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!

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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How to Design an EYFS Playground

Giving children the opportunity to participate in free play has been shown to accelerate their development, helping them learn important new skills and widening their understanding of the world. For nurseries and EYFS providers, one way you can facilitate and encourage free play is to design your outdoor spaces in a way that motivates children to participate. In this post, we’ll look at the best ways to design your EYFS playground.

Principles of EYFS playground design

When creating your EYFS play area you’ll need to provide a variety of stimulating activities which cater for a range of needs and which offer children the opportunity to develop their cognitive, physical, social, and creative skills. The most successful way of achieving this is designing an outdoor space with different free play areas or zones.

Designing in this way allows you to better manage the activities that take place in each zone. It also improves safety, as activities that can be hazardous when taking place in the same space can be kept apart. An additional benefit of a zoned playground is that adults need to intervene less, enabling the children to focus on the play that’s so important to their development.

Common types of EYFS free play zone

There is no set rule about the types of zones you should create in your playground. Indeed, your choices may be dependent on the children you cater for, the nature of the space you have available and your budget. Here, however, are some of the most popular EYFS zones we create for our customers.

1. Active play zone

Physical activity encourages children to play together and thus creates opportunities to develop social skills. At the same time, the physical activity, in itself, helps to develop physical skills while improving fitness. EYFS active play zones are often kitted out with popular pieces of equipment. These include play towers, especially those that have slides, climbing nets, ropes and bridges, and low-height, Trim Trail obstacle course equipment.

These structures can be Interspersed with a range of fun playground markings, such as the mini roadway, which comes complete with road signs, roundabouts and zebra crossings.

2. Creative zones

Outdoor Playground Music Equipment

Developing children’s creativity is fundamental to bringing on their social and cognitive skills and this makes the creative zone a key part of the EYFS playground. Schools and nurseries are spoiled for choice when it comes to choosing creative playground equipment. Designed to help children explore their imaginations in safe but unstructured ways, these include body-warping mirrors, log bridges and tunnels, play huts, shop kiosks, wigwams and wooden trains. Add a box of props and costumes and, suddenly, your playground can become anywhere their imagination takes them.

For more artistic pursuits, there are also a range of painting, drawing and mark-making tables available, as well as stand up panels. One of the most popular creative pieces is the outdoor musical orchestra - composed of a range of fun to play on, no-skills-necessary, musical instruments. These include musical chimes, drainpipe drums, washboards and xylophones.

3. Sand, mud and water zones

Tactile materials such as sand, mud and water are ideal for children as they can be played with in so many different ways. From making sand castles and moats to baking mud pies, they are not only great fun, they also encourage kids to play together while letting children learn how these materials can be used, manipulated and combined. Water and sand play equipment lets you create the ultimate sensory play area for EYFS and with mud kitchens, splash pools and even magnetic water walls to choose from, there’s an opportunity to create one of the most popular zones in your playground.

4. Nature area

Putting a nature zone in your nursery or EYFS playground fulfils two important functions. Firstly, it creates a quiet space where children can be calm and relaxed and, secondly, it provides the opportunity for children to develop a love of and appreciation for nature.

Quiet outdoor spaces can be beneficial for children who feel anxious or upset and need to get away from the busier areas. When this happens in a green space, that calming effect can be even better. Quiet spaces are also ideal places where the whole group can sit in the sunshine and listen to stories being read to them.

A nature zone can be created through the purchase of wooden planters and trellises. These can be used to section off the space from the rest of the playground and can be filled with flowers, climbers and shrubs. You can then use butterfly boxes, insect habitats, ladybird towers and bird tables to encourage bugs and birds to visit – giving children access to their very own mini nature reserve. There’s a wide range of nature equipment you can use to make your nature zone enchanting for younger children.

5. Use the right surfacing

With little people doing so many different activities it’s important that you remember to include playground surfacing when creating your design. Sometimes, it’s a good idea to use different surfaces for each zone so that the children get the most benefit. A nature zone, for example, will want to be lawned, whereas an active play zone is perhaps best served by a cushioned, wetpour surface. With artificial grass, block paving, grass matting, resin bound gravel, rubber mulch and wetpour surfacing all available, there is a solution for every zone you may want.

Conclusion

EYFS free play equipment enables every youngster to learn while they play. The most effective way to put it to good use is by creating a zoned playground where there are discrete areas for specific activities. This helps to keep children safe while providing the stimulus they need to participate and learn. For more information about our range of EYFS playground equipment, visit our products page or call us on 01282 43 44 45.

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