6 Key Learning Skills That Can Be Developed by Outdoor Play

As teachers, we know that children who develop key skills such as critical thinking or the ability to work with others, progress quicker, achieve more and attain better grades than their peers. However, with curriculum activities taking up much of the timetable, it’s hard to squeeze in the extra hours needed to practice and hone these skills. Thankfully, this area of learning is not confined to the classroom and with the right outdoor play resources in place, children can develop the skills during free time and in outdoor lessons.

In this post, we’ll look at six key skills that can be developed through outdoor play.

1. Working with others

There will be many times during a student’s school career when working with others will play an essential part in helping them learn. Group work and collaborative learning are key aspects of today’s classroom environment and those children who have the skills to work with other students perform better, learn more and progress quicker.

There are a number of ways you can help students develop these skills in the playground. A Team Adventure Zone, for example, is a trim trail with a difference: it’s an obstacle course designed for children to complete as a team. In order to successfully get from one end to the other, they will need to work together. This is great playground equipment to help students develop their collaborative skills whilst having lots of fun at the same time. It’s a good resource for developing critical thinking, too.

2. Creative thinking

When it comes to getting children thinking creatively it is often better to give them unstructured time in a safe environment where they have the freedom to think outside of the box. To do it right, you also need to provide the resources to motivate them and there is a lot of playground equipment that does just that.

There’s opportunity for drawing with our outdoor art and design boards or making music with our fabulous range of fixed, outdoor musical instruments. For the more dramatically minded, we’ve also got a range stages where children can rehearse and perform to fellow students. All these can be used to inspire children to engage in and develop creative thinking during break times or as part of an outdoor lesson.

3. Being personally effective

The term ‘being personally effective’ encompasses a range of skills which are useful for helping children have a more mature attitude towards learning – the ability to set goals, take on challenges, divide larger projects into smaller steps, be resilient and experience achievement.

Once again, there are a lot of these skills which can be developed through outdoor play and, with some clever playground planning from the school, these opportunities can be given. For example, climbing and traversing walls built over safe playground flooring, give children the chance to set themselves new goals and challenges. To meet those challenges, they will need to break the larger climb down into smaller steps and they’ll need to develop resilience before they finally succeed. The same skills can be learned on a whole range of kids’ climbing equipment.

4. Communication skills

Developing good communication skills is vital for a successful learning journey and needs to start at a very young age. One of the best ways to get the process started is through roleplay where children can experiment with communicating in a range imagined scenarios.

Children are good at inventing roleplay but it works best when they are provided with the props and set that can be the inspiration for their made-up worlds. Here at ESP Play, we have a wide selection of roleplay playground equipment to prompt every child into action. These include stages, storytelling chairs, play huts, bridges, a carriage and even a wooden train.  

5. Maths

Maths is an essential key skill that children will continue to work on throughout their school years but many children do struggle. Sometimes it can be helpful to learn in a more playful way, outside of the classroom.

One of the best ways to provide this opportunity is to install outdoor maths equipment in your playground. There is equipment which can be used for teacher-led outdoor lessons covering everything from simple number work to tessellation. There are also many fun maths games like battle boards, dominoes and Soma cubes that children can use during break times.

6. English

Just like maths, English is another vital key skill and there is also a selection of outdoor English resources which encourage children to continue their learning beyond lesson times. Covering handwriting and creative writing, these can be used to let children write for fun during free time or can be used for group, paired and individual work during lessons.

Conclusion

Key skills remove many of the barriers to learning faced by children and developing them can help pupils succeed across the entire curriculum. However, not all these skills need to be taught and practiced in the classroom. Using our school playground equipment, you can encourage pupils to learn organically, through play and whilst having fun.

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Another teacher joins the ESP Play team…

We have added another teacher to our education team to help continue to strengthen the educational benefits Play and Physical Activity can bring to schools.

Here’s what Rob Whitelock had to say about why he joined ESP Play:

I am passionate about learning – 18 years in the classroom plays testimony to that and having worked closely with key protagonists in the play and sport movement, I’m equally passionate about how play and sport can help the progress and achievement of every child.  I’ve seen it – it can – it does!  I want to use every opportunity to share my experience with schools so they are best placed to enjoy the benefits play and sport can bring to all children.

Every school has a duty of care to every one of its children. With safeguarding at the top of the OFSTED agenda, schools need to be sure they are providing the best opportunities for their children in a safe and secure setting. The School Sport Premium gives every school the chance to invest in the well-being of its children but is it being used effectively? OFSTED will make a judgement on a schools use of its SSP so is it worth leaving it to chance? Many schools ‘buy in’ specialist support to deliver physical activity, which is great while the SSP is in place but expensive and not sustainable when the funding ends. Many schools don’t realise the most effective, most sustainable investment is in its own staff and most importantly, its own children. Furthermore, how can schools guarantee SSP spending reaches every child?  While a focus on traditional, competitive sport might suit some children, does it suit all? Sport is not a ‘one size fits all’ offer. It needs diversity to be totally inclusive. It needs innovation to reach every child. It needs to offer something to everyone at every level.

Done well, sport and play can engage the most difficult to reach child, raise self-confidence, raise self-esteem and raise attainment. Done well, sport and play dissolves stereotypical boundaries and becomes limitless. Done well sport and play can be fun!

Our work, in collaboration with the NHS is backed up by independent research from Leeds Metropolitan University, which concludes:

  • Independent observers: an increase in INDIVIDUALS’ physical activity (plus increases in staff supervising the space.
  • Teacher observers: more (%) children are more active (boys AND girls)
  • Reduced % of lightly engaged pupils
  • A wide range of benefits for pupil involvement – developmental and curricular, individual and systemic
  • Playgrounds seen as more positive environments for all members of the school community
  • As well as sustaining already active children, what equivalent investments will benefit an additional four children in every class of 28 (and in so many diffuse ways)?

I have joined the passionate team at ESP Play to share and promote best practice in schools and help schools make best use of their limited capacity.

 

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10 amazing playground equipment deals

10 Amazing Play Equipment Deals

We have created 10 playground equipment special offers to help you develop your outdoor area on a budget. With everything from seating solutions to climbing frames covered, don't miss out on these amazing prices.
Get these whilst you can!

Deal 1 - 5 Magnetic Game Boards

Get our 5 most popular magnetic game boards!

 

Children are most enthusiastic when they are having fun, magnetic game boards are a good way to get them to interact with each other in a fun and enjoyable way.

 

What you get:


 

 What you pay:


Only £699 including installation

Post mount your boards for only £120 each.

Deal 2 - Rope Trail

Our popular Rope Trail offers schools a fantastic way to get a large climbing structure into a small space and also at a fantastic price.

 

There are 7 individual challenges as part of the trail designed to provide a physical challenge for your pupils.

 

What you get:


 

  • Twisty Challenge

  • Traverse Net

  • Tyre Pass

  • Balance Challenge

  • Rope Traverse Zig

  • Rope Traverse Zag

  • Spinning Log

 What you pay:


Only £3,699 including installation

Deal 3 - Ball Catcher & Ball Catcher Trainer Marking

Our multi-coloured steel Ball Catcher stimulates both physical and mental activities.

 

With one entrance point and 3 exit points, the challenge is to get the ball in the entrance and run around the ball catcher to the appropriate exit point.

 

What you get:


 

 What you pay:


Only £1,179 including installation

Deal 4 - Story Telling Area

school story telling area special offer

Let your children and even staff enjoy telling stories outdoors with our story telling area package.

 

The large story telling chair is an ideal focal point for the story-teller and the 5 colourful log seats are perfect for eager listeners.

 

What you get:


 

 What you pay:


Only £1,269 including installation

Deal 5 - 2 x Recessed Goal Units

The recessed goal unit is designed to contain ball games in a highly active zoned area. It is a fantastic exhaust for energy for all ages and abilities.

 

The recessed goal unit unit carries a 10 Year guarantee against rot and infestation.

 

What you get:


 

 What you pay:


Only £2,865 including installation

Deal 6 - Small Shaded Pergola with Planters and Seating

Small shaded pergola with planters and seating to seat up to six children. The pergola enables children to interact to chat, read and develop social skills.

 

All our pergolas come with a 10 Year guarantee against rot and infestation.

 

What you get:


 

 What you pay:


Only £1,545 including installation

Deal 7 - 5 Panel Traversing Wall

The wooden traversing wall is a robust solution for a school with minimal wall space. Complete with explosion proof handgrips, made from resin bound sand, combine fun and physical activity whilst encouraging team building and leadership.

 

All our climbing walls carry a 10 Year guarantee against rot and infestation.

 

What you get:


 

 What you pay:


Only £1,375 including installation

Deal 8 - Tangled Wolf and Grass Matting Surfacing

The Tangled Wolf frame is a lower-level and more cost effective version of our popular Tarantula climbing frame which offers children everything to help them develop into confident climbers.

 

The Tangled Wolf features a 10 Year guarantee against rot and infestation.

 

What you get:


 

 What you pay:


Only £8,165 including installation

Deal 9 - Excellent Adventure Play Tower

The Excellent Adventure Towers design is one of the larger Play Towers available from ESP and includes a range of challenging apparatus that bring variety to a playground space.

 

Our Excellent Adventure Tower features a 10 Year guarantee against rot and infestation.

 

What you get:


 

 What you pay:


Only £8,145 including installation

Deal 10 - Play Hut

The playhut offers a fantastic opportunity for role play, creativity, imagination and inclusion.

 

Children can interact with each other, stimulating creative play in a safe, welcoming and sheltered environment.

 

What you get:


 

 What you pay:


Only £940 including installation

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Playground Funding Assistance

Playground funding for your next development

Acquiring funding for your next play area development can be arduous which is why we have created a comprehensive playground funding assistance guide which will talk you through the various different options available to your school.

Getting some ideas together for how you want to transform your outdoor area is essential if you are to be successful in securing any financial contribution towards it. We have a vast range of products available to get you started but we also offer every school a completely FREE playground design service to show you how your dream play area could look. We can design schemes to suit any budget or specific requirements your school may have.

In addition to this we have just introduced our new Funding Bid Writing & Management Service where a member of our team will manage your application from start to finish to increase the likelihood of you securing the funding you need.

Our guide covers:

 

  • How to use ESP’s unique Funding Bid Writing and Management Service.
  • What products you can spend your Sports Premium Budget on.
  • Acquiring funding directly from ESP.

 

Continue to our full guide here…

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the 5 best tips to develop your play area

5 Tips to Develop your Playground

There has never been a more important time for physical education (PE), school sport and health-related activity in schools. Research confirms that up to 50% of all seven year-olds do not get enough exercise and one in three young people leave primary school overweight or obese. From an early age, lifelong patterns of positive behaviour and involvement can be gained through participation in high quality physical activity and play.

Research proves that well designed outdoor play areas can help combat these issues and so we have put together out top 5 tips to develop your play area to help any school thinking about making a positive change.

Informal and structured physical activity is essential for the mental, physical, emotional and social development of every child. This type of activity develops fundamental movement skills and coordination skills, social skills linked to communication and language, and creativity and cooperation – all essential tools to aid successful learning in the curriculum and beyond.

It is very important to create an environment that offer sustainability. The facilities and knowledge of how to use the facilities correctly are the key to creating a positive whole school impact that is sustainable and cross curricular. That is why having the right playground is so important. Here are five key points to help maximise your playground space to inspire young people to undertake physical activity:

 

Tip 1. What is your objective? What are you trying to achieve with this investment?

Does the development of your playground form part of your school improvement plan? Is this investment recognised as a priority by the whole school and local community. To create a sustainable impact the school and community must have ownership and responsibility on how they will use this facility to add value to learning and the development of young people. Teachers must be able to identify and evidence how they will develop and improve the following points:

 

  • Participation in daily physical activity for every child
  • Leadership skills
  • Communication and language skills
  • Social skills
  • Team work
  • Fundamental movement skills
  • Achievement in Physical Education lessons

 

A needs analysis of your playground will help inform you of what improvements can be made. The analysis should focus on gathering and reviewing the information, consulting end users and key stakeholders, and establishing priority requirements. It is important that you are inclusive throughout the process and make a special effort to understand the requirements of children with special educational needs (SEN) and disabilities to incorporate these into your plan. Consider the following key questions: How well is the space used? Are there spaces between existing buildings that have always been under-utilised? What is it currently used for? Who is using it? Who is not using it? What would the pupils like it to be used for?

 

Tip 2. A School Playground should not be the same as a Community Park.

It is too easy to simply put a put a piece of equipment in a school playground and think job done. A community play park is to simply go and climb and school playground is a place to play but also learn at the same time. Learning should not just start at the classroom door, it should begin at the school gates. The outdoor resources available to schools offer a fantastic opportunity to take learning beyond the classroom. Ask yourself; does this equipment have any relevance and purpose to curriculum? Does it offer any wider benefits to just play? Can I evidence this equipment as adding value to the school improvement plan?

Any investment should yield a return. What educational return is your playground offering?

 

Tip 3. Team effort

Engaging the right people at this early stage will ensure they are committed to the project. The key stakeholders that should be consulted from the very start are: governors, headteachers, teachers, teaching assistants, lunchtime supervisors, parents and pupils. They can be consulted in a variety of ways including: meetings and class discussions; school sports council(s); playground committee; questionnaires; observation studies and pupil drawings.

 

Tip 4. Choose a qualified contractor that understands education

Appoint a qualified and knowledgeable contractor to work with you to check the feasibility of the components and configurations selected. Make sure they understand education and the purpose of your investment. Don be sucked into just picking equipment from a catalogue. Make sure the design is bespoke to your requirements and objectives.

 

Tip 5. Teacher Development

To make your investment sustainable you must ensure teachers, lunchtime supervisors, assistants and others understand how to use the playground for break and lunch time activities but more importantly how to benefit from the outdoor resource for curriculum time. Engage in an accredited CPD programme that supports the use of the playground across the curriculum.

Research confirms the following:

 

  • Children are better prepared for learning following participation in high quality physical activities
  • Children are less fidgety in class following participation in high quality physical activity
  • 80% of children are kinaesthetic learners
  • Development of Fundamental Movement skills improve confidence and movement competence and therefore increases participation
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