Anyone Have a Problem with the Playgrounds Having WOOD CHIPS?

Updated on October 10, 2011
G.M. asks from Peoria, AZ
19 answers

Hi Mamas and Papas!

I have noticed that many playgrounds, including my sons school, have the wood chips. I thought in the beginning that this is neato! Well, I've since then changed my mind. My son comes home from school complaining of scraping his knees and hands on the wood chips, and he gets splinters all the time, and I'm constantly having to pull the splinters out of his socks before I wash them. Here in AZ it gets extremely hot, and one hot afternoon, my son comes home from school telling me he wants to wear pants the next day because the wood chips end up hurting him.
Do any of your kiddos complain about the wood chips?

Why have most playgrounds changed from the sand, to the wood chips?

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So What Happened?

I emailed my sons teacher about this a few weeks ago, and she said she forwarded my email to the principal, and still never got an answer.
Thank you so much for this info. Never thought of it that way. :-) And yes here in AZ the sand does get lava hot! YIKES! :-)

Riley: You make a great point about the sand solidifying. I didn't realize that until you said something. Thank you for that.
Everyone here is making a great point. Thank you so much for all the answers. I feel better about the wood chips. :-)

Patty K: My son doesn't take his shoes off at school to play. Like most things, as you play in loose sand, chips, or whatever, you are bound to get something in your shoe. I know I have gotten chips in my shoes as well, and they are 'on my meet'. And kids love to roll around on the playground. Can't help that. Kids are kids and they love to play and be free. It's not a matter of 'appropriate behavior' on the playground. He's not doing anything he's not suppose to.

Absolutely wonderful answers and thanks so much for bringing all this info to my attention. It really helps. :-D Ya'll are GREAT!

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answers from Orlando on

At the preschool I worked at in nc the older kids playground had them and I hated them! It seemed like everyday I was calling about splinters. From what the director would tell us it they are supposed to be more sanitary then the tires and sand...but I don't know.

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answers from Kansas City on

It's too darn bad we can't just do grass and dirt like we grew up with.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

Without a protective surface (chips or rubber) kids die from head injuries and break bones when they fall. Sand was proven to be ALMOST as bad as a hard surface because of the way that it solidifies on impact from a fall of anything more than about 3 feet. I'll GLADLY take splinters.

No matter which noncompacting surface the school uses, there are downsides. Even sand (what we had mostly as kids, and is nowhere near as safe) we got COVERED in sand from head to foot (stuck to our sweat) and in our shoes and socks and eyes, and it got hot enough to burn our skin (CA). Wood chips do splinters. Rubber you have to literally CUT out of socks (it pills into them) AND...

The reason rubber isn't used in places like AZ & CA is the extreme heat. The rubber MELTS in consistant 90-100 degree heat, causes burns in kids (literally melting into their skin, or causes blisters) AND off gasses. Throw in cold desert nights, and it fractures as well, creating rubber dust that is dangerous to breath in. It's a great surface for more northern climates where it's not going to be 90/40 every day but slooooowly change temperature. The safest surface in southwest states is wood chips.

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answers from Washington DC on

The point of having something -- wood mulch or rubberized surfaces (usually made from recycled tires) -- under playground equipment is to ensure safety. If a child falls from a structure onto dirt, the chances of the child being injured are greater than if the child falls onto a softer surface and yes, that does include wood mulch.

I found this online: "A 2001 playground injury study conducted by the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) found that, of the roughly 50,000 injuries annually associated with home playground equipment, 69% of the injuries were a result of falls to a non-protective surface below the equipment."

That's for homes; read this from the National Safety Council about public and school playgrounds:

"Because nearly 79 percent of playground injuries are caused by falls to the ground, improper surfacing is the first thing parents should watch for when they inspect a [public or school] playground. Wood chips, bark mulch, wood fibers, sand, pea gravel, shredded tires and rubber mats cushion falls well. Avoid concrete, grass and dirt, they're too hard. A minimum depth of 12 inches of material surrounding each piece of equipment in a 6-foot fall zone is recommended. And regular maintenance is also crucial; if not daily, then at least monthly."

The wood mulch is there to protect your child. Sorry, dirt lovers who posted, dirt gets packed down as hard as concrete and can hurt almost as much. The solution here is time -- maybe as you son gets older he'll fall on his hands less, or get right down on the ground less, and there will be fewer splinters. And talk to him about why it's important not to play with or throw around the wood mulch. Also if he's got splinters in his socks -- is he taking off his shoes on the mulch?

It's there for his safety and your school system probably requires all schools to have it, or another surface like a rubberized one, under play equipment.

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answers from Augusta on

the only issues we have with the wood chips is that they stick to socks.
No issues like splinters or hurting himself on them. he just brings them home in his clothes.
maybe it's the size or type of wood chip they use on your playground.

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answers from Washington DC on

they changed because the "green group" said it was it was a more efficient way to deal with dead trees....

we have a mixture here - we have the black rubber and some mulch/wood chips. I've not had problems with splinters or skinned kids haven't complained..

sand was done away with because of the sanitary issue - yes squirrels and such still do their business in the wood chips, however it doesn't last like it does in the sand. In AZ I bet that sand gets lava hot!!! I wouldn't want to fall in it! But that's me....

Talk to your city council and see what can be done!!


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answers from New York on

Wood chips are put down to prevent injuries if a child falls. He should not
be getting splinters in his socks, because his shoes should not be off. Sounds like your son is rolling around and crawling in the chips and that
is why the scrapes. I would have a chat with your son about appropriate
behavior at the playground.

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answers from Houston on

i prefer wood chips.....sand and earth get impacted easier and wood chips prevent injury. If i have a choice between splinters and injury, im taking splinters any day.

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answers from Washington DC on

No, I have not. My DD used to knee walk and would leave "snail trails" in the chips, and did not want to wear shorts when she was little b/c of it. Now that she walks on her feet like a normal person, she's fine. Our local playground has chips and I like them better than the little bits of rubber b/c very small people try to eat those and they get hot.

Around here, anyway, sand is it's own mess. Cats will use it for a litterbox, it collects's also hotter to the touch than wood. I would ask the school about the type of wood chips because I never noticed splinters in her socks. maybe they need to wet the wood periodically or something due to the climate. You might also ask him what he is doing in the chips. Does he engage in different play so that he's more exposed to/prone to splinters and such? Or is he mostly on his feet and still getting chips in his socks?

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answers from Portland on

There are different types of wood chips, and some are much less likely to cause spinters. What's available may vary by geographical area, but here in the Pacific northwest the most common types are fir, which is extremely splintery, and hemlock, which cost more but doesn't tend to give splinters and lasts a great deal longer.

School budgets being what they are, your son's school is probably not going to freshen the playground surface until the current splinters have all gone home in kids' clothing and skin (yow!). But you could do a little research and make a suggestion for next time. It you are active in your parent/teacher organization, your voice may be amplified many times over. Good luck. Those splinters can be nasty.

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answers from Honolulu on

So what are the other options?

Those recycled tire chips? They burn you in really hot weather.

Sand? That will be fun for the school janitor! And also hot.

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answers from Oklahoma City on

I had my first asthma attack from walking on one at the kids school just to help one of the kids off the equipment. The wood disintegrates therefore it has mold, bacteria, all kinds of critters living in it full time, etc...they changed it this year from the wood chips to the chopped up tires. It helps the environment plus they are very spongy and clean. Some of our days were over 110 degrees and the kids did not complain about them burning them or being hot to touch....

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answers from Tampa on

There is a plastic-rubbery tile and plank that can be used - with or without an astroturf type covering. WONDERFUL!!

I hate sand and mulch playgrounds... gets into shoes, underwear and sandals - yeck!

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answers from Phoenix on

One of the kids in my sons school got a wood chip up his nose. But to answer your question, it usually involves economics. If the sand gets hot, it is too expensive to add a cover so they opt for the least expensive solution.

It's not about it being best for the kids anymore, it is about the cheapest item which does the job.

If you want to replace it, you could go to the PTO and suggest that as a project via a fundraiser. Just a thought.

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answers from Phoenix on

i hate wood chips, i would stand sand over that, or the green type of foam that soft for the kids.

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answers from Phoenix on

A little bit but not bad. My daughter says the wood chips make her cough. ;P

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answers from Sacramento on

I am not a fan of the wood chips, but I have a hard time figuring out the "perfect" playground surface. The pros of the wood chips are that once they are packed down and somewhat broken down, they are a better cushion for falls than packed sand and they don't get as hot as sand. Having said that I have had a wood chip go completely through my flip flop and jab me in the foot before.

Our closest playground has sand on one side (the toddler part) and wood chips on the other, where there is larger play equipment. Without the luxury of shade that sand gets wicked hot, not to mention it's dusty and probably full of critter poop. (Yuck!)

We have a few playgrounds that use recycled tires, which is a lovely cushy surface when the sun doesn't bake it.

But, yeah... I completely empathize with you. I've pulled splinters out of my kids and I loathe picking wood chips out of their clothing. I guess all things considered, wood chips are usually the best choice.

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answers from Dallas on

Wood Chips are actually a god sent for us. My 2 year old walked backwards off of a playground after being spooked by some older children. The wood chips sofened his fall and he only had one small scrap. (and yes an adult was ther with him it was a case of we couldnt get to him fast enough and he fell).

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answers from Boston on

I have 2 active boys and their playgrounds have wood chips and we never have those issues.

Next question: Recycled Rubber Mulch for Backyard Playground? Worth The $?