Best Outdoor Playground Equipment for Schools

UK school playgrounds have undergone something of a revolution in the last few years. Gone are the days when children were hoofed out on to dull asphalted yards with nothing more to entertain them than a ball and a skipping rope.

Today, schoolyards are far more vibrant and exciting, and this is all possible because of the wide range of playground equipment available, including different varieties of surfacing, playground markings, play equipment and even resources to create exciting outdoor classrooms.

So, if your school playground still looks like a throwback to the middle of the last century, as in the 1940s image above, we hope these products will give you an idea of how you can make yours fit for the 21st-century child.

Safest playground flooring

Traditionally, school playgrounds are surfaced with asphalt or tarmac. Whilst these are hardy surfaces, their hardness can lead to health and safety risks such as cuts, bumps and grazes. During snowy or icy weather, they can also become very slippery, putting pupils and staff at risk of more serious injury. If you intend to modernise your playground and are considering climbing equipment, hard surfaces create a risk for those who may fall.

Today, there is a range of different playground surfaces to choose from and it is possible to create different zones each with a different type of surface. For safety, however, the ideal solution would be to install wetpour surfacing. This soft surfacing solution is made from resin bound recycled tyre crumbs and, while firm enough to walk and play on, is able to cushion children when they fall, reducing the likelihood of injuries. Wetpour surfacing can also be installed in a variety of colours to give your playground a more exciting feel.

Most useful playground markings

There are a plethora of playground marking available and they can be used for all sorts of purposes: traditional games, literacy and numeracy development, sports skill training and much more.

Perhaps the most useful, and one of ESP Play’s most popular playground markings, are the multicourt markings. Ideal for small playgrounds, a multicourt creates three sports courts in one area: futsal (like 5-a-side football), netball and basketball. This is done by overlaying the markings for each sport in different colours.

A multicourt enables pupils to play fitness enhancing sports together during break and lunchtimes and can also be used during PE lessons or for inter-school competitions. Nets and goals are also available.

Healthiest sports equipment

Today’s schools are spoiled for choice when it comes to playground sports equipment, from full-sized artificial pitches to ball walls, basketball nets, soccer goals and even outdoor table tennis. However, if you want to take pupil fitness to the next level, then our outdoor AllGo+ Gym is a must.

The gym equipment, which uses body weight only, comprises a range of different pieces of which you can mix and match to suit your own needs. These include: press up and pull up bars, flat and inclined sit-up benches, monkey bars, leg risers, step markers and circles steps. Made from wood, they are less expensive, safer and easier to maintain than steel alternatives.

Best playground seating and furniture

playground seating

Outdoor seating and furniture have long been neglected in schools. When they’re installed, they give children places to sit, chat and eat lunch. When you buy picnic benches, you are also getting the seating resources for an outdoor classroom and reducing the pressure for space in the canteen.

If you want the ultimate outdoor seating solution, check out the ESP Play octagonal shelter with solid sides, seating and decking. This large shelter provides lots of seating, protection from the wind and rain and can be used for outdoor lessons and as a mini performance area as well as for use by children during break times.

Most exciting outdoor play equipment

Great outdoor play equipment needs to fulfil a number of roles. It should give children something entertaining to do, stimulate physical activity and encourage them to play together. At ESP Play, we have a variety of equipment types which do this. These include imaginative play equipment, sand and water play, trim trails, play towers, and climbing equipment.

Perhaps the most exciting new product we have is our Freeflow modular climbing equipment. Designed to excite and challenge students whilst keeping them active and healthy, it’s the ideal obstacle course for children and one which you can add to as and when your budget allows.

Conclusion

As you can see, outdoor playground equipment has come a long way and for good reasons. A well-equipped playground helps children stay active, learn new skills, develop relationships and enjoy school more. It can even have positive effects on mental health, behaviour and progress. In this sense, updating your playground is much more than giving kids something to do at break times, it’s an investment in their future wellbeing.

For more information about the wide range of outdoor playground equipment available at ESP Play, visit our homepage.

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Guide to Creating an Inclusive School Playground

Five percent of children in the UK are disabled and many of these find themselves excluded from outdoor play activities because school playgrounds are not designed with inclusion in mind. In this post, we’ll discuss what practical steps schools need to take to create a truly inclusive playground for all pupils.

Why you need an inclusive playground

Outdoor play brings benefits of all kinds: it improves physical and mental health, promotes personal development and encourages better social interaction. However, some children are denied these opportunities because the design of the playground or the equipment on offer creates a barrier for them. Pupils who use a wheelchair, for example, may face accessibility issues whereas autistic pupils might find busy spaces overbearing. A truly inclusive playground would ensure that all pupils could participate in outdoor play.

Guidelines for creating an inclusive school playground:

1. Accessibility

The first thing one should consider when looking at playground accessibility is whether children can get into and move around the space with ease. For this, pathways need to be wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs, be smooth and have gentle inclines to raised areas.

Not only should pathways enable children to get in and move around with ease, they should also help children in wheelchairs and those who have difficulty walking get directly to any of the equipment. Ideally, when creating the playground, you should locate popular equipment near the playground entrance or close to any pathway.

If your site contains any high points, such as mounds, raised stages or climbing equipment, wheelchair access should be provided. For those pupils who are unable to access this type of equipment, you need to provide the opportunities for them to get close so that they can continue being with friends. If they are taking part in a roleplay, for example, they can still be part of the activity even if not using the equipment itself.

Another important consideration is playground surfacing. Some surfacing materials make it much easier for wheelchair users to move around on whilst others provide safer surfaces to fall on. Make sure you use the most appropriate surface for each area of your playground.

Finally, if you use any signs in your outdoor playground, make sure that these are placed at a height where wheelchair users can read them (around one metre above the ground) and have them written in simple to understand text or use easy to understand symbols. If you have pupils who are blind, Braille should be used too.

2. Sensory Play

Outdoor Playground Music Equipment

Sensory play should be an essential element of an inclusive playground. All children, regardless of ability, are fascinated by touch, sound, smell and visual stimulation and creating an area where everyone can enjoy these things together goes a long way towards inclusivity.

For sight and visual stimulation, install body warping mirror boards or equipment with a variety of shapes and textures. Installing planters enables you to grow flowers which are both brightly coloured and which offer a variety of scents.

Sound stimulation can easily be achieved through the use of child-friendly, outdoor musical equipment, such as chimes, drums, washboards, xylophones and talking tubes, whilst one of the best ways to offer tactile stimulation is through sand and water play. Here at ESP Play, for example, we have a range of water and sand play equipment which also includes a variety of mud kitchens.

3. Imaginative, Individual and Social Play

school story telling area special offer

An inclusive playground needs to have an open space where children can participate in imaginative play together. Some of this space should, ideally, be free from any equipment and be suitably surfaced so that children can use the area to move around easily. However, to encourage children to participate and socially interact, it helps to have imaginative outdoor play equipment installed nearby.

At the same time, there also needs to be a space where children who find the hustle and bustle of a busy playground overwhelming can go for some much-needed quiet time. Nature areas shielded off with trellises and located further away from the loudest areas are the best solutions. There is a range of great nature resources available to help create a calm area in your playground. However, if this is not possible, then consider installing smaller features across the playground such as play tunnels and seating huts where children can find respite.

4. Physical Play

Physical play is a great way to encourage social inclusion, enabling children who find it difficult to socially interact to join in activities and develop relationships with others. For this reason, an inclusive playground should provide equipment for group games and sports activities that can be accessed by all. If you install playground sports equipment, consider adapting it so that every child can use it. For example, if you have a basketball court, install a second set of nets at a height where wheelchair users can participate in shooting for goal.

When it comes to inclusive physical play, every child should be given the opportunity for challenge and risk and a range of suitable equipment, for example, large climbing structures, should be provided to meet the needs of all students. Children of all year groups, sizes and abilities should be catered for.

5. Seating & Tables

Seating in an inclusive playground should be placed at 20-metre intervals along pathways so that those who have difficulty walking can take regular rest stops if needed. It should also be placed near to the play equipment. For physical support, some playground seating should have back and arm rests and there should be space available next to the seating where wheelchair users can place their wheelchairs next to their friends.

Any tables that are provided should be high enough for a wheelchair user to put their legs underneath.  

Conclusion

As you can see from reading this article, there is a lot to consider when designing a playground that is truly exclusive. If you are looking for help in creating an exclusive playground for your school, call us on 01282 43 44 45 and we’ll be happy to help.

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