How to make concrete step safer for kids?

twalkman(z7 GA)May 17, 2010

I'm in the process of making a fenced kid play area off our deck. The area will contain a 10'x13' concrete slab. There needs to be 1 step off the slab to reach ground level.

I'm worried about the hard concrete edges if a kid trips.

Am I being overly concerned, or are there any design tactics I can use to make it safer, such as build the step with wood instead of concrete?

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Kids can fall on a flat concrete slab too. My 4 year old grandson did that just the other day on our patio. I don't think there is any way you can child proof all surfaces to avoid skinned knees.

It can happen with wooden steps too. I think the greatest danger would be wet concrete after a rain. You can get an outside concrete paint to make it less slippery

    Bookmark   May 17, 2010 at 7:24PM
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If I understand this correctly, the slab drops off along an edge. The bigger danger in that case is not the step so much as the rest of the edge. People,even kids, generally handle steps well, but other edges can take them by surprise. Planting along those edges give a visual cue that the edge is there whether it is from below or above and whether looking at it directly or in the perifery.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2010 at 9:47PM
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Laag has brought up a key design point... to make any edge safe and stairs, there needs to be some visual clues that there is a change in elevation here.

For stairs the change in height could be indicated by flanking plantings or pots in such a way that the pathway is identified and the symetry of the markings draws attention to itself(hence the step). Very slight changes in elevatioon of less than 2-3 steps are often easily overlooked and may cause more stumbling.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2010 at 8:48AM
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twalkman(z7 GA)

The slab drops off about 12" to the play area which will be grass or mulch. Therefore I'm going to build a wide step to transition to the play area.

I'm mostly concerned with kids running in the play area, tripping - and then busting their head against the concrete step or slab edge. So I was looking for a way to soften the edge either with padding, or a different material for the step.

Maybe getting rid of the step along most of the slab and installing a guard rail fence would be a safer idea.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2010 at 11:22AM
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... short of putting helmets on the kids 24x7?

Build the step to standard dimensions, because the kids are going to grow eventually.

Marking most of the edge with planting material to give them a visual warning, and changing the play surface texture near the edge to give a tactile warning is what playgrounds do.

And "tripping" most often happens when the play area is untidy, develops holes, or needs mowing. Keep it maintained.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2010 at 11:54AM
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Planting with height tends to make running occur a few feet away. It is psychological, much like peeple not driving close to a wall or fence when it is close to a road, but will cruise right along next to a 6" curb. The idea is to coax the activity away rather than accepting the accident and looking to minimize the damage.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2010 at 12:55PM
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mjsee(Zone 7b, NC)

How much area do you have there? I think I nice low hedge of Ilex vomitoria (Yaupon holly) would be a good visual cue. It's stiff enough to handle the occaisional basketball and soft enough not to take an eye out if kid falls into it. And the %$&*@$! deer leave it alone.

'Bordeaux' is a nice cultivar...though it might get too tall. I saw a nice dwarf at work today...'Stokes Dwarf'. It's slow growing, so should be easy to keep in bounds. I'll link NC State's page on it. You can get to the 'Bordeaux' info on the same site. Either should do well in your area.


Here is a link that might be useful: Stokes Dwarf

    Bookmark   May 18, 2010 at 8:00PM
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It would be good to think about how broad the step is and the rise. I think you can do that and still stay in some kind of standard dimensions that people relate to. What I think--but I may be wrong--is that if it is a step you are going to go up and down many times, do not make it too narrow, so that you have to put your foot sideways-ish. I'm also wondering (someone can shoot me down here) if there are different principles for steps in which you just take one step down and then hit the yard and stride on. I'm thinking you can use a broader step in that situation 'cause you (if you have eyesight) will start lengthening your stride a bit, as opposed to how you negotiate a flight of stairs, plus you aren't as limited spatially as you are for typical flights.

But, the stair engineers on the forum will be of more help.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2010 at 10:38AM
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I happened to be a board certified step engineer and would like to know a few things for crystal clarity. Is there a step from the deck to the slab and a step from the slab to the ground. If so what is the vertical height from the deck to the slab? This input is needed for me to finish my extremely complex calculations. Thanks and Aloha

    Bookmark   May 19, 2010 at 7:57PM
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