How to Create a Sensational Summer Playground

summer playground

May to September is the ideal time for kids to enjoy the outdoors. The weather is warmer, the skies are bluer, and children can’t wait to make the most of their playtimes. What makes a school playground perfect for summer play? It’s a combination of creating the right atmosphere and providing opportunities to do activities that are best enjoyed in the sunshine.

Add a little colour

Creating an exciting and inviting playground that’s great for summer activities can be done by introducing colour. This can be achieved in several ways. For example, when resurfacing your playground, there’s no longer any need to opt for the traditional asphalt grey. Today, you can add a wide range of coloured surfacing, whether that’s through resin-bound gravel or wetpour surfacing. You can even incorporate different types of surfacing too, to add additional effects, such as block paving, rubber mulch or artificial grass.

Playground surfacing can be a key part of your playground design, with different colours used to create pathways and play zones and with different types providing the most useful surfaces for different activities, for example, using cushioned wetpour underneath climbing equipment.

Colour can also be added by installing equipment with coloured parts and through the use of planters, which in summer can provide a burst of nature at its most vibrant.

Make it comfortable

On warm days, some children just want to sit with their friends and enjoy the sunshine, others just want to lie down and bask in it. This is hard to do on a typical tarmac surface but giving some of it over to a grassed area, either natural or artificial, is perfect for creating that summer picnic vibe. You can even make the area into a proper communal zone by sectioning it off with some picture-postcard picket fencing, adding trellises for more greenery and putting in some playground seating or picnic tables.

On hot days, comfort comes in the form of shade, which can be very helpful in protecting children from sunburn. You can provide shade through the use of sail shades, pergolas and shelters. Shelters are of particular benefit as they can also be used to keep children warmer and dryer during autumn and winter.

Create some fun

There are endless ways to make the most of the good weather and bring some fun to your playground. Kids love to splash around in the water when the weather is warm, and there is a range of fun playground water equipment to enjoy, from simple water play pools and tables to magnetic water walls and water ball chutes. You can even bring a bit of the seaside to your playground by introducing a messy play zone with sand pits and mud kitchens.

Summer is also a great time to enjoy climbing. Today, you can add entire climbing zones to your playground, featuring the latest trim trails, climbing frames, rope equipment, traversing walls and play towers. These offer children challenge, excitement and the opportunity to develop some of those essential problem-solving skills. They are also great for improving physical health, agility and resilience.

Team games are much more fun to play during the spring and summer and there are plenty of playground markings you can add to your outdoor area to facilitate these. There are markings for traditional summer sports, like tennis, rounders and cricket, as well as those that children love to play all year, like basketball, soccer and netball. If you don’t have much space, you can get a multicourt: a single court with the markings for three different sports overlaid in different colours. There are also markings for a wide variety of other, more traditional jump and skip games, like hopscotch.

Get the bikes out

It is now possible to take your playground to the next level by installing a cycling route. A roadway marking, for example, complete with roundabouts, junctions and zebra crossings is ideal for youngsters on trikes and can be installed into wetpour surfacing to protect against falls and scrapes. Alternatively, you can create your own cycle route using block paving and this can be landscaped to provide challenge and offer improved aesthetics. Both these options offer endless summer fun for children while helping keep them active and providing them with activities they may not have access to at home.

Conclusion

Spring and summer are the seasons when children get the most from playing outdoors. By installing the right variety of equipment, you can create the ideal environment in which to provide opportunities for fun, socialising, relaxing and physical activity.

For more information, visit our Products page.

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Bringing Maths to the School Playground

Outdoor maths

From EYFS all the way to GCSE, maths is a fixture of the curriculum. However, the way the subject is delivered doesn’t need to be confined to the classroom. There are plenty of opportunities to learn in the playground, both through outdoor lessons and through play. And with the many outdoor curriculum resources now available, bringing maths to the school playground is easier than ever. Here are just some of the ways this can be done.

Learning to count

A child’s maths journey begins by learning to recognize numbers and count. For those at a young age, one of the easiest ways to help them is through play and in the playground, this can be done in a number of ways. For example, there is now a wide range of numeracy-based playground markings that children can play on while familiarising themselves with numbers and using them to count. These include the mathematical number grid, which has numbers 1 – 100 in rows of 10, complete with the add, subtract, divide and multiply symbols, and various hopscotch-style numbered steppers.

Add, subtract, divide and multiply

When it comes to solving basic maths problems, a great outdoor resource is the abacus panel which can be used to help children count, add and subtract. The panel features three rows, for units, tens and hundreds, and has a whiteboard section for calculations, so it can even be used by older children doing more advanced sums.

To add a little fun to outdoor maths lessons, there is also the sum spinner, a mounted board on which children spin wheels to be given random add, subtract, divide and multiply questions.

Telling the time

Telling the time is an essential life skill but one that can be difficult for children to grasp when they have to count minutes and seconds in 60s and hours in 12s and 24s. Then there’s the challenge of having to convert times between traditional analogue clock faces and the numerical times displayed on digital devices.

One outdoor resource that can help with all these matters is a clock board. Each board features a large analogue clock with moveable minute and hour hands, a white background on which to write the hours and a box where the analogue time can be written as a digital number.

Learning shapes

Understanding shapes is essential for the later study of things like geometry and trigonometry and there are a number of ways schools can introduce shapes in the playground. There are shape-focused playground markings, including the Shapes X 5, which features a circle, square, rectangle, triangle and pentagon, and the fun Shapes and Ladders game.

For increased challenge, there are also tangram tables on which children need to organise smaller geometric shapes in the right places to make a perfect square, and soma cubes, which require 3D blocks of different shapes to be arranged into a complete cube. Both these are great for small group work and require quite a lot of problem-solving to achieve the right outcome.

Coordinate fun

Teaching children to understand coordinates can be done in a fun way by playing the traditional battleships game. AT ESP Play, we’ve now brought this to the playground with the introduction of outdoor battleboards. It’s the same game but done on a large gridded and labelled whiteboard where children can mark their own moves and wipe them away when finished.

Once children have got the basics of coordinates, they can then progress to more challenging problems by using the multi-function coordinates/tessellation board. This enables them to do things like plot graphs and positive and negative coordinates; mirror sketch across different axes; and learn about vectors and tessellation.

Playtime practice

One of the advantages of bringing maths to the playground is that children can use the resources during their free time and if they have attractive and tactile resources at hand, they are more inclined to play with them. As a result, they’ll be perfecting their skills while also having fun with their friends. Some of the useful resources they can use include large outdoor dominos, colour-coded giant matchsticks and the brain-teasing colour puzzle table. More traditional maths-related fun can be had with tabletop and magnetic board games, such as ludo, Connect 4 and Snakes and Ladders.

Conclusion

With a little imagination, you can transform maths teaching and reduce your reliance on those boring and repetitive old textbooks by taking the subject outdoors. The playground is full of opportunities for problem-solving and with the right resources, you can make learning maths a more active and enjoyable experience.

For more details, take a look at our range of outdoor maths resources.

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Seating and Shelter Ideas for School Playgrounds

seating and shelter ideas for school

As the most used area in a school, no playground should be without seating and shelter. Today, we are lucky to have a wide choice of playground furniture to choose from, so if you are finding it difficult to make a decision about which pieces are right for your school, here are some suggestions we think you’ll find useful.

Picnic tables for packed lunches

Lots of kids still bring packed lunches, something schools can find quite useful as it takes the pressure off the canteen during the hectic and increasingly short lunch break. Installing external picnic tables can provide additional relief as sandwich eaters choosing to go outside will free up tables inside. The tables can also be used during normal break times for kids to sit together comfortably and socialise – something they can’t do on damp grass.

Available in a variety of shapes and sizes, including those designed for wheelchair access, our sturdy picnic benches don’t require additional seating and will last for many years.

Circle seating for groups

Sitting in a circle not only makes it incredibly easy for everyone to listen in and get involved in group interactions; it’s also very inclusive. By installing circular seating, you can encourage this form of activity and provide groups with a comfortable place to hang out and socialise in the playground.

Our C-shaped log amphitheatres are ideal, as they provide safe and easy access in and out of the circle and leave enough space for wheelchair users to join in. Our collection includes one, two and three-tier amphitheatres, catering for groups large and small. They are also incredibly useful for children to sit on during outdoor lessons, including circle time.

Nature seating

Adding a little bit of greenery to your playground not only makes it look more attractive; it can offer a calming haven to boost wellbeing, something a lot of children need to cope with the busy and demanding school day.

To benefit from that greenery, children really need to be amongst it, which is why it’s a good idea to add planters with built-in seating. With a trellis providing a living wall that divides a space from the rest of the playground, and planters to add colour and scent, the built-in bench gives pupils the ideal place to sit, relax and find some much-needed breathing space. Additionally, if you are lucky enough to have a green area with trees, there are benches available that can be installed around the trunks.

Sheltered seating

Wet breaks are miserable experiences for kids and for the staff who have to patrol them. It’s not just rain that’s unpleasant either, cold or windy break times can be just as dismal. A way to provide protection all year round and give some shade on hot days is to install ESP Play’s octagonal shelters.

These large, wooden constructions with weatherproof roofing, provide shelter for whole class-sized groups of children and come with a range of options, from completely open with just a roof, to those with backrest-high, wind shielding walls and internal seating around the circumference. It is even possible to choose options with decking, whiteboards and chalkboards.

Of course, aside from offering somewhere to avoid the worst of the weather, these shelters also double up as great outdoor classrooms and can even be used for in-the-round music, dance and drama performances.

Feature seating

Playground seating doesn’t need to be merely functional; it can also be a real feature of your outdoor space that adds interest and excitement. Our benches, for example, can be gnarly and crooked, have painted wooden trees attached or, in the case of our sunshine seat, take the shape of a sun and rays, with the rays forming mini seating bays around the outside of the central hexagon.

Feature seating also comes in the form of toadstools and storytelling chairs, while interestingly designed shelters can be found in our range of forest play huts, each kept dry by a roof carpeted in artificial grass. One of these doubles up as a picnic table while another even has doors to close out the wind and rain.

Conclusion

Great outdoor seating and shelters not only provide protection from the elements; they can transform a playground, making it a more child-friendly, sociable and comfortable place to be in and enjoy. At the same time, many of them can be used to deliver outdoor learning. Hopefully, the suggestions mentioned here will give you some inspiration for developing your own playground.

For information about our wide range of playground furniture, visit our seating and shelter pages.

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How to Create a Communal School Playground

Communal school playgrounds

Social interaction is incredibly vital for young people. It helps the development of language and communication; it forges and strengthens interpersonal relationships, and it enables children to acquire the key social skills that they’ll need to rely on for the rest of their lives. As most social interaction happens during free time, creating a communal school playground that facilitates and promotes interaction can be highly beneficial. Not only does it allow children to benefit from social interaction in the future; it caters for their happiness and wellbeing needs today. Here, we look at some of the features you can add to your playground to make it more communal.

A sports zone

By their very nature, team sports involve a great deal of social interaction. There’s the camaraderie within each team, the banter between teams, and taking part requires people to adopt roles, negotiate, communicate and follow a set of rules. In this sense, team sports are of high value when it comes to social interaction and facilitating them should be high on the agenda when creating a communal playground.

There are plenty of choices available for schools when it comes to adding a team sports zone to a playground. For those with larger budgets, there’s always the option of installing artificial grass pitches for sports like football, hockey, tennis, cricket and rugby. A more affordable option is to have playground markings added to your existing surfacing. These are available for sports such as football, netball, basketball, cricket and tennis. For schools with smaller playgrounds, it is even possible to get a multicourt, where the markings for three separate sports are overlaid in different colours, so children can interchange which games they play. Of course, these markings can be embellished with the requisite goals and nets, and there are even multi-form versions of these to go with the multicourt.

A roleplay area

Roleplay is something younger children do naturally. It’s a key part of growing up that helps them discover how the world is through playing characters and acting out scenarios. Through roleplay, children learn about people, relationships, roles, rules and status. It helps them develop social skills and develop problem-solving, communication, empathy and self-confidence. It’s a rich source of essential learning that also has the benefit of being great fun.

Facilitating roleplay can easily be done just by leaving a basket of costume pieces and props to play with. Provide a pram and a doll, for example, and a child will take on the role of a parent and their friends as doctors, shopkeepers, grandparents or other characters. For more thrilling roleplay, our wide range of imaginative play equipment can help take their inventiveness even further. Our collection includes shop kiosks, play trains, playboats, castle-themed climbing towers and much more.

A communal seating area

Hanging out is also important for social interaction. It’s where ideas and opinions are discussed, views exchanged, similarities and differences explored and where relationships bond. All communal playgrounds should have somewhere where children can simply just sit in their friendship groups and chat, even if it’s about nothing more than their favourite band, team or Tik-Tok video.

From circular benches and picnic tables, to play huts and large octagonal shelters, there is plenty of seating equipment now available that’s specifically designed to encourage social interaction in the playground and provide children with comfortable places to sit or eat.

A climbing zone

Whether it’s a play tower, trim tail, rope climbing equipment or a climbing frame, children love to play on them with their friends. They inspire roleplay and present new challenges while requiring children to communicate constantly as they make use of them or try to get from A to B. We often see children in climbing zones helping others get around, giving encouragement and praising success, all key ingredients to making a playground more inclusive and communal.

A games zone

Creating a playground game zone is another way to encourage social interaction and provide entertainment. Playing games together strengthens bonds between children and improves their communication and interpersonal skills.

Playground markings can be installed for traditional hopscotch and skipping type games, and modern tabletop games with built-in seating can be purchased for those that are less inclined to physical activity and are more interested in strategy games, like chess, ludo, snakes and ladders and Connect 4. We also have table games available, like spinning football, puzzles and table tennis.

Conclusion

A communal playground is one in which every member of the school community feels welcome and in which all pupils are given the facilities and encouragement to interact with each other. This type of environment is essential for developing social and interpersonal skills and helps the school be a more harmonious and inclusive place to attend. If you are looking to make your playground more communal, hopefully, the ideas suggested here will help.

For more information, visit our Products page.

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Outdoor PE Solutions for Small Playgrounds

PE solutions for small playgrounds

For many schools, especially primaries with small playgrounds, delivering a broad and balanced outdoor PE curriculum can be a big challenge. Here we look at some of the practical solutions available today that can help you offer a greater choice of sports and training and which are ideal for schools with limited outdoor space.

Reliable foundations

If you have a smaller outdoor space, it is likely that it will need to be used for both PE and general outdoor play. For this reason, you’ll need surfacing that is ideal for many different types of activity, is hardwearing and can be used in all weathers.

There are two modern surfacing solutions that are ideal for this: resin bound gravel and wetpour surfacing. Replacing tarmac and asphalt as the hard surface of choice, resin bound gravel offers improved drainage for all year use and a firmer footing for reduced risk and superior sports performance.

Wetpour surfacing, which is made from recycled rubber, offers a great grip on footwear, too. It is also softer and provides cushioning, making it great for outdoor sports as it reduces the chances of injury should pupils take a tumble during a PE activity. For the same reasons, it’s equally good for general outdoor play, especially around climbing equipment.

For those with additional space, a third alternative is artificial grass. Usable all year round, even when normal grass is too muddy, is easily maintained, without the need for mowing or reseeding, ensuring that whatever the weather, outdoor PE lessons can go ahead.

Pitch, court & trainer markings

The PE curriculum entitles pupils to participate in a broad range of sports, however, what a school can offer is often limited to the types of pitches, courts and equipment they have. Playground markings, which work with resin bound gravel, wetpour and older types of hard surfaces, are an inexpensive way of providing a wide variety of outdoor pitches and courts, for sports such as football, netball, basketball, rounders, tennis and cricket. For those schools short of outdoor space, it is even possible to create a multi-sports court that provides the markings for three different sports on the same pitch, each in different colours.

Additionally, there are also a wide variety of training markings available, designed to help pupils improve skills, including balance, endurance, coordination, footwork, hurdles and ball skills.

Add the right sports equipment

Of course, surfacing and markings won’t provide all the resources you need for outdoor PE. So, it is important to consider the additional equipment that can embellish these and expand your provision. The latest sports equipment lets you add high-quality, space saving football and hockey goals and basketball and netball hoops to your pitch markings. For those with space shortages, there are even multi-sports versions that combine goals and hoops into a single piece of equipment that can be kept outdoors for use in football, hockey, netball and basketball – you can even let children make use of these during playtimes.

As for training, there is also equipment like ball walls for football, tennis and cricket, and for accuracy training, there are ball catches and wall targets.

Create an outdoor gym

Aside from teaching pupils about different sports, another key purpose of PE is to give pupils the opportunity to stay fit and healthy. For those with limited indoor space, it is now possible to create an outdoor gym in the playground.

What’s great about the AllGo+ Gym is that it relies only on body weight, so there are no heavy weights that can cause injury. This makes it ideal for use in schools where it can help with physical fitness sessions, like circuit training. Equipment included in the AllGo+ Gym includes press up bars, monkey bars, circle steps, flat and inclined sit-up benches, leg raisers, step-up stations and fast feet floor markings. Additionally, each piece comes with its own instruction post and health and safety advice.

Conclusion

If you are stuck for space to deliver your outdoor PE, there are now solutions there to help you. From establishing a safe surface that can be used in all weathers to space-saving multi-sports markings, built-in outdoor goals, nets and training equipment and even outdoor, body weight only gyms, there’s everything you need to enhance and expand your provision and to offer pupils a wider range of activities to participate in during their free time.

If you are looking to update your outdoor PE provision, take a look at our wide selection of surfacing, sports markings, gym and sports equipment.

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