All-Weather Outdoor Play, Sports and Learning Solutions for Schools

Wet breaks are something every teacher dreads. Instead of a much-needed cuppa in the staffroom, you’re stuck in class with thirty cooped up kids. It’s noisy, chaotic and stressful. What’s more, it's probably unnecessary. Today, playgrounds can be created that enable suitably dressed pupils to go out in all but the worst weather. Indeed, you can now install surfacing and shelters that let children play, do sports and even learn in an outdoor classroom all year round. Here, we’ll look at the options you can choose.

literacy and phonics

All-year playground surfacing

One of the biggest problems with school playgrounds in bad weather is with the playground surfaces. Grassy areas get muddy, asphalt gets puddles and both become slippery safety hazards. Feet get wet, shoes get caked in mud and someone always gets injured in one way or another.

Those things, however, don’t need to happen. The simple use of grass matting, a form of protective rubber mesh that is placed over the top of grassed areas, prevents the soil underneath from being churned up during wet weather but leaves space for the grass to grow through. The area can be used all year round, without the risk of it turning into a quagmire or the associated hazard of slippage and the cleaning up operation needed to remove thousands of muddy footprints from the corridors and carpets. You’ll also benefit from not having to constantly reseed or even re-turf the grassed areas.

Perhaps more innovative is wetpour surfacing. Made from recycled rubber granules bonded together with resin, this free draining playground surface provides children with an area where surface water quickly drains away, preventing puddles and limiting the chance of ice forming. What’s more, its textured surface provides excellent grip in wet weather, reducing the potential for slippage. Perhaps best of all, however, if children do slip or fall, the absorbent texture of the rubber materials means they’ll have a cushioned landing, minimising the possibility of injury. Resin-bound rubber mulch provides similar protection. If you still want a hard surface for your playground, you can also opt for the fully permeable resin bound gravel. Both this and wetpour surfaces can be used with playground markings and come in a variety of colours.

All-weather sports surfacing

At least when the wet bell goes its only playtime that’s disrupted, for PE teachers, however, bad weather can cause serious disruption to curriculum provision. Besides preventing planned lessons going ahead, bad weather means PE staff have to find alternative lessons to teach, often at very short notice and sometimes without the availability of a suitable indoor space.

All-weather sports surfaces ensure continuity of curriculum delivery in all but the harshest of conditions. The aforementioned wetpour surfacing is an ideal all-weather surface for sports and can be marked out for a wide range of sports pitches and courts, including multi-court markings which can be very helpful for those with limited outdoor space. There are also a number of training markings which can be installed, there’s even a multi-skills zone.

For schools which require a higher-standard of all-weather sports surfacing, artificial grass provides the ultimate solution. Catering for all sports, including football, hockey and netball, they enable PE lessons, extracurricular training and match fixtures to go ahead uninterrupted throughout the year. Various markings are available and the artificial grass is available in different lengths to suit your needs.

The stay-dry outdoor classroom

Outdoor classrooms have become very popular over the last decade with many schools seeing the benefits that open-air learning brings and the advantages of doing more exciting, active lessons where children have the space to move around and make use of the outdoor environment. One of the downsides is that, too frequently, these lessons take place only during the warm spring and summer days and as a result, rather than being scheduled into a scheme of work, they usually only happen on the hoof when there’s a particularly sunny day.

One way to extend outdoor teaching throughout the school year is to install a class-sized shelter. Our octagonal shelters, for example, come with a range of purpose-built features that make them ideal for such purposes. They are roofed, to keep out the rain and provide seating for the whole class, with windbreaker side panels to keep cold breezes off the children’s backs. Benches are provided for seating and these are arranged in an octagonal formation, making them ideal for circle-time activities. The shelters can even come with whiteboards or blackboards preinstalled.

Conclusion

Bad weather can seriously impact day to day school-life, closing down playgrounds, halting PE lessons and preventing outdoor learning from taking place. However, with the right surfacing and shelters, it is possible to make use of your outdoor spaces in all but the harshest of weather conditions.

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Green Ridge Primary Academy – Creating the ‘WOW’ Factor One Year On

We were delighted to revisit this play area one year after we completed the project.

This showcases not only the great work we do but also the fact that our play areas stand the test of time!

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The project at Green Ridge Primary Academy, Aylesbury, involved creating several new EYFS areas.

The new play areas have injected a new lease of life into the Academy’s outside space and will entertain and motivate the children for many years to come!

As you can see from the play area in the photos, it is designed for children just starting their first stages of education; these years are crucial for cognitive learning and development of their social skills.

Bringing children to play and learn together in this way is central to everything we create.

Speaking to the staff at Green Ridge they have expressed their joy towards the project stating they are ‘over the moon’ with the results and the way in which the children have used the pace over the last year.

As a company, we pride ourselves in the work we do and the impact, not only for the children, but also for the staff who are able to teach more engaged and healthier young people.

We take our duty of care to our customers very seriously and we very much believe the customer service we provide is as important as any of the work we do  - before, during and after.

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The Magic of MUGAs – Why All Schools Need a Multi-Use Games Area

In an era when educational leaders are looking for ever more creative ways to solve complex problems, one of the most popular and innovative solutions has been the Multi-Use Games Area (MUGA). The MUGA has proven itself to be useful in a wide range of educational settings, from primary schools to colleges, and has become the option of choice for those who want to offer students a broader range of sport, exercise and excitement.

An overview of a MUGA

Space-saving and money-saving, a MUGA pitch is essentially an outdoor space carefully designed to incorporate a number of different sports and games activities. Its installation means schools can offer a wider repertoire of physical activities and, through this, encourage more children to take part.

The beauty of the MUGA is that there are lots of design options available. This means schools can create a MUGA that meets their development plans and which offers activities that their pupils will relish participating in.

Increased enjoyment is a decisive factor in choosing a MUGA. As children have fun taking part in the new forms of exercise, it will help them with both physical and mental wellbeing. Indeed, the positive feelings they experience can help them develop a better attitude towards staying healthy and lead them to adopt increasingly active lifestyles.

There is a range of MUGA sports pitches available, with different surfaces, including artificial grass,  and a variety of pitch markings, such as football, hockey, netball, tennis, basketball and cricket.  There are also other features you can include, such as goal posts, basketball/netball nets, ball walls and wall targets. What’s more, the pitches can be sized to fit the space you have available, letting you maximise the use of your existing outdoor area.

The educational advantages of a MUGA

MUGA facilities provide schools and colleges with a range of useful benefits. One of the most important is the ability to develop a wider PE curriculum, something the government’s new School Sports and Activity Action Plan (July 2019) seeks to do as it aims to put sport back at the heart of children’s daily physical activity. By fitting out a single space with multiple pitch markings, schools are able to deliver a wider variety of sports for pupils to take part in. This flexibility is ideal for schools with small outdoor spaces that are currently only able to offer limited provision, though even those with extended grounds have discovered the benefits of having multiple MUGAs.

Children can also use MUGAs to play on during break and lunchtimes. This provides all students with the opportunity to participate in enjoyable, physical activity every day of the week and, in doing so, increases the time they can be active far beyond that which is allocated in the timetable. Furthermore, the allure of playing on a properly marked out pitch increases the likelihood of them wanting to get involved. This is especially so when the pupils have been consulted about the types of sport and games they would like to play before the MUGA was designed. Indeed, by installing preferred markings, you help reduce playground boredom and this can have a positive impact on behaviour, both during breaks and back in the classroom.

MUGAs also enable schools to offer a wider choice of extracurricular sporting activities, giving some pupils the ability to develop skills to a higher level or take part in sports they really enjoy. They make it easier to bring in expert, third-party sports providers to deliver after school workshops and also enable the school to play in a variety of inter-school leagues and competitions and do so at your home ground instead of having to play away matches all the time.

Other benefits of MUGAs

Beyond the educational benefits discussed above, MUGAs also provide various other advantages. Financially, MUGAs deliver the most cost-effective way to utilise outdoor space as a single area can be used for a range of different sports. This cuts down on the amount of maintenance required to keep multiple sports pitches in good condition and frees up additional space for other uses, such as for track and field sports, outdoor classrooms, nature areas or the installation of climbing equipment.

Additionally, MUGAs are excellent facilities to let out to sports clubs for evening and weekend training and matches. As these tend to be long term lettings, they can help generate significant income over the academic year which, with today’s tight budgetary constraints, most schools would welcome. Such income could be fed back into the PE curriculum to provide new sports resources, such as an outdoor gym or even an additional MUGA.

Conclusion

MUGAs really are an innovation in the use of space. They expand the number of sports children can participate in and, through that increased participation, help the pupils live healthier lifestyles. At the same time, they enable the school to develop a broader curriculum, improve break and after school activities and provide an additional way to generate income – and all this can be done in one single, easy to maintain space.

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Popular Early Years Outdoor Play Resources

A well-resourced early years outdoor play area is essential for today’s early years providers, as it gives children the opportunity to participate in fun outdoor activities that help them to learn while being active. When choosing your outdoor learning equipment, it is important that it meets the needs of the children in your care and helps you deliver the EYFS curriculum. Here, we’ll look at some of the most popular and fun early years outdoor play resources available today.

Water and sand equipment

early years outdoor play

Children love getting messy and playing with water and sand is not only lots of fun, it is also a brilliant way for them to experiment with senses and materials – whether that’s through building sand castles and moats, creating sand sculptures or making mud pies.

So, if you look after the kind of children that will get engrossed in water and sand play and spend hours working away at their creations, you can now bring the joy of the beach right into the heart of your nursery or pre-school with our range of outdoor water and sand play equipment. Our EYFS equipment is perfect for pre-school children, with mud kitchens, creation stations, magnetic water walls, water ball shoots and modular sand and water systems to choose from. And they are even designed to help cut down on the mess, which is great for those who are left to clean up afterwards.

Adventurous role play apparatus

early years outdoor play

Young children’s imaginations know no bounds and getting them to participate in role play is critical in helping them learn about themselves and their relationships with others and the world around them. When they do, there is a whole host of cognitive, social and communication skills being honed at the same time.

One of the best ways to encourage role play is to put the right pieces of outdoor equipment in a setting where there is the space to let imaginations run free. Here, your external space suddenly becomes a storybook wonderland: an ancient castle, a woodland kingdom or even a strange planet on a far-flung galaxy.

One of the most popular pieces of equipment chosen by EYFS providers are play towers. More than just a child’s climbing tower, these systems can include a variety of elements, such as bridges and tunnels, slides and sliding poles, ramps, rope nets and climbing walls. And to inspire those little minds, they are adorned with role play inducing designs, such as turrets, flags, drawbridges and pitched roofed dens.

Our Wild Wood collection is another popular choice as it can help give your outdoor space the feel of a woodland environment that is just waiting to be explored. Here children can have fun clambering through log tunnels, over tree trail obstacles and up a mini climbing mountain before making tea in the wigwams, play huts and dens.

Other popular choices include shop kiosks and theatre façades, which are always great for getting kids to interact and take on roles; warped mirrors that change your body into funny shapes; and wooden train and carriage structures that children can pretend to drive and travel in.

Percussion instruments

early years outdoor play - music

Mastering a musical instrument isn’t easy for pre-schoolers but they love to bang on a percussion instrument and enjoy making different notes and patterns. Now, you can add sound and music exploration to your curriculum through the use of our brightly coloured, no-skills-needed, outdoor musical instruments. These include musical chimes, drainpipe drums, a drum table, washboards, rain sound maker and xylophones. There’s also a talking tube that lets children sing and talk to each other through an underground tube.

Fun playground markings

early years outdoor play markings

Playground markings are an affordable way to create a fun playground and these range from simple hopscotch or stepping games, which can be used to help children learn basic numbers, sounds and letters, to more elaborate markings, such as the Roadway. The Roadway is a highly detailed road system installed on your playground that incorporates all the features needed to help your children learn about road safety while playing at being cars and lorries. You can even use it to drive trikes around. Its features include a road with white lines, roundabouts, zebra crossing, petrol stations, traffic lights and parking bays.

Conclusion

For EYFS providers looking to create a well-resourced early years outdoor play space that is both fun to play in and educational at the same time, there are plenty of options available. The challenge is to find the ones that are most suitable for the children in your care. Hopefully, by showing you some of the most popular products chosen by other providers, it will help you get a better idea of what might work for you.

For more information and to see an even wider range of ideas, check out our Early Years page.

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How EYFS Outdoor Play Improves Wellbeing

Looking after the wellbeing of young children and helping them foster healthy lifestyles is critical if we are to tackle the growing crisis in child mental health. With hundreds of thousands of school-aged children referred for treatment every year, the practice of improving wellbeing should begin right from the outset of their education, during EYFS. In this post, we’ll look at how outdoor play and the equipment in your playground can help the wellbeing of the children in your care.

It's good to get outdoors

Just getting the children outside is a step in the right direction if you want to improve their wellbeing. It stops them feeling cooped up, enables them to stretch their legs and move around and puts them in a situation where the normal rules of indoor behaviour are relaxed a little. This makes them feel at ease and less stressed.

Being outside also lets nature perform its magic on the children. 15 minutes of daylight hitting their skin produces enough vitamin D to keep them going through the day. It doesn’t even need to be sunny for this to happen. Not only is vitamin D good for the bones, it’s also great for wellbeing. Deficiencies in Vitamin D are linked to anxiety, depression and seasonal affective disorder (SAD), so getting outside can have a positive effect on mental health.

Raising activity levels

Helping children improve their mood is another way to increase wellbeing and the best way to do this is to encourage them to take part in physical exercise. When this is done on a regular basis it helps children to have a more positive and optimistic attitude and to feel more enthusiastic about participation in day to day activities. Exercise has also been shown to have a positive effect on behaviour as it reduces the stress levels that often trigger naughtiness.

There are a number of useful pieces of playground equipment that can help EYFS children get active enough to raise heart rates. These include a variety of playground markings for encouraging activities such as hopscotch and skipping or taking part in games like football and rounders.

Providing healthy enjoyment

Wellbeing can be improved simply by providing the opportunity to do things which children enjoy and which raise self-esteem. One of the best ways to enable this is to install equipment which is fun to play on and which presents challenges that, when met, make children feel good about themselves.

Climbing challenges are ideal for this and there are many pieces of EYFS climbing equipment that have been specially designed for the youngest of learners and which can be combined together to create a bespoke obstacle course. These include a variety of balance beams, net climbers, log strides, tunnels, bridges, slides and various other exciting pieces – all safe for EYFS children to use.

In addition, there are early years’ traversing walls, tree trail coppices and a plethora of low height play towers which are ideal for short legs and big ambitions. When children complete the challenges posed by these pieces, they are rewarded with a sense of accomplishment that will lift their mood and make them feel good for the rest of the day. In turn, this will inspire them to challenge themselves even harder next time.

A space for calm and balance

Blue skies, green grass, colourful flowers and birds singing. As adults, we know that getting out into nature, even if it’s just in the garden, can help soothe away the stresses and strains of the day and restore some much-needed calm and balance.

Quiet spaces are also good for the wellbeing of EYFS children. Indoors can often be crowded, busy and noisy, so providing an outdoor space just to sit and enjoy the quiet and the natural world can enable children to unwind and recharge.

This can be achieved by creating a nature garden using planters, trellises, a few outdoor seats and even a water feature or a wind chime. Adding bird tables and bug houses also encourages wildlife into the space, bringing a sense of awe and wonder that can help children develop an appreciation of nature.

Teaching healthy habits

The new Draft Ofsted Inspection Framework 2019 puts increased emphasis on wellbeing with EYFS providers now being judged on their ability to help children “know how to keep physically and mentally healthy”.

This is essential not just because of the current mental health crisis but because of the immense pressure children will face as they move on to primary and secondary schools. This pressure puts children under a great deal of stress and can exacerbate mental health problems if they are not taught coping strategies and given the opportunities to carry them out.

At the EYFS stage, learning about how to keep physically and mentally healthy often comes through experience. Children will feel better about themselves when they participate in physical outdoor activities or learn how to relax and unwind. Providing them with the opportunities to do this is a key way to ensure EYFS providers meet their Ofsted obligations.

Conclusion

With nurseries and EYFS providers having to take more responsibility for the wellbeing of children, providing well equipped outdoor spaces where fun physical activity or relaxation can happen will help reduce stress, improve mood and increase self-esteem. These activities can also be used to teach children how to look after their wellbeing in the future.

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