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How to Turn a Boring School Yard into an Adventure Playground

Teacher’s put a lot of time and effort into making their school’s environment exciting and inspirational. Walls and corridors are covered in highly colourful displays, there’s always artwork on show and classrooms are equipped with the latest resources. For many schools, however, this ends at the door to the playground. In this post, we’ll give you some ideas of how to turn your boring school yard into an exciting adventure playground.

Boring playgrounds cause problems

Come break time, too many pupils are put out to pasture on nothing more than a drab rectangle of grey tarmac with only the wind to inspire them. It’s no surprise then, that lots of primary kids ask to stay in and help the teacher and the many secondary students mooch around in corridors staring at their phones.

Without things to do, children get bored and frustrated. This can lead to poor behaviour during breaks and cause problems in the lessons that follow. It also means that many children don’t get any exercise during the school day. After being sat at a desk for a few hours, you want them to run around and burn off a bit of energy: it’s good for both their physical and mental health. Instead, many children just stand around waiting for the bell, eating crisps and sipping sugary drinks.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The outside of your school can be as inspirational as the inside, helping children to be healthier, more creative and more motivated for their next lesson. Here are some ideas about how you can achieve this in your school.

1. Get them playing team sports again

You don’t need to spend a fortune to inspire kids to play team sports during break times. Installing playground markings on your school yard surface marks out pitches and courts for a wide range of team games that kids love to play. There’s football, futsal (5-a-side football), netball, rounders, cricket, tennis and basketball to choose from. You can even get nets and goals to equip them fully. Once installed, you just need to put out a selection of bats and balls for the children to use.

The great thing about installing playground marking for team games is that it encourages lots of children to participate. You can also use the markings for PE lessons.

2. Drive them up the wall – literally!

We’ve all had lessons where the kids were ‘climbing the walls,’ – well, now this can happen in a good way. At ESP Play, we supply a selection of climbing walls specially designed for children to play on. Not only are these are great for getting pupils active, they are also good for helping kids challenge themselves and for developing resilience. Above all, they are fun to climb on and a great way to encourage physical activity.

3. Build an obstacle course

When it comes to playground design, one of the features that most schools want to install is some form of obstacle course. One of the best ways to do this is with a Trim Trail. The big advantage of a Trim Trail is that you can choose your own elements. There are lots to choose from, too: balance beams, climbing nets, scramble under nets, duck and dive posts, striding posts, jungle bars, wobbly bridges, tight ropes… the list goes on.

For schools with limited budgets, Trim Trails offer you the potential to build your adventure playground up over time, perhaps adding an extra element or two each academic year. You don’t need to buy everything at once.

For versatility, Trim Trails also come with easily interchangeable features, giving you the ability to adapt your playground equipment for different purposes or different groups. It also means you can give children lots of different challenges using the same pieces of outdoor equipment.

Kids love to play on Trim Trails, which is why you see them in so many public parks. Now you can have them in your own playground and inspire even more children to play.

4. Max up the fun with Freeflow

Our Freeflow obstacle courses have evolved through years of working with teachers and student councils to create the ultimate outdoor playground equipment. With a wide range of modules to choose from, you can create a bespoke adventure playground that meets the needs of your school and contains your pupils’ favourite obstacles.

Not only are our Freeflow courses irresistible to play on; they also help your pupils develop strength, stamina, coordination and team building skills. They can completely revolutionise your playground and increase your pupils’ enjoyment of your outdoor space.

5. Don’t forget to add bells and whistles

To add variety to your playground design, consider using outdoor play equipment for less sporty children to use during break times. For example, we have a range of creative outdoor equipment including musical instruments, stages, and structures which can be used to encourage roleplaying adventures. We’ve also got sandpits and water play equipment, nature equipment and lots of games ranging from hopscotch to chess.


Developing your outdoor space can have lots of benefits for your school. In enhances pupils’ enjoyment and can have a positive impact on their physical health and mental wellbeing. It can also help improve behaviour and progress in the classroom.

As you can see from this article, there are lots of options open to you to turn your boring school yard into an exciting adventure playground. If you want to discuss what we can do for you, give us a call on 01282 43 44 45.


How Schools with a Small Playground Can Still Offer a Wide Range of Sports

Not every school has an abundance of outdoor space which can be utilised for sports and for those that have nothing more than a small playground or a slither of greenery, there can be real issues for providing sporting opportunities for their pupils. Luckily, however, there are practical and affordable solutions that help you to make the most of the limited space available. In this post, we’ll take a look at the best ones on offer.

The problems of having limited outdoor space for sport

Schools sports are important to young people. It's where most pupils learn how to play a range of different sports, some of which they may end up playing well into their adult years. They help to keep children fit and healthy, especially in these modern times when children don’t get to play out like previous generations. And then there is the pleasure of taking part in the great tradition of inter-school sports competitions. All of these things are limited and sometimes even denied to children at schools with lack of adequate outdoor space.

But whilst we can’t all have Eton’s 7200ft, £17 million, Olympic rowing lake, there are ways which those schools deprived of space can still provide a range of sports for their students.

Playground markings for school sports

Playground markings provide the easiest, most practical and most affordable solution to schools looking for ways to offer more sports to their pupils. At ESP Play, we provide playground markings for a wide range of team sports including football, futsal (a version of 5-a-side football), tennis, netball, rounders, cricket and basketball.

All these can be used on a typical playground hard surface, are inexpensive to install and are hard wearing. This means you can double up your school playground as your outdoor sports venue and provide your pupils with pitches to play on during break times.

For those schools that are seriously short of space, the ultimate solution can be found in our multicourt markings. A multicourt consists of futsal, netball and basketball markings overlaid on a single court. The markings for each sport are in a different colour, making it easy for pupils to identify the right ones. This gives schools the ability to utilise the same space for three separate sports.

Playground markings can make your playground work for you much more effectively. They enable you to teach a wider range of sports without the need for extra space or for huge investment.

Equipping your new sports area

Of course, if you want to offer these sports, you will need to equip them. At ESP play, we provide the equipment, too. We supply netball and basketball nets and also a goal unit with combined football goal and shooting net – ideal for a multicourt and for general playground use. We even have a recessed goal unit. In addition, we also provide ball walls, which are ideal for cricket and for football practice.

Sport-friendly playground flooring

If you want to improve your playground design even more, you can always replace all or part of your existing playground surface with sport-friendly playground flooring. For example, you can install artificial grass together with your desired sports markings. This would provide you with a far superior playing surface that was good enough for interschool tournaments and safer for the children to play physical sports on.

Artificial grass surfacing also requires much less maintenance than a real grass pitch. There’s no mowing, no replanting and no mud. Once it is installed, it will stay in peak condition and with its hardwearing materials will last for years. Many of our clients have used artificial grass to convert part of their existing playground for sports use whilst still granting children access during break times.

Artificial grass is not the only solution for an improved playground sports surface. Wetpour surfacing is another popular choice for many schools. Made from recycled tyres, it is a long lasting, soft surface that’s highly effective in reducing injuries through falling. This makes it ideal for use on pitches and courts where physical sports are played. There certainly won’t be as many grazed knees or kids going home with holes in their trousers and tights as there would be on a tarmac surface.

The other benefit of a wetpour surface is that it can be coloured. So, you can colour it green to give it a more professional sports colour – or opt for something less traditional such as using your school’s colours. The choice is yours.


With playground markings, outdoor playground equipment and a range of safe and hardwearing playground surfaces to choose from, it is easier than ever to for schools with limited outdoor space to provide the facilities for a range of sports. It’s no longer necessary to find extra space to do this, you can simply convert your existing space and use it for both sporting activities and normal playground use.


New Funding Will Create Healthier Generation

On 28 February 2017 Education Secretary Justine Greening announced that, in addition to the PE and Sport premium, schools are to receive £415 million to help pupils benefit from healthier, more active lifestyles.

ESP Play have transformed over 2,500 playground across the UK but more recently are focussing on sustainable outdoor learning. They are able to provide AfPE approved courses to staff within schools that leads to better quality provision, healthier children and a more inclusive sports environment.

Primary, secondary and sixth-form colleges will be able to use the new funding to pay for facilities to support physical education (PE), after-school activities and healthy eating. This includes indoor and outdoor facilities.

Schools will also be able to use the new healthy pupils capital programme to improve facilities for children with physical conditions or support young people struggling with mental health issues.

Education Secretary Justine Greening said:

“Schools can really help our children get a healthy start in life from exercise and sport, and also from knowing what a healthy diet means. It’s not only good for them while they’re in education, but the health and wellbeing benefits can last a lifetime.

“That’s why we’re investing £415 million in facilities to support sports, after-school activities and promoting healthy eating, so we can secure the future health of our young people.”

Local authorities and larger multi-academy trusts will receive an allocation for schools and will make decisions locally on how this money is invested. Smaller multi-academy trusts (MATs), individual academies and sixth-form centres will be able to bid for grants for specific one-off projects.

ESP Play are a leading provider of outdoor learning equipment and training to the Education sector. In addition, their sustainable approach to improving physical activity across all levels of education and their free outdoor activity design service has led to them delivering a record number of project over 2016.

The new funding will be available in 2018 to 2019. All state-funded primary, secondary and sixth-form schools in England will be eligible to receive funding

Information on the allocation formula, spending guidance and bidding criteria will follow in the summer.


How to Use Outdoor Playground Equipment to Develop Children’s Creativity

Creativity is the highest level of skill that children can aspire to and it is something all schools have an obligation to develop in their pupils. At ESP Play, we know this requires giving pupils the freedom to explore, experiment and invent; that’s why we have put together a selection of great outdoor play equipment to help you develop creativity in your school. In this post, we’ll take a look at some of the key areas where our equipment can benefit your pupils.


Children love music but their experience of it is primarily that of a consumer, not a creator. They’ll watch music videos on YouTube and listen to it on their phones but apart from their weekly music lesson most children rarely get to play on an instrument – and even then, it’s unlikely they’ll do much in the way of creative composition.

In education, the thinking is that skills and knowledge need to be learnt before children can begin to compose their own music. Although you can see the logic in this approach, most children never learn the skills well enough to get much of a chance at being creative. Letting them compose their own musical creations might increase their motivation to improve their technical skills even more.

Here at ESP Play, we have a range of easy to play outdoor musical instruments that can be put up in the playground so that children have access to them every day. They’ll give your pupils the ability to experiment with sounds, create their own tunes and practice their skills, all while having fun with their friends. By putting several instruments together, you also enable the pupils to develop ensemble skills.

With chimes, drums, drainpipe drums, xylophones, a washboard and rain wheels to choose from, you’ll find these instruments are excellent for young learners. They enable children to improvise rhythmical and melodic patterns whilst combining musical ideas and structures. At the same time, as the instruments are placed in the playground, pupils will develop confidence in performing in front of others.


Art lessons are predominantly about learning technical skills, exploring different media or discovering other artists. Children are often told what to draw or paint, what materials to use and to emulate the style of another artist or movement when doing so. However, as we all know, the greatest artists are the ones that come up with something totally new, whether a new technique such as Seurat's Pointillism or a new style, like Picasso’s Cubism.

Developing children’s ability to be creative artists is best done by giving them the opportunity to paint and draw in their own way. When going freestyle, they can use what they have learnt in lessons but can abandon those techniques in favour of artistic freedom is they wish to do so.

At ESP Play, we provide outdoor art equipment that children can use to do creative artwork in the playground whenever they like. This includes chalkboards, painting stations and whiteboards. For children who wish to explore their creativity using different media, we also have a weaving board for those with an interest in textiles. All boards are interchangeable, easy to clean and can be used in lessons and during free time.


Drama is one of the key creative subjects in schools. Not only does it enable students to develop skills in performance and come up with new ideas for plot, character and theme; it also gives children the opportunity to explore many life issues, such as bullying or the environment, and come up with creative solutions for dealing with them.

Children naturally like to act, they love to play different characters, create new worlds and think up new situations. To encourage this, schools need to provide the resources that will inspire them to improvise.

We have a selection of playground equipment designed to do exactly this. Firstly, we have a range of imaginative outdoor equipment that can create stimulating settings for children. These include wooden bridges, carriages, trains, tunnels, mud kitchens, kiosk play panels and play huts. At the same time, we also provide outdoor performance stages. These are available in different sizes and shapes and there’s even a proscenium theatre façade to create the ideal outdoor performance setting.

Outdoor stages not only stimulate children to get creative, they also provide the teacher with the necessary space to rehearse drama and perform it in front of an audience: our octagonal shelters with tiered seating, for example, create the perfect theatre in the round.

Creative Thinking

Of course, artistic pursuits are not the only route to developing creative thinking. We also have a selection of other school playground equipment that can stimulate those who are not as artistically inclined. This includes a range of board games including chess, Ludo and Connect 4 for those who like creative problem solving, sand and water play for the tactile explorer, and for those tactile problem solvers we have Soma cubes and tangram tables.


For many children, one of the most important drivers when it comes to being creative is having the space to play. When children feel it is safe to run around and have fun, they are often at their most inventive. To make your playground more inviting and safer for children to play on, take a look at our great choice of playground flooring, we supply block paving, artificial grass, rubber mulch, resin bound gravel, grass matting as well as sports and wet pour surfacing.


Play and creativity go hand in hand, so it makes sense for schools wanting to develop creativity to use the playground as the setting to do this. Our range of creative equipment is ideal for use during free time and can also be incorporated into structured lessons.


Ideal Playground Equipment to Help Kids Learn About Nature and The Environment

Exploring nature and the environment is essential if children are to develop a better understanding of the world in which they live. It helps improve their understanding of science and increases their awareness of our impact on the environment. In this article, we’ll look at a selection of outdoor playground equipment you can use to help pupils learn about the environment in fun, hands-on ways.


Birds & Bugs

One of the best ways you can get children to appreciate birds and bugs is through seeing them close up in their natural habitats. To make this possible, we have created a range of outdoor science resources designed to encourage these animals to visit and even make their homes on your school’s grounds.

Our butterfly boxes, for example, are the perfect way for children to study these beautiful creatures. The wooden boxes are a safe environment for butterflies and with its Perspex window, children can regularly observe how the insects change during their life cycle. The boxes attract different species of hibernating butterflies during the winter and are also used to lay eggs, hatch larvae and change into caterpillars. Some caterpillars will even use the box as the place to form their chrysalis and turn into a butterfly.

For a wider variety of bug life, we also have ladybird towers and our wonderful insect habitat which, with its many nooks and crannies, is the ideal home for a wide variety of insects, all of which can be studied close up on a regular basis.

If you are looking to investigate the birdlife in your school’s local area, then our bird tables can be a great way to encourage them onto your premises. Put it in a quiet spot where children can observe through a window without disturbing the birds and you’ll soon find them flocking to your site. You can even set up a camera and take pictures of the different species that visit. You’ll also be able to help them stay fed during the winter months.

Sustainable Living

It’s important that all children learn to appreciate food, where it comes from and how it grows. There is no better way of doing that then letting them grow their own food and, if possible, getting them to cook and eat it once it is harvested.

Here at ESP Play, we have everything you need to create your own school food garden so children can learn about sustainable living, first hand. Our growing boxes and herb planters are ideal for growing a range of organic, seasonal vegetables and herbs which can be harvested and taken straight to the kitchen. Ideal for easy planters like carrots, peas, potatoes, tomatoes, etc.

Fascinating Flora

Learning about a plant’s lifecycle is a key part of the National Curriculum and our schools’ outdoor planting equipment enables children to study how plants grow and to see the effects that soil, sunlight and water have on them. You can compare different species of plant and take a close look at the fauna that lives on them. We even provide an investigation table, specially designed to help students do exciting scientific investigations into the soil and plants.

At the same time, you can bring the beauty of nature right into the heart of your school’s playground by creating an area that is full of colourful, scented plants. This is a great way to help pupils appreciate nature whilst creating a calm and peaceful space for them to spend their lunch and break times.

We provide schools with a range of planters, trellises and digging pits. We even have planters with Perspex windows so children can observe root growth and under soil fauna without having to disturb the plants and risk damaging their delicate root systems. Alternatively, you can also install one of our unique, curriculum-based growing boards.

We also provide fencing and gates if you want to keep your mini nature reserve as a special place which can only be visited under supervision.

Watching The Weather

Studying the weather is another area covered by the National Curriculum and one of the things children love to do the most is record the weather in their own location. Here at ESP Play, we have developed a selection of weather stations that record wind speed, precipitation, cloud cover and a range of other details that children can use to examine weather patterns and seasonal changes. These can be mounted on posts or on walls in your playground for ease of use and can be taken down when not needed.


Helping children get closer to nature can have lots of benefits. It helps them appreciate the environment, leading to an increased awareness of the need to protect it in the future. At the same time, first-hand experience of investigating nature helps pupils develop a deeper understanding of the science taught in the classroom. Using our range of outdoor playground equipment, you can easily transform your grounds into your own nature zone and take your science lessons outside. For more details, check out our Nature and Garden section.