How to Make School Playgrounds Safer

Make School Playgrounds Safer

Kids will be kids and accidents happen - while there’s truth in these old sayings, it doesn’t mean a school can’t make a playground safer and minimise the risk of accident or injury. In this post, we look at a number of effective things schools can do to increase outdoor safety.

Reduce bullying by ending boredom

Bullying and the occasional fights that result because of it, is most likely to happen in the playground where supervision is limited and children are free to move around. According to a study commissioned by the Royal Bank of Scotland, there is a direct correlation between incidents of bullying and children having nothing to do during breaktimes. Upgrading a playground to provide greater opportunity for engaging play can have a dramatic impact. The Landscapes for Learning charity reported that schools that made improvements to outdoor facilities, like installing exciting, modern climbing frames, reduced bullying by almost 65% and saw vandalism fall by more than a quarter.

Manage space to minimise accidents

Poor use of space creates the potential for one playground activity to clash with another and cause unnecessary accidents. It's easy for a child chasing after a football, for example, to crash into someone playing with a skipping rope nearby. There are numerous other places where this can happen. The way to minimise the risk of accident and injury is to design the playground so that it has separate activity zones.

Placing physical activities involving climbing and running away from each other prevents those taking part from getting in each other’s way. Additionally, landscaping, fencing and pathways can be used to demarcate the zones and if needed, physically prevent children from getting from one zone to another unless via a safe, designated route that is out of harm’s way. You can even do this to keep older children away from younger ones. Stuck for what you can achieve with playground design? Visit our inspiration page.  

Playground essentials that prevent rulebreaking

While all schools and nurseries have playground rules designed to prevent people from getting hurt, sometimes the playground lacks facilities that encourage children to follow those rules. Steps, walls and windowsills, for example, are comfortable places to sit outdoors, so even if a school bans this on safety grounds, it is no surprise that some children will try to sit there, day after day, if there is nowhere else to go. And if there are no picnic tables or bins, children will eat where they can and leave litter that can be hazardous and attract vermin.

With adequate facilities installed, the children are less inclined to sit and eat where they shouldn’t or leave the place untidy. There is a wide range of playground seating available today, from simple benches and picnic tables to elaborate octagonal shelters, and it’s reasonably priced and long lasting too.

Safe playground surfacing

A lot of playground accidents occur because of issues with worn or unsuitable playground surfaces. Worn asphalt or tarmac can develop potholes or have loose stones that increase the risk of someone tripping up or falling; concrete flags used on many school pathways can easily suffer from treacherous black ice in winter, hard surfaces under climbing frames increase the potential for injury if someone falls; and grassy banks that look idyllic in the summer sunshine become slippery quagmires in the rain.

Thankfully, playground surfacing has advanced significantly in recent times and many of the risks associated with asphalt, tarmac and concrete can be eradicated. Resin-bound gravel is a superior, hard surface alternative as the resin reduces the potential for erosion or potholes. Meanwhile, block paving is less slippery in icy conditions, rubber mulch and wetpour provide cushioning to lessen the risk of injury from falling, and grass matting or artificial grass ensure green areas don’t become a hazardous mud bath.

Keep equipment in tip top condition

If you have playground equipment, keeping it in good condition and making sure it is in proper working order is essential to ensure that it is safe to play on. Outdoor play equipment naturally gets heavy use and, over time, will need some maintenance to keep it up to standard and to prolong its longevity.

To ensure your playground equipment complies with BS EN1176 and remains fit for purpose, you should check it regularly and have an annual playground inspection by a qualified RPII inspector. ESP Play provides an RPII playground inspection service.

Conclusion

Keeping children safe is the first priority for schools and this includes minimising the risk of bullying or injuries in the playground. Hopefully, from reading this article, you’ll have a better understanding of how this can be achieved.

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How to Create a Stimulating EYFS Playground

Stimulating EYFS Playground

As EYFS children learn through play, the playground is just as valuable a learning environment as the classroom. This means that to facilitate good learning experiences, it is important to create a stimulating outdoor area where education and personal development can thrive. For inspiration, this post will examine some of the things EYFS providers can do to make their playgrounds more inspiring.

Providing the right resources

Just like in the classroom, making your playground a great place to learn means providing your pupils with the right resources for their needs. While fulfilling the requirements of the EYFS curriculum is a key part of this, so is taking into account the abilities and interests of your own pupils. When upgrading a playground, it is always helpful to seek the opinions of your children and their parents to see what kind of equipment they would like to have. Getting parents on board can also be very useful for helping with fundraising.

For EYFS children, the right resources could include a wide range of different things. Play towers, for example, are great for developing both physical skills through climbing and motivating children to participate in adventurous role play activities. Sensory development can be encouraged by the introduction of magnetic water walls, sand boxes, outdoor percussion instruments or wobbly mirrors. Messy play, whether with mud kitchens, sandpits or water tables, is great fun and motivates creative and tactile skills.

At such a young age, it is important to stimulate children’s imagination and inquisitiveness, and there is a lot of equipment to help them achieve this. Indeed, at ESP Play, we have curated our own collection of imaginary playground equipment that includes pieces such as play huts, hollow logs, shop kiosks, bridges, climb-on boats, sit-on trains and more.

An organised space that invites and challenges

An effective EYFS playground needs to be well organised, inviting and provide children with challenge.

Good organisation is important to ensure safety and to provide learning experiences that can move seamlessly in and out of the classroom. Achieving this comes down to great design, something we have years of experience of at ESP Play. We have a free playground design service and our design team are happy to work with you to create a well organised outdoor space featuring a range of activity zones that are perfectly suited to your needs.

To make an outdoor play space inviting, it has to appeal to its intended audience. Though EYFS children are naturally attracted to brightly coloured and quirky equipment, it is essential that what’s there is age-appropriate and suited to the interests of your children. It’s another reason to collaborate closely with the children and their parents so that what you install is sure to be a winner.

Challenge is important to help children make progress and something that Ofsted inspectors will be looking for when they visit. Challenge comes in many forms, whether it involves physical activity, like mastering an EYFS climbing wall or Trim Trails obstacle course, developing coordination and road safety while triking around a playground roadway, or sitting in the storytelling chair to tell their friends a story. All these pieces, and more, can help children overcome fears, develop new skills and achieve new heights.

Inspiring confidence and independence

One of the chief aims of EYFS is to prepare children for school and part of this is helping them to become more self-confident and independent so they can do things for themselves. Our Early Years Trim Trails are an excellent resource for this. Specially designed for youngsters, these obstacle courses provide challenges that, when met, increase confidence and inspire children to be more independent. What’s more, as some of the obstacles take time to overcome, children naturally develop resilience as they attempt to master them. The best thing of course is that with balance beams, jungle bars, wobbly bridges and rope traversing options, these courses are great fun to play on.

Healthy options

EYFS playgrounds also need to motivate children to take part in physical activity in order to develop strength, agility and coordination and to improve general health. Stimulation, in this case, involves providing resources that make children active.

Strength can be improved through installing climbing and swinging apparatus, for example, traversing walls and jungle bars. For developing agility and coordination, there are numerous game-based playground markings suitable for EYFS children that are ideal for the purpose. These include agility ladders, steppers, and twisty lines. There are also many playground markings that combine coordination activities with basic numeracy and literacy skills, such as phonic spots, number arches and alphabet targets.

For more cardiovascular activities, you can also provide equipment like hurdles markings and pitch/court markings for football, netball, rounders and various other sports.

Conclusion

A stimulating EYFS playground is one where young children are motivated to get outside and participate. Designed correctly, you can inspire children to do things that help them learn, personally develop and stay fit and healthy through having fun.

For more ideas of how to make your EYFS playground more stimulating, visit our products page.

 

 

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Flat on Inspiration? Why Landscaping is the New Playground Trend

school playground landscaping

Traditionally, playgrounds have always been flat. Indeed, natural undulations were often levelled out to make them flat. Today, however, research tells us that adding mounds, ramps and other raised features brings both educational and play benefits while improving the overall aesthetic of the playground. Here we look at why landscaping has become the new trend in playground design.

New dimensions, new challenges

Landscaped playgrounds are intrinsically more interesting for children to explore and bring a whole new dynamic to play and outdoor learning. Mounds, for example, are features that demand to be climbed and conquered, to roll down, to chase friends around, to stand on top of and view the landscape from a different perspective. In this sense, they are rich in play and development opportunities and provide valuable new challenges for children.

Adding a vertical dimension provides enhanced physical play that, through moving uphill and downhill and manoeuvring around landscaped contours, helps speed up the development of important gross motor skills and coordination, while improving overall strength and fitness.

Kinaestheic skills

Research has shown that the new activities which raised landscaping provides, such as climbing, jumping and rolling, helps with the development of kinaesthesia, the body's ability to sense action, movement and location. Often considered a sixth sense, it is these skills that allow people to move without thinking about the next step – we develop the ability to understand where our bodies are in relation to the things around us and know the next movement.

The ups and downs of problem-solving

As adults, we probably don’t think too much about negotiating a climb, but if you are a child, playground mounds, bridges, ramps and climbing equipment throw up a number of intriguing problems that need to be solved. How many ways can they get to the top and down again? Which are the best ways? How physically demanding will it be? Have they the strength to get up? What’s the safest way to go?

Of course, by giving it a go and playing on these features, they are able to answer those questions, solve those problems and transfer what they have learnt to help them tackle other challenges. At the same time, children are given new chances to assess, manage and take risks.

An island of opportunity

In a sea of busy play, the peak of a playground knoll can also become an island of retreat; one where older children, especially, like to enjoy the vantage point to chat with their friends and watch what others do in the playground.

Risen platforms can also become so much else, providing endless role play and other opportunities: a desert island for pirates and buried treasure, the home of a giant, a strange new planet, the back of a whale. What’s more, when you build bridges to them or put tunnels under them, there is even more potential for creative play.

Defining the space

Raised mounds also have practical uses that can help make the playground safer. They can be used to separate different play zones, particularly when you don’t want the activities in one zone to interfere with what’s going on in another. Even if the raised area is only low, it can stop children from spilling over, direct them to a safer route and prevent things like footballs from going astray. A gentle rise in level is also great for slowing down traffic in busy areas, reducing the risk of children colliding.

A more inviting environment

There is nothing inviting or inspiring about a flat playground surfaced with grey asphalt. Today, there is a wider range of surfacing types to choose from, including rubber mulch, wetpour, resin-bound gravel, block paving and artificial grass. And the spectrum of colours these come in enable schools and nurseries to create vibrant and exciting places to play and learn.

With landscaping, this can now be achieved in 3D, whether that’s the addition of an artificially grassed knoll or a brightly coloured, wetpour mound as part of the overall design.

Conclusion

Landscaping your school playground by introducing raised areas and equipment, enhances the entire topography. It brings new features that add to the aesthetic and make the space more fun to explore. This inspires children to participate in a wider range of play and develop new skills more quickly. Additionally, raised areas can be used to enhance safety and to create quiet zones where children can sit together with interesting views of what’s going on in the rest of the playground.

If you are considering redesigning your school playground, why not take advantage of ESP Play’s free playground design service?

 

 

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How Outdoor Play Helps Overcome Pandemic Disruption

How Outdoor Play Helps Overcome Pandemic Disruption

As schools across the UK look for ways to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on learning and academic progress, there have been calls to lengthen school days, offer summer schools and implement a wide range of catch-up classes. While no doubt there is a lot of intervention being planned, school leaders should also consider the role of the playground in addressing some of the key learning skills that may have regressed over the last 18 months. Here, we look at how this can be addressed through outdoor play.

Cooperative learning

With long periods of isolation and social distancing, the opportunities for children to collaborate will have been few and far between over the last 18 months. With paired and group work being important elements of modern classroom practice, children need these skills to learn more effectively, especially when trying to catch up on missed work and reach the attainment targets that they are capable of.

Helping children relearn their rusty collaboration skills can be achieved in the playground with fun equipment that requires them to work together. A Trim Trails obstacle course, for example, is perfectly designed to challenge small teams of children to complete. Getting from start to finish requires them to work together to find the best route and help each other navigate different obstacles.

Personal effectiveness

Personal effectiveness covers a range of skills that pupils need to manage their workloads and learning, for example, setting themselves targets and goals, segmenting larger projects into manageable chunks and developing resilience and determination.

The playground provides many opportunities for children to hone these skills through play. Free Flow climbing frames, for instance, have a succession of different challenges for children to overcome to complete a circuit. Pupils can set themselves goals about which routes to take, so they can up the challenge over time; they will need to manage their route through the circuit by breaking it down into the individual obstacles, and with occasional failures cropping up, they’ll need resilience to get the job finished. All these skills, of course, are transferable.

Creativity

Sitting at the very apex of Bloom’s Taxonomy, developing a child’s creative skills is key to helping them achieve the highest levels of learning. Facilitating creativity is often best achieved when giving children the freedom to produce something new. The time when children have the most freedom to be creative is during break times when they are outdoors.

Creativity can be encouraged and fostered by providing pupils with the right outdoor resources. These include resources for art and design, whether that’s to get children painting and drawing, sandcastle building or sticking and gluing twigs and leaves to make nature art. Inspiration can also come in the guise of outdoor percussion instruments, which need little in the way of skill but provide endless ways to create unique rhythms and beats, often through working together with a small ensemble.

Communication skills

Person to person communication is vital to successful learning but children have had little opportunity to develop these skills throughout the pandemic. Refreshing and enhancing skills such as turn-taking, listening, questioning, negotiating and presenting, has to be a priority for schools over the next few years. For younger children, especially, the chance to do so comes from the much-loved playground activity of role play, where pupils can invent a multitude of different situations and take on the role of real and imagined characters.

Role play comes naturally to children; however, they prefer to do it in the freedom of the playground where they aren’t being watched by teachers. At the same time, the amount of role play that takes place and the quality of the interactions that children improvise depends to a great extent on the facilities and resources on hand. Providing props and settings that inspire role play and which help children take their imaginations to different places and situations is important to make the most of these opportunities for developing communication skills. With a wide range of inspirational role play playground equipment now available, including shop kiosks, stages, storytelling chairs, play huts, bridges, carriages, trains and boats, there are plenty of ways to create the perfect role play zone in any playground.

Conclusion

Schools are under intense pressure to help pupils recover from the disruption of the pandemic. Of key importance here, is the need to address any regression in the learning skills that are so important to progress and achievement. While interventions can be implemented in the classroom, school leaders should not underestimate the valuable role that outdoor play can help in mitigating the impact of school absence on learning. With the right playground equipment and ample time to play, there is real potential to gain lost ground quickly.

For more information, visit our Products page.

 

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5 Outdoor Imaginative Play Ideas For EYFS

EYFS Imaginative play equipment

The ability of imaginative play to support children’s cognitive development makes it an essential ingredient of EYFS. It enables children to explore, discover and make connections and helps them develop critical language and thinking skills. The great news for EYFS teachers is that there are many great ways to introduce imaginative play into the playground. Here we’ll look at five of the best.

The playground is the perfect environment for imaginative play. Outdoors, children are allowed to run, climb, make noise, get messy, put their hands on things and get stuck in. And with more space and fewer restrictions, they are freer to unleash their imaginations and benefit more from their play. This is especially true when there is a variety of imaginative play options for them to choose from. Hopefully, the ones we mention below will give you an idea of how to create a more imaginative environment for your EYFS pupils.

1. A world of pretend

Young children love roleplay and pretend play and they are naturally inclined to get involved. Here, they’ll use their imaginations to invent new worlds, play different characters and act out endless scenarios, all of which help them to understand the world they live in. They’ll explore situations, feelings and relationships, discover new ways to interact, finding out more about themselves as they do so.

The best way to encourage roleplay and pretend play is to provide a range of opportunities for children to imagine being someone, something or somewhere else. The easiest way is to provide improvisation stimuli, like props and costumes. However, you can take this to a completely new level by introducing imaginative play products like pirate ships, wigwams, bridges, tunnels, play huts and trains. Outdoor play equipment of this kind can transport children’s imaginations to a world of new experiences while speeding up their cognitive development.

2. Action adventure

While there is purpose-built apparatus to stimulate pretend play, feedback from our customers has shown that a lot of our active play equipment is also used for imaginative play. As a result, we’ve incorporated some imaginative elements into our active play equipment. Our Tangled, rope playing equipment, for example, is inspired by giant spiders and spiders’ webs, our castle play towers are inspired by medieval castles and our Wild Wood collection has seen new additions that incorporate tree and leaf designs and wobbly seats.

3. Glorious mud

Okay, real mud might be a bit too messy for EYFS environments, but messy play, in general, is excellent for developing imaginations. It’s fun, it's tangible, it's hands-on and it's great for developing sensory perception, problem-solving and decision-making skills. From traditional activities like sandpits and mud kitchens to more modern innovations, like magnetic water walls and splash trays, there are opportunities to learn about physical properties, make decisions about how to make things and solve problems when those sandcastles don’t turn out just right.

4. Sound and music

Imaginative play that involves sound and music is great for developing sensory skills, helping children to differentiate different sounds and patterns. There are lots of ways you can introduce sound making into the playground: tins and plastic containers partially filled with rice or dried peas, bendy tubes that whistle when you whirl them, gongs, cymbals and bells, speaking cones made from rolled-up sheets of paper and so forth.

Alternatively, you can install outdoor musical instruments specially designed for heavy use in EYFS playgrounds. Purpose-built to inspire the imaginations of young ones, they include drainpipe drums and drum tables, xylophones, washboards and chimes. Together, they provide a range of different percussion instruments which, as they don’t need specific musical skills to play, enable children to explore sound and music independently, with friends or in teacher-led activities.

5. Fantasy and fiction

Nothing opens up young imaginations more than listening to a good story – whether it's read to them by a teacher or told to them by a classmate. It takes their minds to places they have never previously imagined and in doing so, expands their own imaginations and helps them create stories of their own.

How do you create the perfect storytelling environment? At ESP, we’ve come up with a solution that we think is the perfect fantasy setting for listening to fiction: a circle of toadstool designed chairs with a large, wooden fairy tale inspired storytelling chair taking centre stage. Gathering around to listen will be like stepping into a magic world. And, of course, anyone can take that seat and tell their wonderful stories.

Conclusion

EYFS children learn through play and imaginative play is one of the best ways to develop those all-important cognitive skills. To facilitate this effectively, schools and nurseries need to provide resources and equipment that encourage children to take part and inspire them to fire up their imaginations. Hopefully, the suggestions we have made here will give you ideas for your own playground.

For more information and to see our range of products, visit our Imaginative Play page.

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