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Outdoor playground rubber mats and flooring

Whether you are looking to make the playground area in your backyard safer or you are in charge of giving the play area at a school a makeover, outdoor playground rubber mats offer a number of key benefits that will give these children the safest possible place to have fun.

These playground rubber mats are designed to provide a protective surface for the playground, offering comfort underfoot and ensuring the child is not at risk of injury from a fall.

Top 4 Playground Rubber Mats (Summary)

Image Product Details
sample-table__image Most DurableIncStores
  • Offers superior protection from high falls
  • Composed of recycled rubber
  • Comes in large variety of colors
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sample-table__image Most AffordableGorilla Kids
  • Long-lasting rubber material
  • Superior rubber ground protection
  • Perfect size to be placed under each swing
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sample-table__image SoftestPlayground
  • Protects against ground indentation
  • Offers superior traction while swinging
  • Prevents displacement of ground cover
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sample-table__image Rubber Cal
  • Ideal for high-traffic
  • Quality interlocking rubber tiles
  • Comes in variety of colors
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For more detailed and complete product reviews on benefits and features, keep reading.

Kids are going to fall, especially in the playground and these playground mats will absorb some of that impact and minimize any potential injuries the child may incur. But installing play structures has its risks where your kids might end up getting hurt which is why you need to take necessary safety measures.

Playground mats have been designed to make play as safe as possible and ensure that your kids get to enjoy their childhood. Deciding on what playground mat to install might be harder than you think and takes more than just the price tag to get it right. 

What Are Playground Mats

The outdoor rubber mats, also known as playground mats or playground flooring, help to put a little bounce to when a person hits the surface of the flooring. Combined with the soft material that composes these outdoor playground mats, waffled-bottom designs can make sure their feet are never susceptible to serious strain that comes from playing on hard surfaces.

Most children today are playing in a rough and tumble manner at these playgrounds. We did it too once upon a time.

Soft and elastic playground outdoor rubber mats installed in those play areas minimizes the injuries these kids will get from falling down.

Playground mats just like the name suggests are paddings that are designed specifically to be installed on the playground to provide traction and a safe place where your kids can play.  They basically should be tear-free as well as carefree.

When playing accidents are inevitable and the best thing you can do is reduce the risk by getting yourself the best playground pads. These mats play a major role in preventing your kids from getting seriously injured when playing. Outdoor paddings act as fall protection and make all the difference between a small bump and a major medical emergency case.

Although safety should be on top of the list of concerns when getting a playground mat, there are other factors like the ease of installation, price, versatility as well as the color and style.

Benefits of Using Playground Rubber Mats

The obvious benefit of installing the playground rubber mats is to reduce the risk of a child suffering a serious injury like they would get falling on a hard surface. Kids are going to fall, and these popular tumbling mats absorb the impact that would otherwise put too much strain and pressure on their under-developed limbs.

Whether the child takes a tumble off the swing or falls off the slide, the cushioning material is designed to take the brunt of the impact and give the child the ability to get back into the fun with little or no pain.

Related Article: 4 Top Rated Pieces of Kids Gymnastics Equipment for Home

When using these colorful mats around the swing set in your yard, you preserve the appearance of your property from the displacement of ground cover while on the swing set. These paddings come in a variety of sizes and thicknesses, so they can be utilized in a small swing set in the yard or a large playground area at a nursery school or playground.

Based on that here are a few reasons why you should get the play area some playground pads:

Safety

As a parent you want your kids to be safe even when you are not around. This means ensuring the areas they are playing at are accident-free. The main reasons and probably why most people install outdoor playground mats is that they reduce the risk of accidents significantly.

They break falls whenever your kids are playing and this ensures that you never have to worry about them getting injured when they are out of your sight. 

Durability

Depending on the model, these pads are designed to last for years, which means that they will be serving your needs for a long time to come. They are made of high-quality material that is tear-free as well as fade-free which is useful if you are installing them outdoors. 

Don’t Shift Easily

Playground mats are designed in such a way that they don’t shift or move easily when your kids are playing which ensures that they are always safe. 

Easy to Install

If you have been putting off buying the padding for the playground area because you don’t think that you can manage installation on your own, think again. They’re actually very easy to install with most of them having the interlocking design where the tiles just click together.

If you are looking for a do it yourself project, you can embark on installing them on your backyard so that your kids can have a safe place to play. 

Environmentally Friendly

Most playgrounds are made from eco-friendly materials that are safe for the environment and will not kill the grass when installing outside.

Pros and Cons of Playground Rubber Mats

Pros and Cons of Playground Rubber Mats

Just like any mat for your RV, playground pads have their advantages and disadvantages that you need to be aware of before you make a purchase. 

Pros

  • Durable: They’re made of recycled and reclaimed rubber tires which ensure that they’re durable and last for years.
  • Resistant to weathering:  Rubber materials tend to be naturally resilient which makes it possible for the mats to withstand abuse including the stomping of really playful kids. They can also be used as cheer mats that don’t wear out or when your kids want to engage in martial arts practicing on a mat.
  • Easy to install: Playground paddings come with pre cut tiles that are very easy to install saving on the money you would have spent hiring a professional. The rubber tiles are also easy to remove when you want to replace a damaged tile in the future.
  • Shock absorbing: Accidents on the playground are a result of a fall which is what you should be looking to prevent. Most playground rubber mats have very good shock absorbing properties such that they can break the fall preventing serious injuries when your kids are playing.

Cons

  • Hard to raise or lower heights: Playground pads normally come in pieces that have their predetermined thickness. As such, they can prove difficult raising or lowering the height.
  • Expensive:  Since you will need different thicknesses under different equipment for kids gymnastics, for instance, you might end up overspending on thicker tiles you will need.

Types of Playground Rubber Mats

There are different types of playground underlayments in the market so you might find it difficult trying to decide on the particular that you want. To make it easy for you to choose, here are the advantages and disadvantages of the different mat types available:

Playground Tiles

Playground tiles come in tile form that interlocks together during installation. They are easy to install and replace should your ever need to. 

They come in prefabricated 2 by 2 feet pieces that will fit perfectly on any playground. They are also found in a variety of colors from blue, green to red making it possible to choose the style that fits your needs. 

When playground tiles are installed well, they tend to be 100% ADA compliant hence this is something that you never have to worry about.  They can be installed in a variety of styles including a checkerboard pattern. 

However, the pieces have a predetermined thickness which makes it hard to raise or lower the height of the tiles when installing. You can end up overspending on thicker tiles that you may need to place under different playground equipment. There are also limited color options when it comes to playground tiles since they are available in just three colors. 

Poured-in-place

Poured in place rubber mats have grown in popularity. They are slip resistant and come in a variety of colors. They are also easy to maintain and are available in varying thicknesses. 

You have unlimited design options with poured in place padding type. Compared to playground tiles, poured-in–mats come in a variety of colors helping you to choose one that fits your decor perfectly. When installing, you can easily change their depth unlike when installing playground tiles.

On the other hand, installation can prove difficult if you don’t have the right skills and most of the time you may need to hire a professional to do the installation for you. You need to ensure that the weather is conducive when installing such mats. If the weather is too cold or humid, the binders tend not to cure properly. 

Ground Covers for Playground Mats

When you decide to install playground cover, you should ensure that the it’s safe, attractive and low maintenance. You may be forced to spend more on ground covers to make the playground as safe as possible. 

Here are different types of ground covers for playground mats:

Pea Gravel

Pea gravel is usually an affordable cover that is mostly used for dog runs, parking areas and playgrounds.

The reason most people go for pea gravel is that it provides a natural look without you spending too much and limits the growth of weeds but doesn’t offer as much protection for softer landings like other ground covers.

It is very easy to maintain which makes it an ideal choice for many homeowners but may not be the best for those who have kids due to all the scrapes and bumps that might occur when playing. 

Additionally, pea gravel tends to make potential hazards like broken glass which is hard to see and the small pieces of gravel may end up getting longed in kid’s shoes which will find their way into your home damaging your laminate or hardwood floors in the process. 

If you have small kids who will be using the playground area, the grave is also a choking hazard in a way. Compared to other ground covers, pea gravel ranks high in terms of being affordable, easy to install and is aesthetically pleasing, but the potential hazards and safety concerns may mean you going for something else if you have small kids. 

Rubber Mulch

Rubber mulch is a new entry in the playground scene, but it is gaining popularity fast due to its ability to provide better cushioning in case a child falls when playing.  The material also plays a significant role in preventing weed growth and is easy to maintain which makes it an ideal choice for many homeowners, especially those with kids. 

One downside wit rubber mulch, however, is that it tends to get dirty easily, it may flow past the borderline and can also easily be dragged back to the house. Most of the rubber mulch that you find in the market are made from recycled rubber mainly from the truck or car tires. 

While recycling the rubber is eco-friendly, some mulch may contain contaminants that may prove harmful to your kids in the long run. Rubber mulch also tends to produce an unpleasant odor when the temperatures are high like during summer which is something that you should be prepared for. 

Natural Grass

Ground Covers for Playground Mats - Natural Grass

Natural grass as a playground cover is one of the best options since it provides a natural look and is a popular choice for those who have under backyard play structures since it means just placing your equipment on an existing lawn. 

Despite all these, natural grass has its shortcomings when used in playgrounds. For one, it is high maintenance compared to other ground cover options. Since it is natural grass, it requires to be mowed regularly, weeded, watered and fertilized which only adds up to the maintenance costs. 

Natural grass is also susceptible to pest and bacterial buildup and in the long run, may develop uneven spots that kids may trip and fall on. The grass is also slippery when wet and as such limits the usage and gets muddy which will, in the end, be dragged back into the house.

Since you will be watering your grass regularly, the water ends up damaging play equipment by causing rusting in metal playsets and rotting of the wooden ones. 

Artificial Grass

Artificial grass on the playground is a good option, but expensive to install and is mostly used as mat for chairs crafted from bamboo. However, it requires very little maintenance since there is no watering, mowing or weeding that is required unlike when you have natural grass. 

Rinsing and fluffing up the grass fibers is all the maintenance you need with artificial grass and spills and pet waste are very easy to get rid of. With the world’s best artificial grass mat, you never have to worry about kids dragging wet grass or mud back to the house and not to mention this type of playground cover doesn’t get slippery when wet. 

One advantage of artificial grass is that it tends to get very hot when temperatures rise which can be very uncomfortable. 

Play Sand

Sand has been used as playground cover for many years mostly because it is affordable and has better cushioning against falls.

If you decide to go with sand for cover, then one thing that you must keep in mind is that you need several inches of it for better protection when landing and it should be evenly spread to be more effective.  Since sand tends to shift after some time, you need to monitor the depth regularly and add more in areas that become shallow.

The downside with sand as playground cover is that it can lead to minor injuries like knee scrapes and it can contain contaminants that may be harmful to your kids as well as pets. Always go for sand that is intended for playground cover to avoid all these. 

If pets will be sharing the space with kids, you need to be prepared to remove pet litter every once in a while. Perhaps one of the biggest downfalls with sand is that it can easily be dragged back to the house in shoes and socks and could end up scratching your laminate or hardwood floors. 

Wood Chips And Mulch

Compared to pea gravel and sand, wood chips and mulch are more expensive, but provide better virtual appeal to suit any type of landscaping.  Wood chips and mulch are available in a variety of colors making them the ideal choice for those who care about how their yard looks, but there are a few disadvantages that you should consider. 

Just like pea gravel, wood chips and mulch tend to hide potential hazards like broken glass which could end up causing all manner of accidents. Both mulch and chips are also prone to mold growth and attract pests like fleas. 

Small kids can also swallow the chips which means that they may not work well in areas where kids spend a lot of time at.  Another downside is that over time both wood chips and mulch fade and lose their texture and as such you may be forced to refresh your playground every once in a while. 

Engineered Wood Fiber

Engineered wood fiber is the most common material that is used in public playgrounds, but has made its way to home use. The material is slip resistant, looks good and provides better cushioning than wood chips and mulch. 

Since engineered wood fiber is made from wood, it is biodegradable and you may need to replenish it occasionally. It is more expensive than all the other playground cover options which make it less than appealing to most homeowners. 

If you decide to go with EWF, ensure that you purchase one that is made from virgin wood since those made from used wood tend to contain contaminants that may harm your kids or pets. 

Synthetic Turf

Synthetic turf just like that found in chair mat made of glass is synthetic grass and is used in playgrounds since it is easy to maintain, doesn’t get slippery when wet and provides good cushioning. 

Synthetic turn provides not only an even, but level playing surface and drains better than natural grass, doesn’t require weeding or watering but still provides the same lush look of natural grass without all the maintenance. 

Synthetic Tiles

Synthetic tiles as playground covers are growing in popularity as more and more homeowners opt for this option. They are durable and give you the same cushioning without spending too much money.

What Makes a Great Playground Rubber Mats

What Makes a Great Playground Rubber Mats

When you’re buying these pads, here are a few things that you need to consider so that you get a product that is not only safe, but durable in the long run:

Fall Protection And Safety

The main reason why you would consider getting a playground pad is that you want your kids to be safe when they are playing. As such, the mat that you get needs to offer good cushioning in case of a fall and needs to be safe enough that kids can even play unattended just like when they play on a soft tatami mat or a durable salon floor mat.

To ensure that you get the right kind of padding, consider the thickness since thicker mat tends to provide better cushioning. 

Durability

The last thing you want is a mat that serves you for only a few months, so ensure that it is made of the highest quality material. If you will be installing it outdoors, it needs to be fade resistant and resistant to all manner of weathering so that it can serve you for years. 

Will Not Move Or Shift Easily

Safety should be at the top of the list of things that you consider when getting a playground mat. In such a case, ensure that the item you get doesn’t shift or move easily as this can lead to accidents and injures in the long run. 

Easy Installation And Maintenance

If you will be doing the installation yourself, then you need to ensure that the mat you get is something that you can easily install. Some of them don’t need you to have any special skills to install, but others require you to hire a professional.

In terms of maintenance, ensure that the product you get doesn’t force you to spend a lot in maintaining it which can be very costly in the long run. Some items just require you to use a broom or leaf blower to keep them clean. At the same time, gravel, sand and mulch require to be replaced constantly. 

Eco-friendly

Eco-friendly playground mats

If you are environmentally cautious, then go for an option made of eco-friendly materials like rubber. However, such materials have their shortcomings which is something that you need to decide if you are willing to overlook. 

Versatility

If you are looking to install a padding in an area that is used for other activities other than just playing, then you need to get a versatile item. Versatile mats can be used on patios, decks and even rooftops ensuring that you don’t spend extra on those areas. 

Style And Color Options

If you are the kind of person who is always concerned about how your backyards look, then ensure that you get playground pads that come in a variety of colors and style options. Different style and color options allow you to customize the look to match your decor ensuring that your backyard looks great all year long. 

Budget-Friendly

At the end of the day, you know how much you want to spend and you need to go for something that you can afford. While you need to stay away from cheap models that are made of low-quality materials, sometimes you don’t need to break the bank to get a mat. 

Ensure that the item you are getting is durable, easy to install and maintain, versatile and provides enough cushioning in case of a fall.

Best Rubber Playground Mats with Pros and Cons

When it comes to affordable options, there are many brands and styles to choose.

When choosing your playground mats, keep in mind that the material is thick to absorb maximum impact, so choose the size of the tiles you need carefully because they can not be cut to fit around your equipment.

Today we discuss five of the top outdoor rubber mats that will help to create the safest possible outdoor playing environment for the kids.

1. IncStores Premium

These outdoor playground pads are the perfect size to place under a swing-set or a slide. The material is two inches thick, with beveled edges so the child will not trip over the edges.

Can be used as a standalone piece or part of a larger section of playground rubber mats.

IncStores Premium Durable Rubber Playground Flooring

Pros

  • Offers superior protection from high falls
  • Composed of recycled rubber
  • Comes in large variety of colors
  • 32″ x 54″
Cons

  • Extremely difficult to cut
  • Large pieces

2. Gorilla Kids

These are the perfect affordable playground paddings to place under swings so the child doesn’t get hurt if falling while learning to work the equipment.

Children can easily slip when pushed or not holding securely and these popular tumbling mats will help make the location safer.

The sweeping motion of the child’s feet will not tear up the ground directly below the swings.

Gorilla Kids Playground Mats Two-Pack

Pros

  • Long-lasting rubber material
  • Superior rubber ground protection
  • Perfect size to be placed under each swing
  • 24″ x 40″ x 1″
Cons

  • Small sections
  • One color available

3. Playground Flooring Wear Pad

These playground outdoor rubber pads are designed to fit under any swing and provide the child with a softer landing area during and after they are playing on the swings.

The added benefit to these outdoor rubber mats is they help to discourage the displacement of any ground cover under the swings.

Playground Flooring Wear Pad

Pros

  • Offers superior traction while swinging
  • Prevents displacement of ground cover
  • Protects against ground indentation
  • 40″ x 25″ with tapered edge
Cons

  • Can be difficult to cut
  • One color

4. Rubber Cal

Tiles are wear-resistant and will help to repel water so they are slip-resistant. Interlocking tiles will help to provide the safest possible playing area.

Each tile is manufactured to withstand shock and impact while providing a comfortable place to run, walk or just be a kid.

Rubber Cal Interlocking Playground Rubber Mats

Pros

  • Ideal for high-traffic
  • Interlocking rubber tiles
  • Comes in variety of colors
  • 20″ x 20″ x 3/4″
Cons

  • Difficult to cut
  • Large pieces

Does More Spending Mean More Quality

When it comes to playground rubber mats, more spending doesn’t always mean more quality. However, you should avoid going for the cheap options since most of them are made of low-quality material that will wear out in a matter of months. 

While you don’t need to spend too much, the most important things you should ensure is that the product you get is durable, easy to install and maintain, doesn’t shift easily and comes in a variety of colors.

However, more spending may mean you getting a mat that is fade resistant if you will be installing it outdoors, resistant to mold and mildew and is versatile enough to be used on decks, patios and playgrounds alike. 

How to Install Playground Flooring

How to Install Playground Flooring

The installation depends on the type of material and size, but they all are simple to put on the ground. They’re are going to be some of the easiest outdoor floorings you will ever place.

Depending on the style, they may have holes on the edges to allow a pin to secure them to one another. Once secure, there will be no slipping or separation, they connect with a tight seal that increases the overall surface area.

Regardless if you need a small section to go under a swing set or a large area to cover multi-set playground equipment, the installation process is similar.

Step 1 – Gather the Materials

Start by gathering all the materials that you will need like the interlocking tiles, plastic pins and a rubber mallet.

Step 2 – Prepare the Surface

When installing, ensure that the ground is level and smooth. Concrete, asphalt, wood and compacted dirt make good surfaces for installing. 

Step 3 – Preparing the Tiles

After you have the necessary materials and have prepared your ground, you can begin the tile installation. If you have interlocking rubber tiles, you should lay them with the waffled side facing down and align them next to each other for ease of installation. 

Step 4 – Connector Pins

After you have placed the first tile, insert the connector pins halfway into the connecting holes on the tile. You can use a rubber mallet to make the process easier.

You can then proceed to place the next tile ensuring that the connecting holes of the tiles align with the connector pin. Press the tiles together until both rubber mats are nearly touching and then use a rubber mallet to tap the sides until the tiles lock together. Do this for all the other tils until you have covered all ground. 

Step 5 – Adding Ramp Attachments

After you have installed all the tiles, you can add rubber ramp attachments to the perimeter to make it easy to get into the playground. You can even install a border around the play area using wood or any other edging materials. 

How To Clean And Maintain Playground Rubber Mats

Step 1 – High Traffic Areas

The first thing you need to address is the wear that may occur in high traffic areas usually under slides, swings and merry go round perimeters. You may need to replace the tiles in these areas if they are worn out. 

Step 2 – Debris and Spills

Ensure that the playground area is always clean. If a spill occurs or someone tracks in debris, ensure that you clean it as soon as possible to prevent an overbuild. Laundry detergent or a simple soap will work just fine. 

Do’s And Don’ts To Do With Playground Rubber Mats

  • Do ensure that you clean spills and debris immediately to ensure that the mat doesn’t lose its color.
  • Do ensure that the ground is smooth and even before installing the playground paddings.
  • Don’t allow mud water to spill over as it may lead to discoloration and staining.
  • Don’t use salt or water-based minerals to clean the mat.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best material to put under a swing set?

Rubber mats, mulch, wood chips, sand and pea gravel work best under swing sets. 

Is rubber playground mulch safe?

Rubber playground mulch has been known to have toxic chemicals that tires come into contact with and as such, there is no guarantee that it is safe for use on the kids’ playground. 

Conclusion

At the end of the day, you want your kids to enjoy their childhood and that means giving them the avenue to do that. Playing is necessary for the development of a kid both physically and mentally but you need to ensure that the area they are playing at is safe. One way you can do that is by installing a premium outdoor rubber mat on the yard, but ensure that the mats are durable, easy to install and maintain and provide good cushioning in case of a fall.

Photos from: YAYImages / depositphotos.com, ronyzmbow / depositphotos.com, majaFOTO / depositphotos.com and pxhidalgo / depositphotos.com.