How Cooperative Play Benefits EYFS Pupils

As children develop and advance through school both their play and their learning require them to cooperate with others and work in groups. In this post, we’ll take a look at the importance of cooperative play and shed some light on how schools can facilitate it in order to hasten pupil development.

What is cooperative play?

Cooperative play is any kind of play that involves children working together to produce an outcome. This can be an organised or structured activity that seeks to achieve a specific goal and where roles and responsibilities are shared out, such as taking part in a game of football or, alternatively, a more spontaneous form of play, such as working together to build a sandcastle or even taking part in a roleplay. Typical attributes of cooperative play include communication, the sharing of ideas, the evaluation of strategies, the distribution of tasks and a common goal that everyone needs to work towards.

While cooperative activities are regularly done in the classroom, facilitating them during play helps young children develop those skills even more. Indeed, many forms of cooperative play are best suited to unstructured free time where children can create them on the spot. By being both fun and educational, cooperative play increases enthusiasm for the shared task and increases attention spans, helping to optimise the learning that takes place. At the same time, it also helps to develop other key skills: physical, emotional, cognitive and social.

The other important benefit of cooperative play is that it allows children to participate in, experience and understand different roles. They’ll learn what it’s like to be both a leader and a follower and even discover new roles that they might like.

Team sports

Team sports tick all the boxes when it comes to cooperative play. There’s a clearly defined goal, everyone has their own role (defender, attacker, etc.) there’s a leadership hierarchy with a team captain and in order to achieve the team’s objective, all the players have to communicate, share ideas and work together.

Providing opportunities for team sports to take place can be achieved affordably through the use of sports markings which are available for a wide variety of team sports, including cricket, football, basketball, rounders and netball. Nets, goals and other equipment are also available to create a finished sports pitch or court if required.

Roleplay

Roleplay involves increasingly complex levels of cooperation. Firstly, it requires all the children in the group to collaborate in order to establish the roleplay. Each must take on a role and agree to step into the imagined reality of the situation, whether that’s at the local supermarket or in outer space.

Once the roleplay has begun, the children have to cooperate to make it work. This requires them to accept and playout the roles of the characters, a situation where there is often a leader and followers and where there are accepted behavioural norms that everyone will expect to be followed. Whether playing a parent, teacher, child or an alien from Mars, the children will need to act and interact accordingly.

What makes roleplay even better for developing cooperative skills is that children can often improvise scenarios where the characters need to fulfil a task, such as rescuing a friend from pirates or taking a child to the doctors to mend a broken arm. So, beyond the cooperation of children working together as an acting ensemble, there’s a deeper layer of cooperation where the characters themselves are working together to achieve a further goal.

While teachers can initiate roleplay, proscribing the characters and roles to be played, young children are quite adept at instigating their own improvisations. Inspiring them to do so is best achieved by installing playground equipment that lends itself to invention. This includes play towers that look like medieval castles, pirate-ship-style play boats, climb-on trains and carriages, shop kiosks, wigwams, tunnels and bridges.

Making things together

The final way to encourage cooperative play is to give pupils opportunities to make things together. Children love to work collaboratively in mud kitchens and sandpits, whether that’s cooking up pretend pies or building sandcastles. Alternatively, drawing and chalkboards placed in the playground provide plenty of scope for small groups to produce jointly made artwork. For the ultimate ensemble, why not install some playground percussion instruments, like xylophones and drainpipe drums, so the children can collaborate in making music together?

Conclusion

Children will need cooperative skills during their education and throughout their lives. Fostering the development of these skills at an early age can have a positive impact on their personal development and academic progress. Hopefully, this post has explained how these skills can benefit EYFS children and how you can facilitate their development through play.

For more information, visit our Products page.

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Top Playground Markings For EYFS and Infant Pupils

outdoor classrooms

Affordable and easy to install, playground markings are a cost-effective way to transform your EYFS or infant school playground. What’s more, they are now available in a wide variety of designs, enabling you to broaden the range of play and learning activities you offer outdoors and improve outcomes for younger children. Here, we’ll look at what we think are the top playground markings for EYFS and infants.

Sports playground markings for younger children

Although younger children might not fully understand the rules, getting them to participate in sports by kicking or throwing a ball around a marked out sports pitch can have enormous benefits. One of the most important is in improving a child’s health and fitness. Besides being great fun, chasing a ball around is also quite a demanding physical activity that can boost cardiovascular health, improve general fitness and even have a positive impact on mental wellbeing. Additionally, the familiarity of taking part on a marked out pitch can help children as they learn the rules of the sports and become more skilled participants.

While there is a good range of sports markings available, for affordability and to cope with limited space, the best option for EYFS and infant schools is to opt for multi-court markings, such as our 3-in-1 futsal (mini-football), netball and basketball court. With the different sports markings highlighted in different colours, it is ideal for offering multiple sports when you have a small playground. Goals and nets can also be purchased to make your facilities complete.

Agility, balance and coordination skills markings

Agility, balance and coordination development is an important requirement in both EYFS and Key Stage 1. These skills are acquired through practice and one of the best ways that schools can facilitate progress is to provide resources that not only provide opportunities to take part but which also motivate children to have a go.

ESP has a wide range of agility, balance and coordination markings, including steppers, twisty lines, footwork chess, and agility ladders. These help children learn to move forwards, backwards and side to side by taking steps, hops and jumps.

Roadway markings

Our roadway markings have an important double-function. While they are fantastic fun to play on or even pedal around on a trike, they also provide a perfectly safe place in which to help children learn about road safety, both as a pedestrian and a bike user.

Featuring dual-direction roads with central markings, zebra crossings, traffic lights, roundabouts, yellow box junctions, parking bays and a petrol station, children can learn about how traffic systems work and what they need to do to stay safe. It will help them know which direction traffic travels in on roads and roundabouts, learn where, when and how to cross a road and understand the dangers of car parks and petrol stations.

Of course, the markings give unlimited play opportunities, with children using them to take many a roleplay road-trip or to pedal their trikes around a realisic roadway.

Letters and phonics markings

With literacy in early years and infant schools starting with letter learning and the teaching of phonics, what better way to enhance this than by having fun practising in the playground? Today, there are several letter and phonics markings available. These include an alphabet target, an A to Z letter stepper, a footwork vowels stepper and our Phonics Spots stepper which features ten of the most common phonics sounds. As children play on these, they’ll also be able to practice naming the letters and saying the sounds, helping them improve their overall literacy skills.

Number markings

Similar to literacy markings, number markings also help children acquire numeracy skills while having fun in the playground. These help children learn to recognise numbers, count forwards and backwards and learn number sequences.

There is a good range of numeracy markings suitable for EYFS and infant pupils. These include compass hopscotch (suitable for 4 children to play at the same time), Hex Steps, a 1-100 mathematical number grid, a number arch and our Shapes and Ladders game.

Wider learning markings

In addition to learning the fundamental skills, there are also opportunities to introduce markings that widen learning into other areas. Our weather markings, for example, display commonly used weather signs, such as a cloud, sunshine, umbrella and snowflake, as well as introducing the days of the school week. Meanwhile, our Multi-Markings introduce the basic compass directions, our Alpha Clock displays clock hours and our Shapes markings let children learn about circles, triangles, squares, rectangles and pentagons.

Conclusion

Playground markings are an excellent and affordable choice for EYFS and infant schools. They help children to be fitter and healthier while facilitating the development of agility, balance and coordination; they let pupils learn about road safety, literacy and numeracy and they provide opportunities for wider learning. Most importantly, of course, they look very inviting and are great fun to play on.

For more information, visit our Playground Markings page.

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Outdoor Classrooms – A Breath of Fresh Air for Post-Lockdown Schools

outdoor classrooms

The long-awaited return to school has now commenced and staff and pupils across the country are facing school days which are radically different to those they remember. The need to prevent the spread of COVID-19 will place many restrictions on schools, impacting not only the delivery of the curriculum but on school life as a whole. An outdoor classroom can make a big difference, providing a safer learning environment in which children can experience a little bit of normality. Here, we’ll take a closer look at modern, outdoor classrooms.

Why schools need outdoor classrooms

Life in the post-lockdown school is going to be far different than what it was before the pandemic. Movement will be severely restricted, both within the school itself and inside the classroom. In secondary schools, where pupils are used to moving from lesson to lesson, many will now find it is the teachers who move while the children stay put. Not only will this prevent pupils from having access to the specialist equipment needed to study the curriculum effectively; it also means they’ll spend most of the day stuck in the same room. And with social distancing essential within the classroom, children of all school ages will have far fewer opportunities to move around or interact.

The effects of this upon pupil wellbeing and academic progress could be significant. Children are much more likely to become anxious about going to school and frustrated, even bored, during the school day. This can impact their mental wellbeing and impede their motivation, especially when the lack of subject-specific equipment, like science or technology apparatus that can’t be moved from classroom to classroom, prevents teachers delivering the curriculum properly.

In such a stifling environment, the outdoor classroom offers a breath of fresh air. Indeed, the circulation of outdoor air, combined with the additional space pupils have to learn, means many of the restrictions enforced inside the classroom can be relaxed. Movement will be freer, with children able to work in small groups more effectively, perhaps carrying out more experimental and investigative work that the new normal won’t permit indoors. The need to keep voices quiet will not be so urgent, either.

At the same time, just taking a break from the same indoor space, even if it is just for a small part of the school day, can break the monotony of being at the same desk, in the same classroom, six hours a day, five days a week. It offers the potential for increased mental stimulation, improved motivation and better wellbeing.

Equipping the modern outdoor classroom

While there is nothing wrong with getting pupils to hoick their chairs out into the playground for a lesson, there are plenty of more modern and stimulating alternatives. Today, there is a plethora of outdoor learning equipment available, including subject-specific resources covering many areas of the EYFS, primary and secondary curricula.

Starting with the basics, playground seating comes in a wide variety, ranging from fun mushroom seats and storytelling chairs for younger learners to full-class size, octagonal shelters with built-in seats, whiteboards, windbreaking backrests and that essential roof that lets you use it in most weather conditions. This, however, is only scratching the surface; there are tables, benches, amphitheatres, handwriting tables, sit down easels and much more available.

When it comes to delivering the curriculum, there is a multitude of outdoor classroom equipment available for teachers to use. This includes interchangeable, subject-specific work panels, affixed to permanent posts, that cater for almost every curriculum area. Able to be taken down at the end of each lesson for cleaning and storage, with the post then left for the next teacher, they are an ideal solution for outdoor learning. They can be used to display learning objectives and instructions or for pupils to write, draw, measure, calculate and take notes. Subject-specific versions are available for art, design and technology, English, geography, history, maths, MFL, music, PE and science, and include features such as abacuses, coordinate grids, timelines, moving clock faces and much more.

There are also more elaborate types of equipment, such as weather stations for measuring and monitoring precipitation, temperature and wind, or biology investigation tables that can be used to look at soil samples and see how plant root systems grow underground. When it comes to music and drama, there are outdoor stages to perform on, amphitheatres to perform within and fun, outdoor, percussion instruments, like xylophones and drainpipe drums, to make music with.

Conclusion

An outdoor classroom offers a touch of normality to post-lockdown school life. Working in a safer outdoor environment with fewer restrictions and much more space to learn can bring much-needed relief from the monotony of being stuck in the same space. As a result, it can improve pupil wellbeing and motivation and, when well-equipped with subject-specific, outdoor classroom equipment, gives teachers far more scope to deliver the curriculum.

For more information, visit our Outdoor Curriculum page.

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Why Zoned School Playgrounds Have New Importance

zoned school playgrounds

Zoned school playgrounds have become increasingly popular in modern playground design, providing a range of benefits for pupils and schools alike. However, following the lockdown, they have taken on new importance, providing enhanced social distancing and increased safety. Here, we’ll look at zoned playgrounds and their advantages over traditional schoolyards.

What are zoned school playgrounds?

A zoned playground, quite simply, is a school playground where the equipment provided for the children is laid out in discrete activity areas, strategically placed to improve safety and enhance amenity.

Zones can be created for different types of pupil or activity. So, for example, a school can have different zones for EYFS, KS1 and KS2 pupils, each with age-appropriate equipment, or it can create separate zones for sports, climbing, roleplay, creativity, nature, sensory play and so forth.

Built-in safety

One of the key problems with traditional playgrounds is that activities often overlap and this can lead to potential safety issues, such as footballs flying off the pitch and knocking a pupil off a climbing wall or a pupil with skipping ropes tripping up someone playing tig in the same area. By putting these activities into separate zones, you reduce the risk of these accidents happening – especially when the designer can make sure that potentially hazardous zones are located away from each other.

Covid-19 safety

With the need to maintain social distancing in the playground, zoned play areas have developed new importance, as they enable the school to better manage pupil bubbles. Children in different bubbles can be allocated a different zone in which to play and because it is within a defined area, children will better understand the limits of where they can play and the apparatus they are allowed to play on. This also makes the job of supervising much easier for staff and enables pupils from each bubble to enter and leave the playground more safely.

To ensure pupils get to participate in the full range of playground activities on offer, schools can rotate the bubbles from zone to zone on different days, making sure, of course, that the equipment is properly cleaned at the end of each day. Where there are staggered playtimes, cleaning will need to take place between the change-over.

The other advantage is that popular apparatus, such as climbing frames, obstacle courses and play towers, can be a temptation too much for children. If everyone heads for the same piece of equipment, social distancing goes out the window. Zoning prevents this happening, as children will know which zone they are allocated to and, if rotation is in place, will know they’ll get their turn eventually.

Zones for inclusion

One of the other major benefits of having a zoned school playground is that it can improve inclusivity. At the design stage, schools have the ability to consider the type of equipment they need to ensure pupils of all ages, abilities and interests are catered for. The playground designer can then use this to create purpose-built zones that address those needs and place them in the most appropriate location. For example, a quiet area can be developed for children with autism and placed away from the louder and busier activity zones, perhaps even with its own entrance back into the school building. Sensory areas can be created too, giving pupils a calm space in which to experience a variety of sounds, smells, textures and colours.

Similarly, sporty kids can be given zones with pitch markings and basketball nets and thrill-seekers can have zones containing Trim Trails obstacle courses, Tangled rope climbing equipment or a Freeflow climbing system. You can have messy play areas with mud kitchens, sandpits and magnetic water walls, imaginative roleplay zones with fantasy play towers, wigwams and pirate style playboats and creative zones with outdoor drawing boards, performance stages and outdoor musical percussion instruments.

For the more laid back pupils, you can even create a nature zone with planters, trellises and bug houses and furnish it with picnic tables, an octagonal shelter or some all-weather artificial grass to sit on and chat with friends.

Not only does zoning enable schools to cater for all these different needs and interests; it also allows the designer to make them more accessible. Safe pathways can be created to ensure all pupils, including wheelchair users, can easily get to all the apparatus without having to risk travelling through a busy space; while accessibility features can be built in so pupils, even if they cannot fully participate in activities or make full use of the equipment, are close enough not to feel socially excluded from their friendship group.

Conclusion

Zoned school playgrounds can transform a school’s outdoor space. They improve safety, assist with social distancing and provide schools with the opportunity to create accessible zones that cater for the needs and interests of all pupils.

To see what you can achieve with a zoned playground or to find out more about playground design, visit our Inspiration page.

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What makes a good school playground?

What makes a good school playground?

The footprint of a school playground is frequently larger than that of the school itself. Only recently, however, have schools begun to realise the enormous potential that these incredible spaces have to offer. From our experience of designing and installing playgrounds across the country, here are what we consider to be the things that make a good school playground in the 2020s.

Safety

Child safety is an essential ingredient of a good school playground and should always be the primary concern when upgrading. Best practice begins with your choice of playground contractor. Always choose a playground specialsit with lots of experience working with schools and which provides not just high-quality products and first-class installation, but also offers regular inspections and maintenance to keep the playground safe.

Other important considerations include dividing the playground into areas for children of different ages, for example, giving nursery pupils their own space away from the bigger children in Key Stages 1 and 2. The installation of modern playground surfaces, such as rubber mulch and wet pour surfacing, is also important because it reduces the chance of injury, especially when used around climbing apparatus. Finally, consider the use of activity zones, which prevent one form of activity interfering with another and potentially causing harm.

Accessibility and inclusivity

Every child should be able to access and benefit from a school’s outdoor space and it’s important to consider this at the outset of the design phase. Appropriate surfacing needs to be installed with pathways wide enough for wheelchairs and assisted movement.

Where possible, apparatus should allow disabled access or be adapted to assist with this, for example, providing ramps and rails that let those with disabilities play with their friends on the equipment. Even simple things, like picnic tables that are designed for wheelchairs to fit under, can make a great deal of difference.

Finally, you need to consider a range of play equipment that meets the needs of all and appeals to everyone’s interests. This is where zoning comes into its own, as it enables you to have discrete zones for things like sports, climbing, creativity, roleplay, sensory play and messy play (mud, sand and water), as well as quiet, nature zones.

A good school playground can be used all year round

While you cannot control the seasons or the weather, there are quite a few things you can do to make your outdoor spaces usable throughout the year. The use of slip-resistant and self-draining playground surfacing can make your outdoor area safe and usable in wet and cold weather, while artificial grass can be used all year round and grass matting prevents natural lawns becoming a slippery quagmire.

The installation of trellises and the planting of shrubs not only adds a touch of greenery but if put in the right places, can provide shelter from biting winds. Octagonal shelters, with built-in seating, can accommodate a classful of pupils in wet, windy and overly sunny conditions. Verandas and sun sails can do the same.

A place for learning and fun

While play is an essential part of the learning process for children, a good school playground is also a place to deliver much more of the curriculum. While MUGA, gym, pitch markings, multi-skills zone and sports equipment are some of the many PE options, today, there are outdoor resources for many subject areas. Schools can install storytelling circles, science investigation tables, weather measuring centres, plant growing equipment, outdoor musical instruments, playground stages and much more. There is subject-specific equipment, purpose-built for outdoor use, for maths, English, science, art, music, design and technology, geography, history and languages.

Creating an outdoor classroom means less demand for internal space and provides teachers and pupils with a completely different learning environment, one where there is the space to take part in active learning and the freedom to explore the world around them.

A playground for health and wellbeing

Children’s physical and mental wellbeing is a key issue at the moment: 12.5 per cent of UK pupils aged 5 to 18 suffer from a mental disorder and instances of childhood obesity continue to rise. While physical activity has been shown to have a positive effect on both mental and physical health, modern lifestyles mean children have little opportunity to get the recommended hour a day that health professionals say they need.

By choosing the right type of playground equipment, schools not only facilitate physical activity; they encourage pupils to increase participation. This makes pupils more active in the short term and helps them develop healthier lifestyles over the long term. What’s more, it can help those with mental disorders like depression and anxiety cope better with their illnesses while potentially preventing others from developing disorders at all.

When planning a school playground, its impact on the physical and mental wellbeing of pupils should be taken into consideration. Sports, climbing and obstacle course activities are not only great fun, they require lots of physical exertion. At the same time, quiet nature areas are ideal for those who need some respite during the school day.

Conclusion

As you can see from this post, playgrounds can become highly valuable resources for schools, enabling pupils to have fun, socialise, learn and improve their health and wellbeing. Hopefully, the ideas mentioned here will inspire you to create the perfect outdoor space for your pupils.

For more ideas, visit our products page.

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