Is your school or nursery taking full advantage of your outdoor spaces? Does your playground fulfil all the things you want it to? For establishments looking to develop outdoor provision, there are plenty of ways to make improvements. To give you some idea of what it is possible to achieve through playground design, here are some points you may wish to consider.
Playground design lets you optimise outdoor spaces
Sometimes, it is difficult to visualise the potential you have to transform your outdoor space. Anyone who has watched the BBC TV programme ‘Your Home Made Perfect’ will have seen how the show’s architects used virtual reality to remove all the walls in a house, letting owners see how the entire space could be reimagined. Although you might not have virtual reality technology at hand, starting your playground design by creating a blank plan of your outdoor areas, removing existing features like walls or fences, enables you to see how the entire space could be put to better use.
Even if you require development on a smaller scale, there might still be quirky, unused or forgotten areas that can be given a new lease of life with the right equipment, perhaps installing wonky mirrors onto walls, putting a storytelling circle on a grassy corner or filling an empty recess with a shelter.
Designing an all-weather playground
To get optimum use out of your playground, you want children to be able to enjoy it all year round. The starting point for making this happen is having the right playground surfacing installed. While different uses can require different types of surface, modern surfacing materials like resin-bound gravel, artificial grass, wetpour and rubber mulch are all better suited to wet weather play than puddle-prone asphalt and tarmac and muddy grass. Though even grassed areas can be used in the wet when they have protective grass matting to stop them churning up. By introducing surfaces like these, with excellent drainage, you reduce the chances of slippage and make the playground more inviting to play in, even during a shower.
Of course, there are always children who hate wet weather and days when the rain will be heavy. However, there are still things you can do to make the playground useable. Playground shelters, including some with windbreaking side panels and built-in seating, offer places for the rain-averse to sit in and for everyone else to congregate during a downpour. You can also install sail shades close to the side of the school too, and these will protect against both the rain and the sunshine. Another solution is to install play huts for smaller groups to occupy.
Designing for variety and inclusion
The key to getting the most from your playground is providing variety for your pupils. Today, the solution for achieving this comes through designing a playground with a range of play zones, each providing a different type of activity. Our free playground design service ensures your playground fulfils all the things you want from it. You can create spaces for play, PE and learning while providing inclusive and engaging activities that are fun, healthy and meet the needs of all pupils.
The type of equipment you install depends upon the needs, interests and ages of your students, and we always advocate getting your pupils and parents involved in the decision-making process. Not only does this help you install the equipment the pupils want; it also means you’ll have a more enthusiastic group of fundraisers.
Schools and nurseries have a lot of options when it comes to the types of playground equipment they can install, however, when it comes to zones, the most popular tend to be an area for playing sport and teaching PE, an outdoor classroom, a playground game area (for hopscotch, tag, skipping, etc.) a challenge and risk zone with exciting climbing apparatus, a water and sand messy play area, a creative area (for art, roleplay, music, dance, etc.), a sensory area and a quiet nature area.
Of course, as most schools and nurseries have limited space and budgets, clever design can be used to make some zones multi-purpose. A quiet nature area, for example, can also be used as a storytelling or reading corner and a place to study plants, insects and the weather.
Funding for playground development
Developing a playground can be expensive and often requires schools to apply for funding and to raise funds themselves. However, there are a variety of grants that you may be eligible to apply for and here at ESP Play, we can help you find them. At the same time, Parent Teacher Associations do a terrific job at fundraising and, over the years, we have seen many raise substantial amounts to help transform their school and nursery playgrounds.
Though the playground is one of a school or nursery’s most valuable assets, it is often under-utilised. Careful playground design can help you make the most of it, ensuring optimal use of space, accessible all year round, while providing a broad range of learning and play activities that suit the needs and preferences of your children.