4 Key Ways Schools Can Use Their Playground to Teach Maths

If you’re looking for exciting ways to teach maths, your school playground is the ideal resource. Outside, pupils have the opportunity to discover numbers, patterns, shapes, sizes, angles, volumes and distances. And, as we’ll show you in this post, there are some fabulous practical activities you can do that will enhance classroom learning and develop skills.

The other advantage of teaching maths outdoors is that it gives children the space and freedom to explore their understanding of key concepts, and this, in turn, inspires and motivates them to make progress. By applying skills in a practical way, you can show children that what they learn in the classroom has relevance in the real world.

So, here are the ways you can use your playground to teach maths outdoors.

social seating

Mathematical Games

Playground markings can be an exceptionally useful resource to help children learn a variety of maths skills through playing games, and some markings are designed with exactly this in mind. By using movement and repetition, children are able to explore numbers, sequences and patterns and remember them better too.  

Traditional playground games, like hopscotch, or giant snakes and ladders, for example, can help young pupils familiarise themselves with basic numbers in easy, practical and fun ways. Target games, where children score points by hitting a target with a ball or bean bag can be used to help with addition.

Playground markings are also ideal for developing your own mathematical games to use in lessons. Take a numbered stepper, for example, and add a dice, and it can be a fun way to practice addition and subtraction. Rather than having to work out the numbers in their heads or using fingers, children can learn by counting the steps they take.  

Another interesting activity can be done simply with a long rope or washing line. Using large groups of pupils, you can ask them to make a range of different shapes. How many children do you need to make an octagon? How many for a rectangle? Can you make a 3d shape? Is it possible to make a circle?

Water & Sand Experiments

Once you have established the best type of playground surfacing for your needs, the next stage of the process is to look at the type of sports your PE curriculum covers. If possible, you should try and dovetail this to match the kinds of sports your pupils will to want to play during breaktimes. Finding common ground here, will enable you to provide facilities which children will get the most benefit from.

After making your decision, you can then select the necessary playground markings to have installed. There is a wide variety to choose from and they are all suitable for the surfaces mentioned above and can also be installed on your existing hard surfaced playground. Here at ESP Play, we can provide the markings for football, futsal (five-a-side football), netball, rounders, basketball, tennis and cricket. For those particularly short of space, it is possible to create a multi-sports area by overlaying markings for different sports using different colours.

These markings enable PE staff to teach these sports whilst letting children have the fun of playing them during break times.

Take advantage of nature

Whether you have a natural nature area or have a range of outdoor nature equipment installed in your playground, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to take advantage of it for developing your pupils’ maths skills.

One of the things that nature is excellent for is surveys. How many insects of different types can you discover in a bug house? Which areas of the playground collect the most volume of leaves, acorns or sycamore seeds? These activities can be used for learning counting, measuring, frequency and other skills. For example, if you measure by how much a bird feeder gets emptier each day, you can ask the children to work out how many bird feeders will be needed for the next term.

You can also use nature to study patterns, shapes and sizes. Children can do this by collecting leaves, seeds and flowers. They can look at similarities and differences to make Venn diagrams.

If you include outdoor maths activities over a longer period, you can examine how things change over time. How much does a plant grow each week? How much rain falls each day in a half term? How long does it take for all the leaves to fall off different tree types during autumn? Not only will these require the pupils to use counting and comparing skills, they’ll also need to come up with effective ways to record and calculate their findings.

Maths with thrills

If you have a range of active outdoor play equipment installed in your playground, you can take your maths learning to a completely new level. For example, if you have Trim Trails, you can record the time it takes for pupils to complete the obstacle course. From this, you can do more complicated analysis. Can pupils link the height or age of a person to how fast they complete the course? What are the mean, median and mode times? Can pupils work out the speed from the times?    

You can invent similar activities for traversing a climbing wall or coming down a play tower slide. All these activities are great fun to do and involve quite a lot of detailed and even complicated calculation.


Playgrounds offer the ideal environment in which to give pupils the chance to learn maths in practical, active and enjoyable ways. There are many resources you can use, those that are a natural part of your outdoor space, installed playground equipment or even specialised, outdoor maths curriculum resources. If you need assistance in finding the right resources, give us a call on 01282 43 44 45.


How to Create a Forest School Style Environment in Your Playground

Forest schools are highly regarded centres that inspire pupils to develop confidence and self-esteem through hands-on learning in a natural environment. Whilst many schools use these centres for one-off day trips, the benefits are limited because of the infrequency of visits and because only a small number of pupils get to go.

The ideal situation would be to have a suitable ‘natural environment’ area on your school premises where all children could have access to nature all year round. This way, everyone can take part and the benefits can be sustained.

Whilst some schools are lucky enough to have such an area within their grounds, many do not. However, this does not mean you cannot go some way to creating a natural environment. In this post, we’ll explain how this can be achieved.

Identifying an Area

playground seating

The first thing you need to do is identify the part of your school premises which you want to use for your forest school nature area. Ideally, it will be a place which has the following qualities:

  • It is naturally grassed. (There are ways around this if needed.)
  • It can be sectioned off from the playground and reserved for special use.
  • It gets sunlight.
  • It has sufficient space for your needs. (How many children will you want to have access at any one time?)
  • If it already has established trees, even better.

Getting The Right Groundworks

The best ground on which to create a natural environment is one which has soil and grass. This way you have the right environment for planting and for attracting the fauna that lives in the soil and grass.

If this is lacking, there are two alternatives. You can create raised beds on top of hard surfacing which can then be turfed over, or you can use a different type of playground surfacing, such as rubber mulch, in combination with a series of planters

Installing Trees

For a real forest school environment, you should plant trees in your nature area. Trees encourage a much wider ecosystem to develop, they create shading and they make the area look far more natural rather than simply garden-like.

If you have a naturally grassy area, it may be possible to plant trees directly into the ground. However, this may be impractical if the roots are likely to cause problems with building works or if you are using raised beds. However, this does not mean you cannot have them.

Many trees will grow perfectly well and to a reasonable, manageable size in large, deep planters or pots. Doing this also enables you to install a range of different trees, such as a mix of conifers and deciduous trees. You may even want to plant trees which blossom in the spring or which fruit in late summer.

Encouraging Wildlife

One of the benefits of creating a forest school environment is enabling children to observe and learn about nature in its natural environment. To do this, you need to encourage wildlife to move into the area.

This can be achieved easily with a few simple pieces of equipment. For example, our insect habitats, ladybird towers, bird tables and butterfly boxes are great for encouraging birds and insects to your area. Add a small, shallow pond for frogs and newts and you are on your way.

Hide The School Walls

To create the impression that your forest school nature area is a little more secluded and away from the school building, you can install planters with trellises. These will enable you to plant climbers, tall shrubs or bushes that can create a green, living boundary that shields your area from the rest of the school.

When this is done, children visiting the nature area will really feel like they are leaving the school and entering a natural environment. This will enable them to feel more relaxed and better inclined to undertake the outdoor learning tasks you have prepared for them.

Add Some Plants

With lots of different planters to choose from, it is possible to plant a wide range of flora in your nature area. However, if you are trying to recreate a forest school environment, ideally, you should grow plants which are found within woodland areas: ferns, bluebells, wild garlic, nettles, primroses and foxgloves, for example.

Planting a range of flowers that bloom throughout the year can ensure there is always some colour in your area. You can also plant fruiting plants such as brambles. Adding a few old logs will also encourage interesting looking fungi to move in.

Equipping Your Forest School Area

To help children learn in your nature area, there is a range of equipment you can use. For example, you can install nature boards to help them identify different types of plants and wildlife or, for more detailed examination, you can also use an investigation table or a discovery planter.

Learning through play should also be encouraged and there is plenty of den making equipment you can use, together with hollow logs and crooked benches. At ESP Play we have an entire range of Wild Wood equipment, inspired by nature, which may be the ideal complement to your forest school.


Giving children access to a natural environment can benefit them in many ways, including improving their learning skills and social and emotional well-being. For most schools, providing children with such an environment is something that happens only occasionally, on school trips. However, from reading this article, you should have some idea how you can provide it for all children, all year round, even if your school lacks its own natural space.

If you are considering creating a forest school style nature area at your school, call us on 01282 43 44 45 and we’ll be happy to discuss how we can help.


How to Encourage Free Play Through Playground Design

Free play is a fundamental part of child development, enabling children to learn a range of important skills whilst broadening their understanding of the world in which they live.

For schools and EYFS providers, one of your key tasks is to equip your playground with resources that give pupils all the motivation and opportunity they need to indulge themselves in free play.

In this post, we’ll look at the best way to go this for your outdoor environment.

Designing your outdoor free play environment

When creating your free play area, there are a number of things to consider: it’s got to be safe, it has to give children a range of stimulating activities, and it needs to offer opportunities for developing social, thinking, creative and physical skills. The best way to achieve this is to design your playground so that it is made up of different zones.

Establishing zones enables you to have control over what activities take place in different areas of your outdoor space. This is great for making things safe and for establishing microenvironments that can function well without being impinged upon by what happens in the near vicinity. For example, you don’t want children coming down a slide to be hit by a ball, or a noisy activity disrupting something which requires quiet concentration.

Another added benefit of creating zones in this way is that they require less adult intervention. When you place your zones in the right places, free play can go on, uninterrupted, without teachers or staff members continually having to warn children about potential safety hazards.

It is possible to create a wide variety of different zones. Whilst available space and budget will influence what you choose, the biggest factor will be the age, interests and needs of the children you teach. Here are some examples of different zones you may want to consider.

1. Physical activity zones

climbing frames

An active play zone is great for encouraging kids to play together and is a fun way for them to get physical exercise and develop physical skills. There is a wide variety of equipment which can be used to create this area including play towers which have rope climbing nets, swinging bridges and slides; wooden balance equipment; trim trail obstacle course equipment; and climbing walls. There is also a range of playground markings such as hopscotch and steppers.  

If you have more space, you can install mini roadways, complete with road signs, zebra crossings and bridges for children to drive their ride-on toys or trikes around. Alternatively, there’s sports equipment like football and netball pitches.


2. Imaginative and creative zones

Younger children love imaginative play and it’s vital for their social and cognitive development that they get the opportunity. There is a huge selection of imaginary playground equipment for you to choose from which will encourage them to go off on the most unbelievable role play adventures. These include logs to crawls through, magical distorting mirrors, shop kiosks, play huts, bridges, wigwams, sit on wooden trains, and much more. All you need to add is a basket of costumes and props and they’ll be transported to their imaginary world in a flash.

If you are wanting to develop a more artistically creative zone, there are also panels and tables specially designed for painting, drawing and mark making as well a whole selection of fun outdoor musical instruments, such as chimes, drainpipe drums, xylophones and washboards.

3. Wet and mucky zones

Childhood wouldn’t be childhood without water, sand and mud pies. They’re key ingredients for having fun and developing sensory skills at the same time. With everything from sand pits, mud kitchens, and water and sand play equipment to choose from, there’s nothing to stop you creating what is sure to be one of the children’s favourite places to play.

4. Nature zones

Nature zones offer young children three things: somewhere to learn about and appreciate nature; the ability to take part in a spot of gardening; and somewhere quiet to escape the noisiness of the other zones.

You can help foster an appreciation of nature by growing plants and by encouraging birds and insects to visit the zone. There is a range of planters and trellises which can be used to grow plants and there are also butterfly boxes, insect habitats, ladybird towers and bird tables available to install. Fence off the zone to protect it when it’s not in use and you could soon see your own mini nature reserve in your school or nursery playground.

Of course, there’s nothing to stop you getting the children to participate in the gardening by planting flowers, herbs and vegetables in the growing boxes, digging pits and herb planters. You can even put up a range of interchangeable nature boards to help them identify different flora and fauna that they might see or grow.

By setting your nature zone some distance from the noisier zones, not only do you encourage birds and insects to visit your nature zone, but you also create the calm atmosphere these areas need. Its’ the perfect place to tell stories, sit and chat in the sunshine or even have lunch – picnic tables and seats that look like mushrooms are available. Check out our full range of nature equipment.  

Other ideas

Of course, you don’t have to create the zones we suggest, the beauty of outdoor playground equipment is that you can create the zones you think will work best for your pupils. Other things which you may find useful include den making equipment which can be great at helping children learn to work together in small teams, and covered areas, such as shelters, canopies and pergolas, which enable outdoor play when it’s raining.

Playground surfacing

With all this activity going on, the one thing you shouldn’t overlook is the playground surfacing. Different zones are often best served by different surfaces. For example, you may want your nature zone lawned with natural grass but want your active zone to have a cushioned surface to protect from scrapes and falls. There’s also artificial grass, rubber mulching, wet pour surfacing, resin bound gravel, grass matting and block paving available. There is a surface to suit every type of zone.


Outdoor free play environments give children every opportunity they need to learn while they play. Hopefully, this post will have shown you that through the creation of different zones you can empower you children in ways that are safe, motivate participation and stimulate learning. For more information about our range of school playground equipment, visit our products page or call us on 01282 43 44 45.


7 Great Ideas for Taking Your Maths Lessons Outdoors

Whilst many maths teachers would love to get their pupils out of the stuffy classroom and away from the exercise books, a lack of suitable resources can make outdoor maths seem impractical. Thankfully, that no longer needs to be the case. In this post, we’ll look at a range of outdoor maths resources to help you create exciting maths lessons with a touch of active learning thrown in for good measure.    

1. Counting the world around you

Ideal for individual and small group work, our abacus panel is a great outdoor maths resource for helping children add and subtract things they can spot in and around the school playground.

It’s three counting rows enable students to work with hundreds, tens and units, so it’s an effective tool to help them carry out some quite complex calculations. The abacus panel even has ‘white board’ areas where working out can be done.

For more challenging calculations involving multiplication and division, our sum spinner provides a fun way for pupils to generate random maths questions.

The panels for both the abacus and sum spinner can be taken down when not needed and kept in safe storage.







2. Telling the time

 Our clock boards are an ideal resource for taking time skills lessons out of doors. Each board comes with moveable hands and a blank face which the children can fill in themselves. There’s also a handy box to convert analogue time into digital time in either a 12 hour or 24-hour format.

Again, this is ideal for paired or small group tasks and the board can be easily taken down and stored in a safe place when not being used.

3. 2D and 3D shapes

Learning about shapes is an essential part of the maths curriculum but seldom do children get to explore and work with them on a larger scale.

Our tangram table and Soma cubes provide an engaging way to do this during an outdoor maths lesson by providing 2D and 3D dissection puzzles.

The tangram table is a puzzle consisting of seven flat shapes which need to be put together to form other shapes. It’s a stimulating way to help children understand the relationships between 2D shapes.

For more complex 2D shape work, we also have a range of tessellation boards which can be used in an outdoor space.

The Soma cube, which has its origins in quantum mechanics, takes shape learning to another dimension. It enables children to explore 3D shapes by requiring them to figure out how to assemble its seven pieces into a 3×3×3 cube. It can also be used to make a variety of other 3D shapes.

4. Finding your bearings

One area of maths that can be really good fun to learn is coordinates. For those learning the basic ‘along the corridor, up the stairs’ rule, our outdoor battleboards enable games like battleships to be played on a large scale and enjoyed by children working in pairs or small groups.

For more advanced work, our multi-function coordinates/tessellation board lets students engage with a wide range of maths skills: plotting co-ordinates (in both positive and negative value spaces), mirror sketching across axes, vectors, tessellating shapes, plotting graphs, drawing shapes and creating angles.


5. Get them climbing the walls

‘Kids climbing the walls’ is a phrase usually associated with a disruptive classroom, however, with our outdoor Maths Traversing Wall, it’s a sign that active learning is in full swing.

The aim, of course, is for pupils to traverse from one side to the other. However, it is possible to label and colour code the specially designed foot and hand holds so that mathematical problems need to be solved to complete the challenge.

For example, children can be asked to use only odd or even numbers as they cross. If working in teams, they may be given a series of questions, the answers to which correspond with the foot and hand holds they need to use. Alternatively, if you are looking to develop mental maths calculation speed, why not use the board to teach times tables and give a prize to the pupil who completes the wall in the quickest time?

The Maths Traversing Wall is a fun and exciting way to for pupils to tackle an almost unlimited number of mathematical problems. It also gives children something to play on during break times.

6. Discovering symmetry

If you are teaching symmetry, our symmetry board has everything you need to explore the shapes of objects pupils find in your outdoor spaces.

With its built-in mirror and angled lines, it’s ideal for experimenting with symmetrical lines, examining angles of reflection and looking at how mirrors create the illusion of symmetry.

7. Learning through play

One of the joys of teaching maths outdoors is that you have much more space to use. This allows you to use larger, more tactile resources that are much more enjoyable for pupils to learn with.

For example, there are some great games you can use outdoors to help develop a range of core maths skills: these include, giant outdoor dominos, colour coded giant matchsticks and our intriguing colour puzzle table.

For younger children, there are also some tabletop and magnetic board games that help with counting, such as Connect 4, Ludo and Snakes and Ladders.


Maths often gets a bad reputation for being a subject in which pupils do little more than answer exercises from a book. Thankfully, with these great outdoor resources, you can find more interesting and engaging ways to develop those skills. For more details, check out our full range of outdoor maths resources.


Outdoor Play Equipment Ideas for Non-Sporty Kids

When schools consider installing playground equipment, often the first thing that comes to mind is sports equipment, such as football and netball markings or basketball nets. Although these are great features to add to your playground, not every pupil wants to play sport during their free time. To help you cater for the full range of children’s interests, we’ll take a look at outdoor play equipment for non-sporty kids.

For those who just want to chill out

Whatever school you teach in, there will be plenty of pupils who just want to sit and chat together during break times. This is especially true for older children. Unfortunately, there is often nowhere for them to go and so they end up sat on floors, steps, walls and windowsills. It’s uncomfortable, potentially unhygienic and not the safest of practices.

A better alternative would be to provide these children with somewhere more comfortable to sit and chat. There are many different types of outdoor school seating available, including picnic tables (which are ideal for freeing up dining room space) and a variety of straight and circular benches. For less clement weather, there are also lots of sheltered seating options, such as our octagonal shelters with built-in seating.

The other advantage of installing playground seating is that you can place it strategically in your yard. When kids don’t have somewhere to sit, they will plonk themselves anywhere. When seating is installed, it can be put somewhere that’s easy to keep an eye on and which is safely away from those doing more physical activities. That way, no-one is going to get hit in the face by a football.

I’m arty, not sporty

Many children would love the opportunity to take part in more creative activities during break and lunchtimes. There are always pupils who want to use the hall to practise dance or drama or who would like to stay in to draw and paint or play with musical instruments. Sadly, with a lack of supervision, they end up disappointed.

Luckily, playtimes for these children no longer need to be boring. There is a wide selection of creative outdoor playground equipment that can liven up the lives of your artistic pupils. For those who like to make some noise, there is enough outdoor music equipment available to start up a playground band: chimes, drainpipe drums, drum tables, xylophones, rain wheels, washboards and even a talking tube.

Your little Picassos can get stuck into their artwork with our range of outdoor art equipment. We’ve got outdoor whiteboards, chalkboards and painting boards, all of which are interchangeable and can be easily taken down and stored when not in use.

Budding performers also have a choice of outdoor stage equipment. We have a range of wooden stages in differing shapes and sizes, a stage façade to give the appearance of an outdoor proscenium theatre and even one, two and three tier amphitheatre seating where their friends can watch them perform.

Encouraging roleplay

Younger children love roleplay and it plays an important part in their development. Here at ESP Play, we have created some marvellous outdoor roleplay equipment to help fire children’s imagination.    

Our current selection includes two wooden bridges, a train, a storytelling chair, a shop/kiosk play panel, a carriage, wigwam posts plus lots of stages. These playground features are a great way to inspire children to think up and act out stories and scenarios during their free time.

Let's play games

What better way for non-sporty kids to enjoy being outdoors than to play games? And there is a good range to choose from. We’ve got outdoor dominoes, battleships, puzzle tables, Soma cubes and, for those who like to score without having to run around kicking a ball, there’s outdoor table football. There’s even a selection of playground markings for games such as hopscotch.

We also have lots of outdoor game boards with traditional games such as Ludo, Connect 4, chess, draughts, noughts and crosses and snakes and ladders.

Getting wet and sandy

Children seem naturally attracted to sand and water and when combined the pleasure is even greater. Now we’ve come up with a practical and easy way to put them in your playground, letting your pupils have fun in a way that’s not going to cause a big mess. We’ll, not too much.

Our outdoor water and sand play equipment is a modular system which can combine different elements together to create your own play area. From a single water play pool or sand box to the larger ‘Beach and Splash World’, the choice is yours.

Playground adventures

Whilst many children don’t want to play sports, lots of them like to be active and we’ve got the perfect solution – create your own adventure playground. Whether you are looking for something big or small we have a huge range of safe but exciting equipment to choose from. This includes our fabulous Trim Trails and Free Flow climbing frames, our nature inspired Wild Wood equipment, play towers, sand pits, parkour blocks and climbing walls.

There’s nothing better to make playtimes exciting and to keep children active. For more information see our full range of outdoor playground equipment.


As you can see from this post, there is equipment available to keep every child happy during break and lunchtimes, whether it’s just providing them with somewhere to sit and relax with friends or giving them the challenge of a purpose-built obstacle course. If you need assistance in deciding what’s right for your playground, give us a call on 01282 43 44 45 and we’ll be happy to help.