How to Improve Early Years Provision Through Outdoor Play Equipment

Ofsted loves a good playground. Many outstanding primary schools, pre-schools and nurseries are often praised for creating well-resourced playgrounds that enable high-quality learning to take place outside of the classroom. In this post, we’ll explain what Ofsted sees as important for school playgrounds and show you how you can improve early years provision through your own outdoor spaces.

What does Ofsted look for in a school playground?

Primarily, Ofsted wants to see a playground that can be used as an outdoor learning space. For EYFS and primary pupils, they are looking for facilities and equipment that helps children:

  • learn and practise their literacy and numeracy skills
  • improve physical development
  • enhance learning about the environment
  • stimulate their imaginations
  • participate in well planned and focused learning activities

In the rest of this post, we’ll show you how you can achieve these things in your own playground.

1. Developing literacy and numeracy skills

One of the key skills for EYFS children is learning letters and numbers and the best way to do this outdoors is to make it a fun activity. One example of how this can be achieved is to install a small traversing wall in which the handgrips children hold on to are the letters of the alphabet or where the grips are numbered.  

Other resources include playground markings, such as alphabet targets, footwork vowels and phonetic spots for literacy, and number arches, number grids and hopscotch games for numeracy.


With resources for encouraging roleplay to develop speaking and listening and table top and upright boards for mark making, it is easy to set your playground up as the ideal place for young pupils to learn literacy and numeracy.

2. Improve physical development

There are lots of outdoor playground resources to improve a child’s physical development. These can increase physical fitness through aerobic activities, develop muscular strength or work on skills such as balance and agility.

The best thing about them is that they are great to play on. They motivate and stimulate children into getting active and, as a result, they see physical activity as something fun rather than as a chore. To give you an example of just a few of the things you can do, here at ESP Play we have play towers to climb on and slide down, exciting trim trail obstacle courses to complete and a wide range of playground markings to encourage active play and sports.    

3. Enhance learning about the environment

Ideally, every school should have an outdoor area where pupils can learn to appreciate the environment. If you don’t have the luxury of a school garden or field, however, there are resources that encourage wildlife to come into your school grounds. These include bug houses, butterfly boxes, bird feeders and ladybird towers.

To complement these, you can add a range of planters and trellises and even a discovery planter to create your own nature zone. All these resources encourage children to develop an interest in and an appreciation for the nature in their own backyard. At the same time, they provide teachers with the facilities needed to help children learn about nature and the environment.

4. Stimulate children’s imaginations

One of the best ways to develop children’s imaginations is to provide them with ample time for unstructured activities where they are free to let their minds wander. However, to get the most from this, Ofsted recognises that schools need to provide the equipment that will stimulate imaginative play.

Luckily, there is so much equipment available to do this, that it is possible to create an entire adventure world in which children can roleplay to their heart’s content. Our imaginative playground equipment includes mountains, mines, tunnels, bridges, warped mirrors, play huts, teepees, den making posts, carriages, trains, mud kitchens, shop kiosks, outdoor musical instruments and much more. All of which can be installed on child-safe playground surfacing.

With facilities like this in your playground, there is no end of things that children can explore through roleplay and imagination.

5. Participate in well-planned and focused learning activities

It’s not just the resources that you use that will get you praise from Ofsted, it’s how you utilise them in children’s learning. To get the most out of them, you need to use them as a resource in structured lessons, besides letting children use them for free play. The possibilities, however, are endless. With the resources mentioned in this post, you can plan lessons that cover many aspects of the EYFS curriculum. Here’s just an example:

  • Use the shop kiosk to create roleplay scenarios for developing communication and language.
  • Set up a trim trail obstacle course to develop physical coordination, control and movement skills.
  • Give children roles to carry out using imaginative equipment to develop social skills.
  • Play bean bag catching games on the phonic spots to develop phonic skills.
  • Play counting games using the number grid to help with basic addition and subtraction.
  • Plan activities to observe changes in the bug house or butterfly boxes to help with understanding the environment.
  • Use outdoor musical instruments to explore sound for the expressive arts element of EYFS.


As you can see, when it comes to EYFS, learning doesn’t have to be confined to the indoor space. Using outdoor playground equipment enables you to extend and enhance the provision you deliver to young pupils, giving them a far richer learning experience – one that both they and Ofsted will appreciate.

For more information, take a look at our specific range of EYFS equipment, designed to complement all seven areas of the EYFS curriculum.

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