What to Put Under a Swing Set and More

Published by 
Jess Miller
Last updated: 
April 10, 2023
Happy little girl looking at camera while swinging on playground area

Your kids finally convinced you to build that backyard playground they’ve been asking for. As you dive into the land of DIY, you’ll need to know what to put under a swing set to protect your little ones from any potential crashes.

Choosing the best swing set for your child’s safety and enjoyment is important. Once you’ve picked the right set for your family, it’s time to think about installation. We know how carefully you work to protect them every day. That’s why we’ve done the research to help you decide what to put under a swing set to ensure their safety.

What to Put Under a Swing Set

If you’re not sure what to put under a swing set, there’s good news. You have plenty of options. Depending on your budget or project size, you can find the right material to protect your kids while they play.

Though no fall surface will completely eliminate injuries caused by misuse or misbehavior, some surfaces are better than others. However, you should avoid concrete and asphalt, as those surfaces have no give and can increase the risk of injury. They also absorb the sun and can lead to burns during the long hot days of summer.

Use what you've got

Often parents choose to leave grass under their swing sets, and that’s just fine. It’s natural, soft, and won’t harm your children. But there may be better options out there to prevent serious injuries.

Rubber mats

Rubber mats are an excellent choice because of their low maintenance. They are strong and durable so they will last a long time. Plus, there are several colors and designs to choose from to match your landscaping, meaning they are quite visually appealing.

On the other hand, these mats can be quite expensive, which means they may increase your budget significantly. Some mats have an unpleasant odor that decreases their appeal. Unfortunately, some of your kids’ friends may not be able to play on this surface because some people are allergic to rubber.


If you’re looking for something more natural, then wood chips may be the way to go. Not only is mulch more environmentally friendly, but it’s also less expensive. Additionally, as mulch biodegrades naturally, it fertilizes your lawn.

However, wood chips do come with some negatives. Mulch requires more maintenance and requires periodic additions or even replacement. It may cause splinters while children are playing. Lastly, wood chips may fall victim to roughhousing; children may throw them all over the yard.

Fake it

As an alternative to wood mulch, you might consider rubber mulch. Rubber mulch is bouncier, so it absorbs shock upon impact to reduce injury. Insects and other pests aren’t attracted to it as they would be wood mulch. Plus, it is easy to install and has low maintenance.

The downside is that rubber mulch is much more expensive than other loose-dump materials. It’s also highly flammable, making it a riskier investment. Most importantly, the side effects of playing in rubber mulch for both humans and the environment are not fully known at this point in time.

And, no matter what mulch you use, younger children will need supervision to ensure they don't try to eat the mulch.

Double duty

Sand is one of the cheapest options when it comes to what to put under a swing set. It’s also another great natural option that’s easy on the environment. Not only is it a great fall surface for your kids, but it also provides them a giant sandbox for hours of imaginative play.

However easy it is to maintain sand is a bit more difficult to install. It’ll take you more work at the beginning designing a space and installing a boxed area to hold your sand in. You also have to worry about tracking sand into your house if you don’t have a mudroom or if the wind blows too strongly.

Lastly, you’ll have to deal with any neighborhood cats that might like to use your giant sandbox for their own purposes.

Rock quarry

Another good option if your looking for something natural is pea gravel. It’s super cheap and easy to maintain. It’ll last much longer than woodchips and not track around your house as much as sand.

Unfortunately, pea gravel is a harder fall surface than rubber mats or mulch, so you may have to deal with more injuries. The small stones can get stuck in sandals and shoes, upsetting little ones (and grown-ups, too!).

How to Prepare the Ground for a Swing Set

Family Swing Set
Image source: freepik

Choose the flattest area of your yard. A shaded area is best to protect the swing set from getting too hot in the summer. If you plant trees nearby, be aware of where their roots might grow and affect your area.

Use landscape timbers to form the perimeter and build them high enough to reach the desired depth of your fall surface. Lay down a week barrier before filling with your fall surface.

Your surface area will vary depending on which swing set you choose but pay attention to high traffic areas like the swings and slides. Protect the entire path of the swing to be sure you cover a fall from any distance.

Avoid covering only the exact dimensions of the swing set. You want a six-foot clearance around the swing set, so your protected area should extend at least that far out.

Let's Get Swinging

Children on the swing
Image source: freepik

Now that you know what to put under a swing set, you’re ready to bring your kids all the happiness childhood begs for and ensure their safety while you do it.

Let us know in the comments below if you have any other tips for what to put under a swing set.

Featured image source: freepik

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