Many times, childcare centers have playground equipment inside. The typical surfacing materials provided for this equipment are carpet, mats or safety tiles. In order to ensure that children are safe from falls inside as well as outside, the National Program for Playground Safety undertook a study of community used surfaces found under indoor playground equipment.
Twenty-four different products were obtained from 20 national suppliers and manufacturers of childcare and exercise/tumbling/gymnastic equipment. They were: eight exercise mats, two rest mats, one tumbling mat, four folding mats, two fitness mats, one play mat, three landing mats, two carpet samples, and one safety floor tile.
None of the mats were intended for use under the playground equipment, although a survey found that they were being used as surfacing in childcare centers. None had tags indicating they had undergone standard testing for basic tumbling mats. Thus, none had been tested for critical height.
Nearly 60 percent of the materials tested had critical height of one foot or less. Carpet and safety floor tiles provided virtually no fall protection. Only landing mats at four inches of thickness consistently registered critical height above three feet for falls to the surface. Neither the cost nor types of mats were consistently associated with an acceptable critical height for falls to the surface.
In addition, there were problems of stabilization and securing of play structures and mats in place so that they would not move when they were hit.
If you have playground equipment inside, then you need to use materials specifically designed and tested as playground surfacing under and around equipment. These surfaces include: rubber mats, rubber tiles, and poured-in-place rubber composition.
Remember: Be as SAFE inside as out!
The National Program for Playground Safety (NPPS) has available a variety of resources including videos, CDs, books, brochures, signs and more. New this fall is a Safe Supervision Kit for outdoor playgrounds that includes a training manual outlining the ABC's of Supervision, a video, and a supervision fanny pack for use on the playground. Contact the NPPS, School of Health, Physical Education & Leisure Services, WRC 205, University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, IA 50614-0618; 800-554-PLAY; www.uni.edu/playground.