How Outdoor Play Helps Speech and Language Development

Speech and language skills are two of the most important things that children need to develop during EYFS and primary school. Those who acquire them early will find their education journey easier and are more likely to succeed academically. Beyond learning, speech and language are essential for all aspects of life, they are something we all rely on every day. In this post, we’ll look at different outdoor play activities that can be used in EYFS and primary settings to help speech and language development.

Roleplay activities

Roleplay is a vital and unique ingredient of child development and something which, for most, comes naturally. In it, children take on the role of others and act out scenarios in improvised dramas. What makes roleplay important is that children explore relationships, often involving parents or authority figures, and act out situations that help them develop a better understanding of the world in which they live.

Taking part in roleplay requires children to use language and speech and through participation, these skills are enhanced. Learning through experience and from each other, they acquire a wider vocabulary, learn different ways to use their voice, understand the right words and tones of voice to use in different situations and so forth. They also develop a better understanding of non-verbal communication – gesture, facial expression and body language.

For roleplay to be most effective, children need the freedom to create their own roles and scenarios. The ideal time for this is during breaks, where they can indulge in unstructured free play and have the entire playground to create their invented world.

While some children are adept at spontaneous roleplay, others need a bit more encouragement and this is where nurseries and primary schools need to provide support. The best way to do this is to give the children props and equipment that will encourage them to start a roleplay. The easiest and most obvious solution is to provide them with a box full of dressing up costumes and some everyday props. Toy phones, magic wands, work-related hats, shopping bags, etc, can all inspire children to roleplay.

So too, can specialised outdoor roleplay equipment. Shop kiosks, playboats, castle-themed climbing towers, mud kitchens, play trains and carriages, bridges and tunnels, etc. can all motivate children to get involved.

Outdoor storytelling

Outdoor storytelling has become very popular over the last few years, due mainly to the trend for storytelling corners being installed in schools and nurseries up and down the country. These are often magical places for young children where the environment they are in helps them become fully immersed in the story they are listening to, whether read from a book or told by a storyteller.

The increased engagement seen in storytelling corners can be hugely helpful in developing speech and language. Children are keener to listen to the story, take part in audience participation activities, ask and answer questions and even tell stories themselves. They learn how speech and language can captivate, how storylines unfold and how words spoken in particular ways can have an impact.

Kids love traditional stories and fairy tales and a storytelling corner is the best place to enjoy them. With wooden storytelling chairs, log seats or woodland mushroom seats, it’s easy to create a special storytelling corner for your children.

Speech and language playground games

The playground presents a myriad of opportunities for speech and language-related playground games. For example, you could create a treasure hunt where children have to find clues and then discuss where the next clue is. Traditional games like charades, who am I? and I-spy encourage children to describe things and ask questions, while outdoor table games like Ludo, snakes and ladders, noughts and crosses encourage dialogue about excitement, strategy and turn-taking.

While these games require general speech and language interactions, alphabet and phonics games, on the other hand, are perfect for young children just starting out on their letter learning and phonics lessons. Combining traditional playground games like hopscotch and stepping challenges with letters and phonics is a great way for children to have lots of playground fun while reinforcing classroom learning to enhance their understanding of speech and language. At ESP Play, we have a number of alphabet and phonics playground markings, including letter steppers, phonics spots and footwork vowels.


Speech and language skills are highly important to young children and the sooner they start to develop them, the quicker their learning will be. Nursery and primary school playgrounds are the ideal environments for children to participate in roleplay, storytelling and speech and language games that can help accelerate the development of these skills.

For more information about the speech and language playground equipment mentioned in this post, visit our Products page.

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