Confessions of a Daycare Provider: Playgrounds

Outdoor play is so important for young children. It helps them work off energy, strengthens their muscles, and allows them unstructured play time to develop their imaginations. My daycare kids play outside for an hour in the morning and another hour in the afternoon. When we moved into this house, the backyard was a blank slate. Now we have a full playground area that is shaded by an awning. Living in Texas means it can get really hot in the summer and the shade awning helps filter out the harmful sun rays. We sectioned off an area in my backyard with old railroad ties. Using 12 railroad ties, we made a large rectangle and covered the ground with black plastic sheeting. Then we hauled in several truckloads of pea gravel. We shoveled the pea gravel for days and days.

It's worked pretty well for the most part, but there are days when I wish I had chosen mulch instead. Being a daycare provider isn't always fun and games; sometimes it's actually work. The pea gravel are tiny little pebbles and it seems there is always a daycare kid picking up a handful of them to throw at someone else. I'm sure my neighbors are tired of hearing me say, "NO rocks" over and over. Other days, they sit on the little chairs and dig their little feet into the rocks, all the way down to the black plastic sheeting. At least three kids get a rock in their shoe every day and I have to sit them down to help them take off a shoe, shake it out, and put their shoe back on. One day, I caught two of the kids in the playhouse, pretending to eat soup (well, stone soup). I've also got one who likes to stick the rocks up his nose.

Texas child care regulations require me to have playground safety filling on the play area since I have a slide. I guess wood mulch would probably just present different challenges, like splinters and such. I've thought about using Rubber Mulch too. I heard it drains really quickly after a rain and I'm sure it lasts longer than wood mulch. I've used landscape mulch in my gardens before and it deteriorates pretty fast. I love the foamy playground coverings at the fast food restaurants, but I'm sure those are way too expensive for me. For now, I'll just stick with the pea gravel. I'm just happy I can get them outside to play!

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