to the ground. That's why the CPSC specifically recommends a safe fall zone underneath play equipment. The safe fall zone doesn't detract from the play experience at all. I'm fine with my kids taking risks. But I do look at the benefits when deciding on what risks are worthwhile. And there isn't any upside to skipping the safe fall zone.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 11:35PM
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We have a well used play structure that does not conform to regulations in our housing complex. Grass could not withstand the wear and tear. We use wood chips but they mush up and need replacing twice a year. Kids are not a big fan of the wood chips. My 10 year old son thinks rubber mulch is the best, followed by pea gravel - based on his playground experiences. Whatever material you pick, made sure you have a budget for constant replenishing...cause the stuff disappears. The coolest options, IMO, are the rubber mesh underlays that are designed to maintain soil drainage while allowing grass to grow in the holes - safe and not horrifying looking. Those probably work best in climates where grass grows well.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 12:34AM
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I used sand back in the day. The biggest sand box you can afford space wise will be the most attractive play area in the neighborhood!! Our yard was fenced so cats were not an issue.

Pea gravel and or sand are what you see most in municipal play grounds. I would have to conclude they are the most cost effective/safest. I have never found pea gravel difficult or painful to walk on. It can be a nightmare for clothes washers.

Rubber would be a HUGE no no as would rail road ties--the chemical off gassing on a hot summer day--ish.

Life is dangerous, just sayin.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 6:19AM
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I would think, crl, you'd take COMFORT in learning that only 3 children a year die as a result of falls from playground equipment. Children get banged up along the way growing up. We REALLY need to chill out as a parental culture .We have gone WAY overboard.

Even your 200,000 injuries, which include very minor onesâ¦well, do the math. How many children in this country play on playground equipment every year?

Percentage of the population age 15 and under is 20%. 20% of 300 million is 60 million. So out of a population of 60 million, there are 3 deaths a year from falls from playground equipment, and 200,000 injuries, including minor ones, indeed MOST are minor. 200K of 60 million is .003%.

Again, no one is suggesting putting the swing set on cement. But we have lost our heads with the kid safety thing. Simply being alive puts those kids at more risk than does that swing set. I think we need to get some perspective here. The helicopter mom thing is suffocating and has its own very negative impacts, on both kids and others.

I apologize for my tone. This stuff makes me nuts.

This post was edited by Tibbrix on Tue, Apr 15, 14 at 10:23

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 8:32AM
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We just have what's left of the grass under and around ours. The daredevil does try to climb on the swing beam. If you do put something down, make sure you won't mind mowing over it. It will end up in the grass no matter what--the kids love to scoop it out and dump it in the yard.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 10:33AM
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I don't think any posters are advocating wrapping children in bubble wrap, but as a mom I have always taken it as my responsibility to make choices that would lessen the risk of harm happening to my children. I think this is what the OP is trying to do also. She is installing something her children will get to play on and enjoy, and she is just trying to mitigate possible injuries. No one wants an injured child...my daughter broke her arm at cheer practice last year, and it was a miserable 6 weeks while she healed. When I was growing up, bike helmets weren't required, and car seats weren't anything like they are now...but I am sure glad we have the knowledge and technology to protect my children and future generations of children from preventable injuries. Tibbrix, do you wear a seat belt? I don't see much of a difference in any safety technology or knowledge. Just because I want to try to prevent injuries to my children does not mean I am a helicopter parent. My children are given reasonable freedoms and are responsible for their actions.

OP, we don't have one, but our friends that do have a soft, dark wood mulch with a short plastic border to help contain it. It works well and looks good.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 10:53AM
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I wear a seatbelt when the risks rise to a credible degree, i.e.: snow, ice, etc.

.003% risk is NOT credible to induce worry or overprotection, high cost in doing so, etc. It is, in fact, low enough to provide assurance for parents that their kids are engaging in an overall very safe activity. "protecting children" from unlikely risk IS helicopter parenting.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 11:08AM
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I do expect them to try to climb to the top, climb the trees, swing from the main beam, etc. I also want this to be safe for my family and the kids friends that will be over which is why we are considering all options.

I appreciate all the feedback on what has and has not worked for you all!

I like the idea of learning to fall. That makes total sense to me. I am going to look in to that more. I think my boys are learning that to a degree already in gymnastics. I see my oldest falling in particular ways. He loves gymnastics and always tries to throw crazy moves in to his routines.

I have seen rubber matts that people put under the swings and slide to minimize mud when there is just grass under the swingset.

We have had drainage put in near this new area but I think reading the feedback above that mulch might be a better idea just for that point alone.

I didnt' get to talk to DH about it again last night, but I am sure we will be discussing today.

We have fenced in a pretty large area next to the pool that backs up to the woods and are really excited to make this area a fun place for the kids. They are out there every day.

In one corner there is a huge tree and no grass grows underneath it. We are going to put something like this there I think (just a bit lower so we can put chairs under the branches)....

Also a chalkboard and a picnic table so they can do crafts and schoolwork outside. There is also a sandbox.

So far just the fence has been moved around and the boys spent three hours out there in the morning before my older boy went to preschool.

We take them to the local playgrounds periodically but sadly they are usually empty and they are not all that close to us.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 11:09AM
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Here's a pin board of inspiration photos of backyard playgrounds ....

My vote is for a good layer of sand -- damp-and-tamp -- and then add pea gravel ....

Here is a link that might be useful: Pinterest -- Backyard Playgrounds

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 11:35AM
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teacats, doesn't sand attract cats to pee in, though?

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 11:37AM
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Sandboxes have been a real issue for us - they turn into cat litters unless extreme measures are taken. Fences wouldn't make a difference around here either.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 11:43AM
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I think that depends on your area. So far I have lived here 7 years and I have seen two outdoor cats. The foxes usually get them I think. We have a sandbox and have not had an issue. I have a bigger problem with deer, bears and groundhogs.

Thanks teacats! I have a pinterest board too for this and have just added a few great pins! :)

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 11:46AM
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Ah yes!! Quite true .... the yard would have to be very fenced .... and the layer of gravel would have to be quite thick but still .... I was simply thinking of the cost .... but mulch might be the better idea .....

... and of course ... there is always the question of drainage for the whole area too .....

And I wonder if she should add a layer of weed fabric??? Just a thought ....

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 11:46AM
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.003% risk is NOT credible to induce worry or overprotection, high cost in doing so, etc. It is, in fact, low enough to provide assurance for parents that their kids are engaging in an overall very safe activity. "protecting children" from unlikely risk IS helicopter parenting.

Perhaps I am mistaken, but that is the risk of death from a playground fall. I'm not only concerned about death, but head injury from a fall.

I wear a seatbelt when the risks rise to a credible degree, i.e.: snow, ice, etc.

My family members wear our seat belts every time we are in a moving car. It's against the law here to ride on the roads without a seat belt.

I would not call someone who is concerned about the flooring around a playset a helicopter parent. We are finding that a lot of head injuries caused greater harm that we ever thought.

If someone thinks that grass, wood mulch, or plain old dirt is safe enough under their playset, that's their business. My kids had wood mulch under theirs. But I would never, ever, ever call someone who wants a safer padding a helicopter parent. I have a family member who suffered a head injury, and even though he is fine now, I completely understand a parent's concern over head injuries. That does NOT make that parent a helicopter parent.

I remember when parents who made their kids wear helmets when riding a bike were considered overprotective. I remember when people who wore seat belts were considered overly concerned for their safety. I remember when parents encouraged their boys to play right after a concussion.

Trying to protect our children from a failing grade by doing their homework for them, that's a helicopter parent. Padding the playground is not.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 9:04PM
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and no, the .003% is ALL injuries, from minor to death.

If you're so worried about head injuries w/r/t a .003% risk, I'd say don't have children, or tie them up and put them in a padded closet.

Biggest risk to kids now is obesity, poor diet, narcissism, overprotective parents, etc.

NOT getting a bump on the noggin.

Amazing any of us lived past 10, isn't it?

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 9:23PM
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Only the people who survived the lack of car seats and lack of polio vaccines and lack of bike helmets are around to bemoan the parents of today who are simply doing their best to take reasonable safety measures. The rest of them are dead and can't post.

And I am honestly not going to bother to check your math, but I'm baffled as to how you got the conclusion that ER visits equal minor injuries. I have never met anyone that took their kid to the ER for a minor injury.

I'm also totally baffled by the choice to not wear a seatbelt anytime a car is moving. That is illegal in every state as far as I know and very unsafe. I urge anyone who is doing that to reconsider that choice for your own safety.

I am very comfortable concluding that the CPSC--an agency of EXPERTS in assessing risks and child safety--is worth paying attention to. I am also very comfortable concluding that where there is no downside to making children safer, ie providing a safe fall zone under play equipment, it is irresponsible to insist that people should do otherwise.

For whatever it might be worth to the original poster, I know parents who would be hesitant to allow their kids to come over and play if you have play equipment that doesn't have a proper fall zone. You may not care and that's fine, but that's something I do take into account when I make these kinds of choices as I don't want to limit my kids' friends unnecessarily (for example, we have a very sweet, but somewhat excitable golden retriever. He is always crated when my kids' friends are over because I don't want anyone to be afraid to come over).

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 10:06PM
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No surface is perfect, and kids seem to have terrific ingenuity about sourcing items to go up their nose.

We used pea gravel, but, fwiw, we looked at several different kinds before we found the most "comfortable" one. We found sand too hard to keep clean (it was in the sandbox only), mulch too hard to keep dry (it was a shady area) and we did not consider any other options.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 10:42PM
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and no, the .003% is ALL injuries, from minor to death.

If you're so worried about head injuries w/r/t a .003% risk, I'd say don't have children, or tie them up and put them in a padded closet.

I did have kids, and they have grown up to be wonderful, responsible, successful young adults. I'm very glad I had them.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 9:12AM
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I don't know how this thread took such an ugly turn and why assumptions are being made. Should I assume that someone that doesn't care about safety for their children believes in spanking, cry it out, etc? I would hope not, but it is not really my business.

I am sure we could debate many things about parenting but this is not really the forum for it. I think there is a parenting forum and I know there is a hot topics forum. ;) Who would have thought a question about mulch would get so many responses. :)

daisyinga - I am glad your family member is OK. I was young (4 maybe) when our next door neighbor who was about 14 I think suffered a head injury. We were pretty close to the family. it was devastating. He could not do anything for himself for the rest of his life. My father went back to visit 20 years later and his parents were still taking care of them and it was getting harder and harder for them as they aged. He couldnt talk, eat, walk, go to the bathroom or do anything for himself. So sad. I don't remember much from when I was that age and we moved when I was 5, but I sure remember Tommy.

I am leaning towards level with the grass (so dug out since they sadly have to take out two trees to put it in, I think, that is a debate too :) ) rubber barriers ( regular wood would rot and treated wood is just as bad as rubber I think, and either mulch or pea gravel. Not sure which yet.

crl - you bring up a good point about other parents concerns too. We regularly have multiple au pairs and their kids over and some of them are special needs.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 9:42AM
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daisy, exactly my point! And you are WAY overreacting.


CDC: 706 children die every year by drowning. That does NOT include the number who receive ER treatment for submersion-related injuries, i.e.: not death. should we put floaties on every child who wants to swim, or life preservers? Or maybe not let them swim at all? That is WAY higher than the 3 who die every year from falls from playground equipment.

Some of you are acting like I said to build the playground over a moat filled with alligators and sharks. I didn't. I wouldn't. I'm simply saying that the degree of concern you put into chid safety should match the risk. And the risk of a child getting badly hurt on playground equipment is very, very low.

crl, that is unfortunate you won't let your GR play with the kids. Kids love GRs and vice versa.

And there IS risk to over protecting kids from risk. An important skill kids have to learn is how to assess risk and then alter their behavior accordingly.

We can wrap the world in bubble wrap: children will find a way to get banged up. It's part of childhood, and am important one.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 9:49AM
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We have wood mulch, it is great. It seems to be the preferred base for local playgrounds here so all the kids are used to it. At cleanup time, the kids know that all of their yard toys need to go back on the mulch (ie off the grass). It probably needs refreshing after nearly 10 years, but the tan bark was cheap. Might help that we don't get snow. No splinters. Had a kid once jump from the top of the slide (????) but he was fine and I imagine he won't be doing that again after his talking to -- or at least not until he is a teenager.

Good luck with your decision.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 10:00AM
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We have a golden retriever and yes, they are wonderful dogs and pose no risk to kids IMHO. That said, if kids are not accustomed to dogs, or even if they are but not familiar with a golden, they can be scary to a kid by dint of their size and teeth, and outgoing personality.

Therefore I agree with the poster who does not let the dog roam free unless the guests are comfortable.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 10:28AM
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mtn of course I completely agree that, if there is a person, child or adult, who is afraid of dogs, and there are people who are, that the dog should be kept inside and away. I'm a "dog person" and really disagree with the die hards who have the "if you don't like my dog, don't come over" mentality.

But it being a general rule, I don't think it's necessary and it takes a life enhancement away FROM kids. Children and animals, in general, have such an affinity, and I think there are also great lessons in there for children, i.e.: looking out for the dog, teaching them to in fact NOT be afraid, etc.

If there is a breed out there with a better personality than GRs (Im being rhetorical here, so don't jump on me!), I'd love to know it. If a dog is known to be potentially aggressive, yes, keep it confined.

the most resilient and "healthy" kids I know are the ones whose parents were not micromanaging every conceivable risk. Just my experience.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 10:47AM
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I'm staying far, far away from the whole micromanaging discussion, since that cannot be defined anyway.

I'm surprised at how many kids are afraid of dogs, and, if I have the opportunity, I do try to share with visiting children the joy of dogs (while taking care to mention the precautions one must take). But I also respect the fact that many kids are afraid. I think that was all the poster was referring to as well.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 10:53AM
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I have rubber mulch under my play set and I Love it! I put a low stone wall around the whole area to hold the mulch in place and the kids love walking on the wall around and around.

The rubber mulch has been down for 2 years and still looks great and when the children fall its not a big deal.

We incorporated our play set into the landscape design shown. The design shows plants that don't work well with kids and dogs so we used kid friendly shrubs in place of the ones shown in the design.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 11:28AM
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Picture of the actual playset. We scaled back the landscaping design some to accommodate our budget.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 11:52AM
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Boopadoo, I am so sorry this thread has taken such a turn, too. I'm sure whatever you choose to put under your playset, your children will spend many happy hours there. Your yard sounds like a wonderful yard for children - a pool, a huge tree and a great playset. My kids and their friends have many happy memories of all the sieges laid and watergun battles fought in their own tree house. Three of those children who played those games in my yard are serving our country in the military now - one training as a pilot, one at the Naval Academy and one in medical training. One of the many children who played there is, ironically, a nurse in a facility for spinal and brain trauma, a couple are teachers, one an EMT and some of them engineers. I look out over my aged playset as I wash dishes, and I can't bear to tear it down. I still see and hear those laughing children in my mind. I'm looking forward to the hugs I get from some of them on Easter Sunday!

Thank you for your concern over my family member. We are so thankful for his marvelous recovery. We have several friends who have suffered head trauma, and we are so very thankful they lived and so thankful for their brain function.

Regardless of the turn this discussion took, thank you, boopadoo, for the wonderful memories I relived remembering our well-used playset. May you and your family have even more fun times ahead. Enjoy watching your children play in your yard as long as you can!

    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 2:28PM
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Forgive me for trying to assure parents that, statistically, they can be calm and not worry and let their children play, as children are supposed to do.

Fret away if it makes you feel better.


    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 2:39PM
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I have been doing in home daycare for 25 years with state inspections of the premises done yearly. I have used sand, wood mulch and rubber mulch under a play set. I will list the pros and cons of each from my personal experiences.

Pros: kids LOVE the sand, it does somewhat break a fall.

Cons: cats use it as a litter box, hard to keep it under the swing area, Wind blowing (I am in Kansas so that is a real issue) Kids can't play if it is too windy because sand is blowing into eyes. Kids throw sand at each other not fun to deal with. Tracks into the house. Gets into kids shoes, pants, hair. Sand gets wet and stays wet for longer period of time.

Wood Mulch
Pros: breaks a fall, looks nice when it is fresh.

Cons: snakes and bugs love the mulch, Hard to keep the mulch under the swing area, expensive to replenish yearly. gets wet and stays wet. Blows away in the Kansas Wind.

Rubber Mulch
Pros: Breaks a fall, kids enjoy playing in it, does not track into the house, Wind does not blow it away, Stays a nice dark color, Does not stay wet after a rain, weeds do not grow. No need to replenish each year.

Cons: more expensive in the beginning but you wont be replacing it every year. $8.00 @ bag at sams club,
It was hard to keep under the swing area until I bought rubber stair mats for under the slide, swing and stair areas.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 4:30PM
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I don't disagree with you overall Tibbrix and have enjoyed your posts on other threads. I just think it is extreme to say I am a helicopter parent because I wanted some opinoins on what to put under a swingset. I did say we were considering just grass as well.

I have very strong opinions on parenting myself and question everything. It is what I do . Maybe because I am "maternally mature", maybe it is because I don't like accepting the way it was years ago just because, maybe it is because I had the complete opposite of helicopter parents, maybe it is because I lost my mom a long time ago. Who knows! :) Obviously you do too, I just think there are nicer ways to go about things.

I do try to consider many things when making large decisions and I consider this large due to the expense. I also have to consider my 2 year old who is not really old enough to make good decisions yet.

This is a great article on risk taking that I have saved on pinterest. Obviously we all have to determine what we think is best for our families.

Here is a link that might be useful: playing and risks for kids

    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 4:39PM
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thanks so much rtwilliams - you have me rethinking things now. :) I hate bugs and snakes!!!!! my kids love the bugs though. I have heard the smell of the rubber can be unpleasent and we have a well, I do think it is not the greenest to have the rubber mulch chemicals going in to the ground, but I have no evidence of that.

I wonder what the snakes would think of pea gravel.

I would not be able to tear down that swingset daisyinga! What great memories. I hope my kids have fond memories like that someday too. and Since I have step kids that are much older (22 and 18) i can alway hope that as my kids grow out of something like this that grandkids will be able to use it :)

    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 4:45PM
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boop, please read the dialogue again. I did NOT call YOU a helicopter parent.

Also, please read it again because I am the one who was a jumped on and basically accused of not caring about the safety of children, etc., for simply pointing out that the risk here is very, very low so I think you can feel pretty secure about your children no matter what you chooseâ¦just don't choose cement.

It is also because of the large expense that I was TRYING to point out the low risk, to SAVE you that expense. But everyone jumped on me and tried to get me to believe that because 3 kids every ten years dies from a fall from playground equipment that I am reckless in my assessment and in being "critical" of those who, IMO, exaggerate the risk in order to justify THEIR need to feel lil ether are fantastic mothers.

What, for example, does the ground cover on playground equipment have to do with whether one's children are successful or not????

IMO, it is daisy who got snippy and self-righteous here.

The person who keeps a level head about things and tries to make others recognize perspective and reason is NOT the one not putting things nicely.

So no, asking others what kind of material they have under swing sets in no way makes a person a helicopter parent, and that is all you have done. NO WHERE did I say mulch is a bad idea or whatever. It isn't. I was simply saying that that risk is low enough that you don't NEED to be a helicopter parent on this issue and in fact can relax and enjoy watching your kids play out there.

There is a very, very weird phenom in American mothering now where, if you're not hysterical about every little threat, you are a bad mother, or you are accusing others of something or other.

I get sick of it.

.0003% risk.

Spend your money on your kids education.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 4:52PM
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Tibbrix, if that is the way I came across to you, then I apologize for that. Perhaps you have personally had bad experiences with parents you consider to be overprotective?

I am fortunate that the young parents I am exposed to are wonderful, thoughtful, well-balanced young people devoted to doing their reasonable best for their children and trying to make good decisions. Again, perhaps that is not the case in your life, which would certainly be disheartening.

You may be surprised (or not) to know that my children, in elementary school, kayaked in swamps with alligators, white water canoed in rivers, tent camped in the woods in rain and snow, played in a drainage ditch in woods, slept outside in teepees they made themselves (no supervision) using an axe. My son was using a chain saw in middle school, my daughter rode ponies in the pond. My daughter climbed to the gym rafters on a knotted rope. They also built a homemade ramp and jumped their bikes off it.

Nevertheless, I am very understanding of the moms who won't let their kids play on playgrounds that don't have a rubber mat, make their kids wear coats and hats when it's cold, won't let them go away to camp, won't let their children play war with pretend guns and forbid a thousand other things I just laughed at when my own kids did them. In my experience, their kids turned out just great, and their moms didn't get nearly the grey hairs I did. If I had my life to live over, I would be more careful about some of the things I let my kids do, even though they didn't get hurt.

My advice to young mothers is to do what you think is best for your child, your family, and for yourself. If your child gets hurt, you and your child have to live with whatever decisions you made surrounding that event. If it helps you sleep better at night, young mother, to have a rubber mat under the playground, then do it and don't be swayed by what anyone says. That rubber mat may indeed save some brain function one day.

But we all approach things from our own life experiences. The kids I know personally that were raised by moms who insisted on rubber matting, didn't follow the five-second rule when food hit the floor, carried hand sanitizer everywhere, those kids grew up awesome.

Perhaps, Tibbrix, you have a lot of bratty kids and moms in your life and your experience is different. Perhaps the young mothers you know need some counsel and a better perspective. If so, then that is a difficult situation and I wish you luck in dealing with those experiences.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 6:47PM
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Good grief, daisyâ¦.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 7:25PM
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We have a rainbow swing set that has 6x6 railroad ties around it with playground wood chips as the soft surface. I considered mulch, but it is messy and compresses quickly. Rubber mulch is expensive and I didn't want to have it strewn around the yard as it migrates out of the play area. The wood chips work well. We get playground ones, about 2x2 inches or smaller. No stocks or weeds mixed in. They look natural and brush off clothes easily. I have to replenish (top couple of inches) each year. There are multiple websites that will give you minimum depth for proper cushioning.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 9:31PM
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@boopadaboo, we got a playset for our backyard 5 years ago, when our boys were similar ages as yours (actually they were 5yo and 1yo.) We didn't get any ground cover originally, but the activity destroyed the grass around the set - the exception of underneath the slide, where it grew tall no matter what! We did some landscaping in year 2 and they carved a perimeter around the playset and filled it in with mulch. It's a big improvement although it needs regular replenishment and the kids don't always love the mulch in their shoes (mostly during croc season.) The younger one also liked to truck a pile of it to the middle of the yard, same with sand from the sandbox, mild annoyance. But it's relatively easy and inexpensive, and it looks much better than the mudpit that preceded it.

Fwiw we half wondered if they would outgrow it quickly when we bought it but my 5ft tall 10yo is out there almost every day, summer and winter. Same for his brother. A big selling point is having a fort. It's a great investment in kids having fun. Hope your kids enjoy their new space!

    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 9:42PM
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The White House swing set
then (2009)

and now:

    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 9:53PM
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Tib, we haven't gotten wimpy, we've just come a long way is all in protecting our children from E.R. visits. I wouldn't want my child to deal with a broken bone because I didn't want to be wimpy.

Plus, it wasn't fun for my son's friend who fell off a slide onto hard ground who had to take a trip via Medi-flight. Pea gravel was laid after that ordeal.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 7:39AM
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Tib, what did you do for your kids? Did you ever go out of your way to prevent them from getting hurt? I'm not talking about a "Helicopter" parent either. Just common sense stuff is all.

Coldweather, you're pretty brave for a "new" poster. :)

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 7:47AM
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    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 8:44AM
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Make them wear helmets when playing on the swing set.


    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 10:01AM
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Perhaps the reason "only" 3 kids die each year (31 in a ten year period) is because most playgrounds DO have something to cushion the falls. It would be much higher if more people saved themselves the expense of providing a safe surface and used grass.

From the CDC:

About 45% of playground-related injuries are severe fractures, internal injuries, concussions, dislocations, and amputations (Tinsworth 2001).

45% of 200,000 ER visits--that's 90,000 kids. Don't ignore this statistic and focus only on deaths. I would wager most of them were from falls.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 10:12AM
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Here we goâ¦

yes, 90,000 out of 20 million, or .004%.

Oakley, I remind you that it was me who provided the link to corner protectors to put on your coffee table to protect your grandchildren.

I don't get why you're all behaving like you are! I did NOT suggest she put the thing on cement!

For crying out loud. Get a grip. You're all only proving my original point.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 10:24AM
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mayflowers..no, most are from strangulation.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 10:25AM
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FYI, for all of you: I rent my home out, often to families with children. Therefore, I've got baby plugs in every outlet; the windows in the upstairs children's room have stops so kids can't fall out of the windows; I moved one of the beds in there to be at a different angle so that a girl with long hair wouldn't have her hair sucked into the window fan, the window of which the bed was originally against; I make renters sign an agreement that shoes will be worn where I have a tetherball because there used to be a barn there and debris can still come up through the ground; children are absolutely not allowed in the the basement or the shed, where there are tools and other dangerous things, which I nonetheless keep up high and out of the reach of children; I have NO poisons in the house at all; I tell parents to use the inflatable inner tubes I've got only at the pond, NOT at a saltwater beachâ¦

Risk must be weighed. It will never be completely eradicated. And it shouldn't be. You go overboard protecting your kids from risk and injury, they never learn how to gauge it in the first place.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 10:49AM
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Sounds like you have put a lot of thought into the safety of the children at your rental house, Tibbrix. The children are fortunate their parents are renting from someone who cares about their safety and also, it sounds like, about their fun.

I was a little girl with hair long enough to sit on. Good catch with the window fan. I'm not sure that would have occurred to me.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 2:23PM
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Thank you all for weighing in. I really appreciate it! the pictures are a big help and I really find it helpful to hear how things worked or didn't work for y'all.

I have a question for mtnrdredux if you are still around. How did you pick the pea gravel? Find a yard with multiple kinds and go walk on it? Go to different places?

We are still debating at our household when we have a few minutes but I really want to get moving on this since we now have the swingset in the garage!

I don't like the though of mosquitos so I am leaning towards pea gravel.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 2:55PM
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Fori is not pleased

I've had this debate with the spouse and my kids will probably be too old before we conclude it.

I'd probably do fake grass.

Not concrete. Gets hot. Not asphalt. smells and looks bad. After that, I mostly just want something low maintenance. Yearly maintenance I can manage. Regular maintenance is no good. Keeping sand out of pockets or rubber mulch or gravel where it belongs would be too much work.

We are sometimes barefoot, so we don't like mulch and pea gravel. [Gravel also is hard to keep clean without a leaf blower; leaf blowers blow up so much crud they leave me and my little asthmatic sick. (If a leaf blower/vacuum could be restricted to just under the playset, it would probably be okay, but once you let the no-blower rule slide--with spouses or gardeners--it's gone entirely.) ]

I don't like gravel in my shoes, either. I still remember my neighbors had a pea gravel playset when I was a kid. Miserable barefoot, miserable in shoes.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 5:25PM
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Well thanks to all of you that helped! We have mostly finished the project. We ended up digging it to down to be flush with the grass (we had to get rid of some tree roots anyway :( I really did not want to get rid of those two trees), using treated wood for the borders and playground mulch for around the set. We had the sandbox from last year.

We still need some grass seed, put something around the pool equipment and to chop some weeds behind the fence. Possibly something under the back tree in the corner. The kids have been enjoying themselves out there everyday it is not raining.

Before there was just one large fenced in area with the pool. We moved the fence around so you could be in the swingset area and not by the pool and enlarged it by putting up more fence. So they have this swingset and sandbox...

Then they have an area to the left....

and a long narrow area to the right....

    Bookmark   May 23, 2014 at 6:04PM
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Congratulations, and what a great spring project! I'm sure your kids will spend many happy hours there. We just removed ours recently (sniff!). Enjoy it while you can.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2014 at 7:19PM
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cyn427 (zone 7)

My school district (Fairfax County, Virginia) uses mulch around the playground equipment.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2014 at 9:11AM
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I would never put pea gravel in an area where kids play, falling, swinging, sliding, running as that make for a much harder fall than simply landing on grass. It would be even worse than falling on the ground as the gravel can and will burrow into the skin, can cause rashes, burns, bleeds and besides, children like to put it in their ears and noses. They will also strew it in the grass and lawn mowers are likely to hit it and furl it in unwanted areas.

Sand is a haven not only for sand fleas and cat pees but any wildlife that might like to play there in off hours.

Keep the area well composted during the off season and the ground will be soft. This is not brain surgery. Keep the area composted and/or mulched for safe play. If you do, however, use mulch, be sure none of the children has allergies to the mulch which, same as grass, will serve up swelling, runny nose and hives for some.

If you use compost, make sure it is well composted and there is no smell to it. Well-composted vegetable material from your kitchen and garden and/or animal manure should have no offensive odor. If you smell it, you either used too many greens and not even browns, or it is not well cooked/composted. Throw your coffee and tea grounds in the area. Worms will work the area, make the ground soft. Soil's best friends are worms. Throw coffee and tea grounds and they will come.

As far as that plastic mulch, I would never use that. It gets very hot in summer and is cold in winter. It would not be very pliable in cold weather and it would steam in summertime.

I also do not like the recycled rubber tire mulch. How hideous. That was designed for huge cars and trucks, not for child performance. Besides, just the smell would trigger asthma for some.

Children seem to be allergic to more things in their environments now because they do not have all the allergens in order to reach desensitization as we once had.

With less supervision from older siblings and/or other older children as there was years ago assisting in monitoring their play, children are more likely to be left on their own while mothers are tending to other business. I know many mothers who work from home and who just stick their kids outside while they work. It is impossible to properly tend to children if properly doing a job inside. We are not omniscient beings.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2014 at 9:49AM
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Love your space! If I had that when I was little, I don't think my parents would have ever got me back in the house.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2014 at 9:54AM
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Great job, Boop! It's visible from the pool enclosure but not restricted to it-- good planning and execution.

Fwiw, protecting children against known, preventable, man made dangers is a parent's responsibility and one you have acquitted well.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2014 at 10:32AM
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Boo...your yard looks like a park. Lucky kids you have there.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2014 at 1:16PM
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Beautiful! What a fun yard! Your kids will have so many happy memories there. Looks like you have done a wonderful job and like gsciencechick, your children will never want to come back inside.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2014 at 2:53PM
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Hey boopadaboo. Sorry to bump your old thread seeing as you have your question resolved. But we are looking at the same playset and I wondered what you think of yours? How is the slide? Fast or do kids stick on the way down?

My main hesitation is the climbing walls which kind of look like they suck. They are straight up and not many places to grab onto. My 2 year old does the angled ones at parks and loves them, I don't think she'd make it up a vertical wall right now. My older one would be okay, but wonder if the wall is a little boring?

Yours looks super in your yard. It's an attractive set. And your yard is amazing!

    Bookmark   May 25, 2014 at 9:43PM
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Lilyfinch z7 mid tn

Hi ! I tried to read thru and see if anyone mentioned this about pea gravel . I don't have kids but I work at a restaurant that has pea grave led areas for corn hole and omg kids love playing in it , sliding in it , throwing it everywhere! It's a huge pain . Also we have to leaf blow it to keep debris from it . I think id worry about the kids kicking it into lawn and possibly damaging lawnmower or flying up and injuring someone. I don't actually know that pea gravel can do that . But my father in law seriously injured his eye when a rock from his driveway hit the lawn mower blade and flew back at him.
I know we can't prevent everything ! But it helps to look at all sides of things .

    Bookmark   May 25, 2014 at 10:22PM
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:) I am sure hoping they want to stay outside. :) So far so good and they spend time out there in the morning before my 5 year old goes to preschool and in the afternoon when he comes home. We are thinking of getting one more thing out there, not sure what though. maybe the airplane from the same manufacturer. :)

Or the dome....

It is nice when they have friends over or their cousins are over that they have a place to play now.

silvercanadian - to answer your questions - the slide is not too fast. it has a bump in it I believe DH told me. ( He is home, I am not so much :( ) I have only had them on the swings so far. they were much more interested in the pool this weekend since it was so nice out! In regards to the rock climbing - it is probably pretty lame for that. My kids are not in to rock climbing. it wasnt something I really was looking for when we selected a set. We decided against wood because we didnt want the upkeep and I didnt want it to look ragged like so many you see do over time. Also the fort and the swings were the main things we were interested in.

My husband said the directions were amazing and he thinks it is very well constructed for what that is worth. I don't think this manufacturer has other types of sets that have better rock climbing but I could be wrong.

I wish my boys did like it more, it is so good for motor skills. I guess if they get in to it we are lucky and tehre is a place right down the road from us that is just for rock climbing.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2014 at 9:58AM
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Boop - Your place looks awesome!

Just to weigh in, our swingset is just on the grass. I am not really worried about the lack of grass under the swings. Once the swings are gone we will reseed, just as we would have to do if we had put down mulch or pea gravel.

I am an insurance agent and I completely get what Tibbrix is saying about weighing risk.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2014 at 10:30AM
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