Outdoor Play Equipment for the EYFS Framework

Outdoor Play Equipment for the EYFS Framework

According to the UK Government, the seven areas of learning in the EYFS framework should mostly be delivered through games and play. This makes the playground not just somewhere children have fun, but also an arena in which learning can take place. To make this possible, it is important to choose outdoor play equipment that facilitates EYFS learning. Here we look at the seven areas of EYFS and show how play equipment can be successfully used.

Communication and language

With the right equipment, the playground provides plenty of opportunities for children to develop their communication and language skills. A simple outdoor stage, play towers and shop kiosks, for example, encourage children to participate in role play, either during free play or organised activities. Playground markings for interactive games are also helpful because activities such as football or hopscotch require children to communicate with each other in order to take part.


Literacy, which is naturally related to communication and language, can also be developed in an outdoor setting. Creating a storytelling circle, complete with a storytelling chair and mushroom-design seating is a great way to encourage listening to stories and to inspire children to tell their own.

Additionally, there is a range of specialist literacy playground markings for games involving letters and phonic sounds, as well as outdoor whiteboards and chalkboards to encourage mark making.


The playground provides unlimited opportunities for children to develop numeracy skills, including learning to recognise numbers, count forwards and backwards and even basic adding and subtraction. There is a wide range of maths-based playground markings that display numbers and encourage children to count as they play.

At the same time, there is equipment that can help develop other maths skills, even though the children wouldn’t recognise these as maths, for example, battleships boards and soma cubes.

Expressive arts and design

Children love expressing themselves artistically and there are numerous ways you can use playground equipment to encourage and facilitate this. Outdoor stages and roleplay equipment can motivate children to perform made up plays; the wide range of whiteboards, chalkboards and painting stations provide endless opportunities to create art, and the selection of fun, outdoor percussion instruments, that everyone can play, motivate children to experiment with sound, patterns and beats.

Physical development

Young children are naturally full of energy so it takes little to get them moving around. However, to develop strength and stamina, as well as balance, agility and coordination, it’s helpful to have the right equipment. One ideal solution is to install EYFS Trim Trails equipment. With balance beams, log striders, climbing nets, tunnels, jungle bars and rope traverses to choose from, it’s easy to create a fun but challenging obstacle course.

A lot of modern play tower equipment also comes with features that encourage physical development, these include traversing slopes, ropes and nets, climbing poles, wobbly bridges and slides.

Personal, social and emotional development

Often their first experience of prolonged time away from their families, going to an EYFS setting requires children to quickly develop their personal, social and emotional skills. Encouraging interaction is essential to help children negotiate this steep learning curve and, just as with language and communication, playing group games and taking part in role play activities are key to doing this. Again, playground markings and roleplay equipment help facilitate this, as does messy play equipment, like mud kitchens and water and sand equipment, that children love to play with together.

Understanding the world

Young children find nature fascinating and there’s no better place to give them an understanding of it than outdoors. Unfortunately, not all EYFS providers have an outdoor space where the children can interact with nature. However, this can be overcome with the latest Nature Garden outdoor equipment, such as planters and trellises that can provide greenery even in hard-surfaced play areas, as well as bird feeders and boxes, insect habitats and butterfly boxes.

Additionally, there is equipment for planting seeds and observing them grow and specially designed products that let youngsters see what happens beneath the soil's surface. There are even simple to use weather stations that can be used to monitor the weather.


With games and play an essential element of delivering the EYFS framework, the early years playground is a key learning environment for young children. With careful thought and clever design, even the smallest of spaces can be transformed into a resource that offers a multitude of fun opportunities that facilitate, motivate and inspire children to learn across all seven areas of the EYFS curriculum.

For more information about our range of EYFS and nursery products, visit our Early Years page.


School Playground Equipment That Kids Find Most Exciting

exciting playground equipment

The whole point of a school playground is to give children opportunities to play. However, without the right equipment, the result is often boredom and this can affect pupil behaviour both in the yard and back in the classroom. To prevent this, playgrounds need to offer children excitement, challenge and fun. To help, we’ve put together some of the equipment that we find children get most excited about.

Free-Flow Climbing Frames

Once only found in public parks, in recent years climbing frames have become highly popular features of modern school playgrounds. Children of all ages love to play on them, both on their own and with their friends.

Our Free-Flow Climbing Frames bring excitement by providing circular courses with no defined start or end. Children have to decide upon their own route and challenge themselves to see whether they can get around the entire apparatus successfully. Achieving this may take a lot of practice, requiring them to master a number of different challenges, depending on the Free-Flow model you choose. These can include jungle bars, tight ropes, rope bridges and rope traverses, traversing walls and tyre bridges.

Trim Trails

Offering a different kind of obstacle course, but equally as thrilling and exciting, is our Trim Trails range. The great thing about Trim Trails is that you select different pieces from our collection to design a course that is the right fit for your playground and which satisfies the needs and likes of your pupils.

Using sturdy wooden equipment, the Trim Trails provide a range of challenges that deliver real excitement while developing pupils’ problem solving, stamina and resilience. Children can also set themselves and each other challenges about how they tackle the course. And with nearly sixty different challenges available, including interchangeable equipment, you can keep the excitement going.

Individual pieces include jungle bars, wobbly planks and bridges, tyre bridges and steppers, rope traverses, twisty rope challenges, stepping logs, dip bars, leapfrog posts and more. To ensure that the pieces are appropriate for children of different ages, we have put them into four different categories depending on their difficulty, size and height.

Messy Play

The idea of playing with mud, sand and water is enough to bring a smile to any child’s face and for younger children, messy play can be one of the most exciting parts of the school day. Of course, in today’s more sanitised world, ‘mud’ is a mix of sand and water rather than soil and water, which keeps kids, their clothing and the classrooms a whole lot cleaner.

The best way to bring messy play to a school playground is to keep it all together in a specially created ‘messy play zone.’ This lets children easily move from piece to piece, stops any sand and water from getting elsewhere and helps prevent children busy doing other things from getting in the way.

There is a range of equipment you can use to create a messy play zone, including mud kitchens, magnetic water walls, sandpits and sandboxes, creation stations and the very popular water chutes where children can race balls down cascading tracks.

Sports Pitches

Children have played sports during playtimes for as long as there have been playgrounds and there’s no bigger thrill than scoring a goal, getting a rounder, winning a game or bowling out the opposition. Today, of course, using a couple of jumpers for a goal is not the expectation, nor is it the safest approach. The ideal way to bring the excitement of sport to a playground is to provide the necessary sports markings and their accompanying goals, nets and stumps, etc.

These are now available for a variety of sports, including soccer, basketball, tennis, netball, rounders and cricket. Quickly installed and highly affordable, schools with limited space can even have multi-sports pitches so that different types of sports can be played in a single area.

Of course, with proper markings, the pitches help ensure the games stay within a well-defined area, away from other activities. The markings can also be used to deliver PE lessons and help children learn about the layout of pitches and rules of the sports they are playing.


After applying themselves to the rigours of the curriculum, children deserve a place where they can let off steam and have some real fun. A good playground will provide this and a key element of a modern playground is to offer activities that are exciting and challenging. While we have countless other exciting products your school may be interested in, over our many years of installing school playground equipment, those mentioned above are constantly at the top of pupils’ wish lists.

For more information, about these and other products, visit our Products page.


How Outdoor Play Helps Meet NHS Activity Guidelines

NHS activity guidelines

According to the NHS, children of nursery and pre-school age, between one and five years old, should have three hours of physical activity every day, combining both light and more energetic activity. Here, we discuss the NHS advice in more detail and look at how you can help children meet NHS guidelines in your playground.

NHS activity guidelines

The NHS Physical Activity Guidelines for Children Under 5 Years states that all children under five should be physically active for 180 minutes a day, with this spread over the day and including time spent playing outdoors. For those under three, this should be a combination of light and more energetic activity, while for threes and over, the recommendation is that at least one of the three hours should involve ‘moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity.’

Light activity is described as walking around, rolling, skipping, hopping, running, jumping, tummy time, messy play, playing with blocks, sand and water and catch-throw games. More active play includes riding a bike or trike, scooting, using a climbing frame, chasing games, ball games and hide and seek.

While these activities generally improve and maintain the health and fitness of all children, it is particularly beneficial for the increasing number of those who are overweight and are at risk of becoming obese as they get older.

Why exercise in preschool settings is so important

Three hours a day, every day, is a lot of time to be active and while children are inclined to get up and move if the chance arises, at home, those opportunities are not always there. Many homes aren’t conducive to energetic physical activity and most parents lead very busy lifestyles, often having to combine parenting young children with work and household chores. Though the vast majority go out of their way to play with their children, providing 180 minutes of physical activity every day can be incredibly difficult for them to achieve.

Except when sleeping, the NHS says children under-fives should not be inactive for long periods. Sitting and watching TV, travelling by car or being pushed in a buggy rather than walking isn’t, according to the guidelines, ‘good for a child's health and development.’

Unlike many homes, nurseries and EYFS settings often have the space, the time and the resources to provide children with the activities that they need.

Outdoor play equipment that helps

There is a lot of outdoor play equipment that can help nurseries and EYFS settings provide children with the opportunities to participate in the activities recommended in the NHS guidelines. Here are some which we think offer the greatest benefits not just for physical activities, but because they also help children develop the key EYFS skills and are great fun.


Age-appropriate climbing equipment comes in a variety of guises today and there are plenty of options for nurseries and EYFS settings. Themed play towers and play castles inspire children to get up and moving, providing the fun of climbing, the thrill of sliding and plenty of opportunity to role play and chase each other about. Physical activity comes from climbing ropes, steps and inclined pathways, crawling through tunnels, sliding down poles and slides and more.

Hopping, skipping & jumping

Quick and easy to install and cost-effective too, playground markings provide everything children need to play a wide variety of hopping, skipping and jumping games. What’s more, not only do they motivate children to get moving, sometimes incredibly energetically, they also provide learning opportunities, both with regard to physical skills, like balance, agility and coordination, and with basic literacy and numeracy skills; helping them to learn letters, numbers, phonics, directions, weather types and more.

Roadway markings

For fast-paced physical activity, take a look at our Roadway playground marking. Not only does it provide a track for trikes and bikes; it also contains many features of a public road, making it more fun to play on and helping children develop a greater sense of road safety. With two directional road markings, roundabouts, parking bays, fuel station and zebra crossings, it’s a mini replica of a real roadway where more intense exercise can take place safely.

Messy play

Children love messy play and it encourages light activity that involves many different muscle groups as they move around, dig, lift and carry. Today, aside from traditional mud kitchens and sand pits, there are bark pits, sand trays and water play pools, magnetic water walls and more to consider.


It is obvious from the NHS guidelines that young children need a lot of physical activity to keep themselves healthy. With many young children not getting enough opportunities at home, nurseries and EYFS settings can make up for the shortfall while the children are in their care. What’s more, with the right outdoor play equipment, not only can the children stay active; they can learn and have lots of fun at the same time.

For more information, visit our Early Years page.


Funding Sources For School Playground Improvements

funding for school playgrounds

With education budgets under increasing pressure, many school business managers are looking for external funding to help with their new school playground projects. As one of the UK’s leading school playground equipment suppliers and installation companies, ESP Play has helped countless schools find financial assistance over the years and here, we have put together some of the funds that might be appropriate for your project.

National Lottery Community Fund

If your new playground provides opportunities that promote education, health or the environment, and which benefit your local community, then you might be eligible for an award of up to £10,000 from the National Lottery’s Community Fund.

Garfield Weston Foundation

The Garfield Weston Foundation is a UK fund that offers grants to charities and other good causes that support, among other things, youth, health and education. If your playground project can improve the life chances of young people through better education and health or by inspiring your pupils to reach their potential, you may be eligible to apply.

Ernest Cook Trust

The Ernest Cook Trust was set up by philanthropist grandson of the travel agent, Thomas Cook, to create experiences that help children and young people, especially those who are disadvantaged, to feel captivated and intrigued by nature and to instil a lifelong appreciation and respect for the countryside. This grant may be suitable for school playground projects that seek to create a nature zone or a forest school, especially in urban areas where children have limited access to natural environments or where disadvantage prevents them from visiting the countryside. Grants of up to £10,000 are available.

Biffa Award

Biffa Waste Services runs the Biffa Award scheme to fund community projects located near landfill sites. Though schools might be eligible to apply for new play equipment and landscaping works for their playgrounds, the project will usually need to benefit the wider community and show evidence of their involvement and consultation.

The Football Foundation

Funded by The Football Association, the Premier League and the UK Government, the Football Foundation provides grants of up to £1 million to revitalise the sport at the grassroots level. This scheme is ideal for schools developing all-weather football pitches and who seek to encourage more young people to take part in football and to give them better opportunities to develop their skills. With the aim of providing ‘better games for more players,’ those who wish to make their pitches available for the wider community may have a better chance of success.

Co-op Local Community Fund

Funded by the Co-op Group, the Local Community Fund awards grants to three projects in each community every 12 months. The project must be for and be of benefit to the local community. The two eligibility criteria that apply to schools are for playground projects that help improve people’s mental wellbeing or those which offer young people the opportunity to develop new skills and make a difference in their community. Projects must comply with the Co-op’s values.

Other ways to raise funds

Many schools also raise a great deal of their funding through in-house initiatives, often with the assistance of the parent-teacher association (PTA). Over the many years ESP Play has been providing services to schools, we have seen a wide range of fundraising ideas put into action. The most successful are usually those that have the support of the most people as these drive wider participation and raise more money as a result.

Some of the most popular fundraising activities have been sponsored events, pupil discos, quiz evenings, talent shows, Easter egg and treasure hunts, summer fêtes, Christmas fairs, raffles, bric-a-brac sales, bun and cake sales, non-uniform days, car washing, splash the teacher events and auctions – especially when local businesses are willing to donate the items. Additionally, you may also find that some local businesses will be willing to offer small financial donations, especially if rewarded with a little bit of publicity.

Need help with your playground funding?

Our years of experience mean our team understand the funding process that schools need to go through to finance their new playgrounds. We can help you find more potential sources of funding and give you advice about writing bids for grants. We will even provide you with a free funding guide and a playground design and quotation based on your project to help support your bid.

For more information about finding, please visit our Funding page.


How to Make School Playgrounds Usable All Year Round

all year playground

Poor weather can have a very disruptive effect on the school day. When wet or wintery weather puts a stop to breaktimes, the lack of outdoor play means teachers don’t get their breaks, the pupils get irritable and find it hard to settle, and indoor play means classrooms get messy. The quality of learning and classroom behaviour can take a nosedive as a result. While extreme weather means you cannot guarantee keeping a playground open every day, there are things you can do to make the outdoor space more accessible all year round and cut the number of indoor playtimes.

In many cases, schools decide to cancel outdoor play not just because the weather is poor, but because the playground is not designed or equipped to keep children comfortable or safe when things take a turn for the worse. Here we’ll look at some of the things you can do to change this.

The importance of good surfacing

Great playground surfacing is the most important ingredient when creating a space that you want to be usable throughout the year. Schools often close playgrounds because of safety concerns due to slippery surfaces, but with the right surfacing in place, this can be reduced - as can puddles and mud.

While wet playgrounds increase the risk of slipping, installing playground surfacing that has proper drainage and which provides a superior grip on pupils’ footwear can reduce this. Improved drainage means surface water is soon dissipated and that large puddles don’t form. With less water on the surface and a surfacing type that provides a firmer footing, the chances of someone falling over are significantly reduced. Replacing asphalt with resin-bound gravel is one way to achieve this, though, for even greater safety, the ideal solution is wetpour surfacing.

Wetpour surfacing is made from 100% recycled tyres and not only provides the necessary grip to stop children sliding in wet conditions; it also provides cushioning so that if a fall does happen, the risk of injury is much reduced. This makes it ideal for all-year playgrounds and for installing under climbing equipment.

For grassed areas, there are two solutions. The simple and inexpensive way to stop grassed areas from turning into a quagmire and to make them usable in wet and wintery conditions is to install grass matting. This is a rubber mesh embedded into the surface that prevents the grass from being worn away and thus stops muddy patches from forming. Alternatively, you can install artificial grass that has superior drainage and where there is no soil directly underfoot to create any mud. Not only can this all-weather surface be used throughout the year; there’s the added benefit that it doesn’t need regular mowing, reseeding or feeding.

Provide shelter

Another reason schools stop children playing out is to protect them from cold, wind and heavy rain. In most cases, warm, waterproof clothing and suitable footwear are all that is needed for children to be happy and safe playing outside. However, you can make the playground more comfortable by adding shelter.

Replacing mesh fencing with a wooden alternative not only makes the playground look better; it provides shelter from cold winds and helps stop some of the rain. However, if you want to provide even greater protection and comfort, then the ideal solution would be an octagonal shelter. With a roof to keep out the rain, side panels to keep out the wind and seating for up to thirty children, this makes the perfect bolt-hole during inclement weather – and can be used all year round as an outdoor classroom.

There is a range of other solutions too. Play huts are ideal for small groups of children to hide away from the worst of the elements, sail shades protect from both the rain and the sun, and there is a wide selection of covered pergolas and other types of shelter available.

All-weather play equipment

If you are sending children out to play when it's cold and wet, they will still need things to do to keep them engaged. While you might not want them to use climbing equipment that gets slippery or get soaked going down a wet slide, there are still lots of things you can offer. Playground markings for football, netball and other sports enable children to participate in active games, as do fun marking for traditional playground games like hopscotch.

Children also love imaginative and creative play and, as they involve less running around, they are perhaps more suitable and safer activities in poor weather conditions. There is a wide range of imaginative play equipment to choose from, including outdoor musical instruments, mud kitchens, magnetic water walls, chalkboards, magnetic boards and whiteboards, outdoor stages and much more.


With the right surfacing and shelter, and a carefully curated selection of all-weather play equipment, schools can reduce the number of play and lunch breaks lost to poor weather. This eases the pressure on teaching staff and classroom assistants, reduces classroom disruption caused by children getting frustrated at being stuck indoors and stops classrooms from getting messy during indoor breaktimes.

For more information about our surfacing, shelters and playground equipment, visit our Products page.


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