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Using Sand as a Playground Surface

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There are several types of surfaces used for playgrounds including asphalt/cement, pea gravel, sand and grass. You can take your child to a playground that has a particular type of surface which you think is more suitable compared to the rest, for your child’s activities and age based on the pros and cons of each surface type.

Sand has been used in parks and playgrounds for many years and you can find some in Brisbane too. Although children love to play in the sand, especially young children, some believe it is not as safe as some other types – rubber playground tiles for example. Many, however, would argue that sand provides a great opportunity for young children to experience the joys of play.

Not all types of sand found along the beach, riverbeds and deserts can be used in playgrounds. There are local and national regulations and criteria that must be fulfilled before using sand in a public playground. Let’s go over some of the pros and cons of sand as a surface type for playgrounds.

Sand can be used as a surface in playgrounds and is considered appropriate and safe provided the depth of the sand layer conforms to safety standards. Thedepth of the sand is determined by the fall height requirement. What this means is that the layer of sand has to be deep enough to cushion a fall. For example, in Australia, the playground sand for residential playgrounds must accommodate a fall height of 2.5 meters.Sand used in playgrounds is washed and cleaned to take out any debris and bacteria. Any sharp-edged sand particles are either smoothened out or taken out before use, increasing the safety of the surface.

Another advantage is that sand can be relatively easy to source and install, and it also doesn’t require heavy site preparation.  

A drawback is that sand is not ideal for children/people with disabilities. Wheelchairs,walking sticks and crutches are difficult to manoeuvre in deep sand, and it’s difficult to walk on. It is also considered sub-optimal for impact absorption.Although the initial cost of using sand as a surface material is cost-effective. Sand can be one of the cheapest materials to use for a surface, ongoing refill costs need to be done at least once a year, depending on how high the volume of traffic is in the playground, which can add up.

Sand also requires a certain level of maintenance. Besides replacing a percentage of sand every year, it needs to be levelled out at least once a week because playing in the sand can shift it around quite a bit. Sand also attracts insects and animal waste which can be problematic, particularly with young children. Apart from this, rain can make the surface quite hard when it compacts.

Because sand is loose, you will need to build a border around the playground to ensure the filled sand stays within the boundary of the playground. Regular raking will still need to be done, however.

Georgiana Lake
the authorGeorgiana Lake