While parents often want their kids to play outside, sometimes it is easier said than done. But with recent studies showing that outdoor play can improve a child’s learning outcomes, self-esteem and physical well-being, that play time is more important than ever. Recognizing this fact, a growing number of daycare facilities and schools are investing in synthetic turf surfaces for their playgrounds to create more opportunities to play outside while promoting the safety and development of the kids they serve.
IPEMA, the non-profit International Play Equipment Manufacturers Association, notes that playgrounds have expanded to include a variety of spaces and materials often creating a magical and imaginative space for a broad range of people. From our perspective, we have seen synthetic turf surfacing become an especially popular option for commercial and residential playgrounds serving children, their parents and caregivers throughout the U.S. and Canada.
In January 2013, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a statement about the importance of a safe and well-supervised recess for its cognitive, social, emotional, and physical benefits. The Goddard School of Urbana, Maryland, who cares deeply about how their kids spent time outdoors, couldn’t agree more. While they tried to use natural grass in their 4,000 square foot activity area, it couldn’t hold up to the active use of up to 200 pairs of feet five days a week. So they turned to STI distributor Albanes Landscaping, Inc., to install durable, beautiful synthetic turf that stays green throughout the year. Now rain or shine, recess rarely gets cancelled and children enjoy congregating, jumping and playing on the surface with their peers.
Creating Safer Playground Surfaces
Fountain City United Methodist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee was having numerous problems with their poured-in-place rubber and wood mulch playground surfacing. The rubber, hardened and even cracked and coming apart in some areas, became a maintenance nightmare while the patches applied were not sustainable or safe. Wood mulch several inches deep surrounding the rubber contained bugs and was dirty, particularly when it rained. They asked STI distributor PLAYRITE, LLC to create a safer, more aesthetically pleasing playground solution. PLAYRITE removed all of the wood mulch, covering the area and the poured-in-place rubber with playground rubber mulch instead. Then synthetic turf was installed over the rubber mulch with sand and crumb rubber infill to provide added safety and cushioning for the children, creating a uniform playground surface. As is the case with all STI SoftLawn® Playground recreation surfaces, the playground now exceeds national safety standards, is fully ADA/ABA compliant and consistent with all U.S. Consumer Product and Safety Commission requirements.
“As a certified playground safety inspector, I can honestly tell you that synthetic turf playgrounds have the safest, cleanest, and best-looking surfaces available,” noted Kyle Kaplan of PLAYRITE. “In my opinion, synthetic turf will be the standard for playground surfacing in a few short years.”
Steve Strachan of Central Coast Playgrounds, an STI distributor in Santa Barbara, California, concurs. “More people have been switching to synthetic turf for playgrounds because it increases the critical fall height of pour-in-play surfacing and a less abrasive surface,” he said.
Increased Interactivity and Sensory Development
With close to 50 locations, Children of America schools focuses on providing a stimulating and educational experience that promotes every child’s social, emotional, physical and cognitive development from infancy through elementary school. They have partnered with STI distributor Synthetic Turf of Virginia on five renovation projects to ensure their playgrounds are state-of-the-art. Like the Children of America location in Prince William, Virginia, which previously had an outdated playground with a pour-in-place rubber surface and a slope that made 60% of the area unusable.
“The challenge for us was to create a 100% usable playground area that was safe, unique and promoted a high level of interactivity,” explained Ray Francis of Synthetic Turf of Virginia. His team filled in the slope with foam rubber and created a synthetic turf surface that allowed for various types of activities including a mini-soccer field, golf course, basketball and volleyball court complete with hopscotch that was woven into the design. A water park feature proved to be the main attraction, since the safety and permeability of synthetic turf allows children to play without worrying about falling or water puddling throughout the area. Today the area promotes greater interaction and play while stimulating childhood motor and sensory development.
Synthetic Turf International helps more kids play outdoors and inside by creating commercial and residential play area surfaces that focus on the safety of children, environmental impacts of the materials used and cost containment. The company continually enhances its Commercial Playground configuration complete with fall zones, exceptional HIC ratings with all components being recyclable and lead-free. Like most antimicrobial systems, the company’s playground systems do not support stain or odor causing bacteria, mold, or mildew. Plus facility owners and parents alike never again have to worry about exposure or contact with harsh chemicals found in the pesticides and fertilizers used to treat regular grass. To learn more, visit our Playgrounds page.