6 Ways Preschool Children Benefit from Outdoor Play

According to the gov.uk website, one in five children are overweight or obese by the time they start reception class and this rises to one in three by the end of primary school. For many children, this is due not only to poor diet and a lack of exercise but also because they lack enthusiasm for physical activity. Challenging this early, before they start school, can bring a number of important benefits and in this post, we’ll look at what they are.

1. Outdoor play improves fitness

Even at such a young age, outdoor play can have a positive impact on a child’s fitness. Indeed, it is as important at this age as it is at any other. Though most preschool children will be happy running around having fun in the playground, providing them with equipment that allows them to increase their activity levels and which requires them to use their strength can improve fitness even more. Good examples include climbing equipment, which is great for developing strength and sports markings which can encourage aerobic activity.

2. Makes exercise enjoyable

Giving children the opportunity to participate in active play is a great way for them to discover the joy of exercise. Unlike PE, which is imposed upon children and can often put them off taking part, free play on outdoor play equipment can engender a passion for activity. This can help change attitudes to sport and physical activity over the long-term, setting up the child for a healthy lifestyle in the future.

Equipment such as Trim Trail obstacle courses and play towers are great fun to play on and perfect for active role play.

3. Improves balance and coordination

Balance and coordination are two key physical skills which children will rely on as they move into primary school. There are some exceptionally good pieces of playground equipment that can be used to motivate children to take part in activities that help bring these skills along. In particular, our Free Flow and Tangled apparatus all provide exciting ways for children to practice balancing and to coordinate different parts of the body as they play.

4. Maintaining a healthy weight

One of the advantages of outdoor play is that children get to burn off calories while they are being active. While diet certainly plays a part in obesity, the reason so many people are overweight is that we consume more calories than we use. Even children with a healthy diet can become overweight if they do not exercise enough.

To ensure that children burn more of the calories they eat, it is recommended that they do 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day. Providing stimulating outdoor equipment that gets them running, jumping, swinging and climbing can contribute significantly to that 60-minute goal and, in doing so, help them maintain a healthy weight.

5. Develop social skills

It’s not just a child’s physical development that is improved by taking part in active outdoor play. Studies have shown that it is also an excellent way to help children develop their social skills. When playing in groups, children are placed into situations where they have to communicate and work together and this helps to start the development of skills they will rely on later in life.

A clever selection of the right playground equipment can help preschool children learn to turn take, negotiate, encourage and support one and other. Imaginative, sports and role play equipment are all useful in different ways and a combination of these can have a significant impact in accelerating the early development of these skills.

6. Develop confidence, resilience and independence

One of the great things about active free play is that it gives children the opportunity to do things for themselves. Given the right types of equipment, this can help children become more independent, confident and resilient.

Equipment such as Trim Trails and climbing frames are excellent for this as they present challenges that, when successfully completed, make children feel confident about their abilities. And by overcoming minor setbacks, such as not being able to conquer an obstacle first time, they develop resilience.

In addition, these types of equipment help foster independence. Children choose the pathway across the Trim Trail or climbing frame that is best for them and to do this, they have to make their own, independent decisions about which apparatus to play on, which route they will take and how to tackle the challenges it throws.

Conclusion

Active outdoor play has lots of benefits for preschool children, especially when appropriate play equipment is provided. It benefits their physical health, improving fitness, developing balance and coordination, maintaining healthy body weight and creating a positive attitude towards physical exercise. In addition, it helps the development of social skills as well as bringing on increased confidence, resilience and independence.

If you are looking to improve your preschool playground, check out our range of products or look at our free playground design service.

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5 Reasons Why Schools Should Install Artificial Grass

Real grass is great. It’s comfortable to sit on, easy to play on and ideal for sports. However, it has its drawbacks and for schools that like grass surfaces, artificial grass provides the same benefits but without any of the issues that grass causes. Need convincing? Then read on and we’ll explain why, for schools, artificial grass is better.

1. It’s less expensive to maintain

While we all love the smell of freshly cut grass, no-one likes it better than the company that gets paid to cut it. And grass needs cutting regularly, particularly in spring and summer and especially if you need it keeping short to play sports on.

Besides regular mowing, there’s also a need for regular maintenance. With hundreds of children running all over it every day, real grass gets worn away. You’ll find bare patches and unplanned footpaths appearing in the areas that are most heavily used. On top of that, there are issues caused by moss, weeds and periods of drought which can cause the grass to die off and need reseeding.

All of this maintenance can be expensive. Indeed, if mega-rich sports clubs have shifted to artificial grass because the natural variety is costly to maintain, then it’s certainly something that cash-strapped schools could benefit from.

Artificial grass doesn’t need cutting and is made from highly durable materials that last for years. Unlike natural grass, which gets worn away, it is designed for regular, heavy use.

2. It's cleaner

Artificial Grass - ESP Play

One of the big issues with real grass is that it needs soil to grow in. When soil mixes with rain and gets churned up by all those feet, the result is mud. Mud, unfortunately, gets everywhere. It sticks to children’s shoes and they trample it all through the school where it dries and forms a layer of dirt that blankets everything. That sparkling corridor that the cleaner polished the night before looks like it hasn’t seen water in years by the end of morning break.

The result of mud is children’s clothes getting dirty, PE lessons having to finish early so pupils can get cleaned up and the expense of having to clean the floors so regularly. Without mud, floors take less time to clean and this means schools could reduce cleaning costs over the year.

The advantage of artificial grass is that there is a self-draining barrier between the surface and the soil underneath which prevents mud from being formed; as a result, your school and your pupils will be cleaner.

3. An all-weather surface

The other disadvantage of mud is that it prevents children from playing on the grass after a downpour. Not only do the children get muddy feet but they are also liable to slip and injure themselves. Muddy pitches also put a stop to many PE activities, forcing teachers to abandon their plans and seek indoor alternatives, which isn’t good when they have a scheme of work to complete and there’s a shortage of available indoor space.

With artificial grass, this doesn’t need to happen. The lack of soil means It doesn’t get muddy, its self-draining properties prevent pools from forming and because it’s laid over an impact-absorbing layer, it doesn’t freeze rock solid in winter. Not only does this mean schools can get much more use out of artificial grass surfacing than from real grass; it also ensures that the surface is always usable, enabling them to stick to their plans, come rain or shine.

4. It's safer to use

Artificial grass is safer than real grass in a number of ways. One way is that it reduces allergies. Quite a few people have grass allergies, some are allergic to its pollen, others develop rashes just by touching it and there are those that are allergic to the moulds which are dispersed when grass is cut. Replacing real grass with artificial grass eradicates the causes of these allergic reactions.

As artificial grass has an impact-absorbing underlayer, it also reduces the chances of children being seriously injured if they fall or slip when at play. This makes it great as a surface onto which you can install other outdoor play equipment, such as climbing frames and Trim Trail obstacle courses.

The protective layer also prevents sharp stones or bits of glass that have been buried in the soil rising to the surface where they have the potential to cause injury. And if a pupil does have a cut or scrape, there won’t be any soil getting into the wound, reducing the chance of infection.

5. It always looks great

As a school, you always want your outdoor spaces to look inviting for your pupils to play on. While natural grass can look fantastic when it’s in good condition and has been recently trimmed, its appeal can waver. It can turn brown, grow mossy, develop bald-patches, become unkempt and look like a wet weekend at Glastonbury Festival.

Artificial grass keeps its looks all year round, perfectly green and immaculately trimmed, making it look inviting for the children and appealing to visitors.

Conclusion

As you can see, while there are lots of reasons to love real grass, if you are a school, artificial grass might be more of a fit. It’s cheaper to maintain, cleaner and safer. What’s more, it can be used in all weathers and looks great all year round.

For more information about our range of artificial grass surfaces, check out our artificial grass page.

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How School Playgrounds Can Improve Pupil Wellbeing

The crisis in child mental health is a major concern. According to the former president of the NEU, Louise Regan, ‘Teachers are overwhelmed by the sheer number of students showing signs of mental health problems.’ Indeed, at 400,000 a year, the number of children being referred for mental health treatment is staggering. But what can schools do to help combat this rise in mental health issues? Surprisingly, making changes to your playground can have a significant impact. In this post, we’ll look at how changing your playground can help your students’ wellbeing.

The benefits of just being outside

One simple way to improve wellbeing is to make sure pupils get outside where they naturally feel freer. Getting them outdoors frequently, even for short periods, can help stop stress levels building up and make it easier for pupils to manage the day without feeling overwhelmed.

Going outdoors also exposes the children to sunlight which, even in cloudy conditions, helps their bodies create vitamin D. This essential substance is known to help with the production of the hormone serotonin, which can reduce stress and anxiety and improve the feeling of wellbeing.

Many schools are now extending the amount of time pupils spend outside by creating outdoor classrooms. These have become very popular over the last few years and there is now specialist, curriculum-based, outdoor learning equipment available to help schools put these in place.

Promoting positive moods

Wellbeing can be enhanced by improving mood and one of the most effective ways this can be achieved is to encourage students to take part in regular periods of mildly intense physical exercise.

When done over the long term, this improves optimism, making children more enthusiastic and putting them in a more positive mood. The added benefit is that it improves behaviour and, as children can feel very stressed when they get into trouble, the potential for such stressful situations to happen is reduced.

There are various ways schools can encourage pupils to participate in mildly intense physical exercise. One popular initiative is The Daily Mile, which aims to get children running, jogging or walking a mile each day while at school. Equipment such as playground markings is also useful because they provide pupils with the means to take part in a diverse range of aerobic activities, such as football, netball and traditional playground games like hopscotch and skipping.

De-stressing through play

With the Ofsted focus on progress and attainment, it’s no surprise that the pressure put on children to achieve is greater than ever. This has made schools increasingly stressful environments and is likely to be a significant contributor to the rise in child mental health problems, such as anxiety, depression, self-harming and eating disorders.

Getting pupils to take part in physical play is an effective way to combat stress. Indeed, the more they participate, the lower their stress levels will become. Independent research has shown that children who are given the opportunity to play on outdoor equipment increase their activity levels by almost 15%. With the wide range of exciting outdoor play equipment available, there’s no end of active fun that pupils can enjoy.

Making happy happen

Ultimately, wellbeing is linked to making children feel good about themselves and there are many ways that this can be achieved in the playground. Take our Trim Trails equipment, for example. These pieces enable you to create exciting obstacle courses, tailor-made for your pupils, that will encourage them to participate in physical activity and leave them feeling truly exhilarated, time and time again.

In addition, there’s the sense of achievement that can come from completing a challenge, such as successfully getting to the end of a traversing wall or managing to complete a circuit of a Free Flow climbing frame. When children set themselves a challenge and then manage to accomplish it, it can leave them feeling uplifted and confident and put them in a very positive mood.

For those children who find the constant business of the classroom and bustle of the playground too much to bear, providing a quiet garden or nature zone can often be the ideal solution. While these are best placed away from the noisy playground, even schools with limited outdoor spaces can use fences, planters and trellises to transform a corner of a playground into a place of calm where children are surrounded by nature and can restore their inner peace.

Conclusion

With schools having to take more responsibility for the mental wellbeing of their students, putting in measures that can reduce stress, improve mood and make children feel better about themselves is crucial. Hopefully, this post will have shown you that the playground is the ideal place to start and that the equipment mentioned here can help you put those measures into place.

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6 Key Elements of the Modern School Playground

Playgrounds have moved on a lot over the last few years. Like blackboards in classrooms, old fashioned asphalt schoolyards have been consigned to the annals of history. Today’s playgrounds use modern surfacing materials, have places for outdoor seating and eating, provide areas for shelter and are equipped for fun, sport and relaxation. To give a more detailed overview, here are the six key elements of a modern playground.

1. Modern surfacing materials

The surface of your playground is one of its most important elements. Get it right and you have a space that can be used all year round and for a wide variety of purposes. A good surface needs to be safe, easy to look after, durable and something that is good for children to play on. At the same time, it needs to be matched to any other equipment you want to install.

For most of the 20th Century, asphalt has been the standard material used for playground surfacing, however, this is now being replaced by more modern and superior materials. Two of the main reasons are that, like tarmac, it is expensive to maintain and its hard surface is a frequent cause of injuries, such as nasty scrapes or broken bones. Its hardness makes it particularly unsuitable for using underneath the climbing equipment that many schools are now installing.

Today, you are more likely to see schools using a wider variety of playground surfaces, each one fulfilling a different purpose. For example, wetpour surfacing, with its cushioned protection, is ideal for younger children and for placing under raised equipment from which children may fall. Softer surfacing also comes in the form of rubber mulch and there’s also artificial grass, which is great for sports. If you have real grass, you can protect it from erosion and stop it from becoming a quagmire by installing grass matting over the top. If you still need hard surfaces in places, resin bound gravel is a more durable and better alternative to asphalt.

2. Places for sitting and eating

All children will want to spend some time sitting down chatting to friends during break times and, at lunchtimes, there are those with packed lunches who’d prefer a spot in the open air to a cramped and busy canteen.

These simple pleasures are easy and inexpensive to cater for and you’ll find that in a modern playground, a sitting and eating zone is usually provided. There is a range of playground seating you can install, including wooden benches and picnic tables, as well as individual seats and even mini amphitheatres where larger groups of friends can chat together.

3. Providing shelter

Bad weather playtimes, when the kids are kept indoors, aren’t much fun for staff or pupils. While outdoor shelters won’t be usable in the worst of the weather, they can help reduce the number of indoor breaks you need. More importantly, playground shelters help those children who feel the cold to have somewhere dry and which offers some protection from those chilly winds. Equipment includes everything from large, octagonal shelters with decked floors and built-in seating, to pergolas and sail shades. For younger children, there are also play huts and dens.

4. Invest in a nature area

All of us benefit from the calming influence of nature and providing a little bit of greenery to your playground can make a big difference to the children’s moods. If you haven’t got the luxury of your own green area, there are ways to introduce a bit of park life into an industrial looking playground. With planters, trellises and artificial grass, you can grow shrubs and flowers to create your own nature and garden zone. You can even add bug houses and bird boxes. It’s the ideal solution for kids who need some relaxation after challenging lessons in a busy classroom.

5. Fun and games

It’s hard to have fun when you’re shoved out into a blank quadrangle of grey asphalt. However, by installing the right equipment, you can create a vibrant outdoor space that provides lots of fun opportunities for children of all interests.

One of the most affordable options is to install playground markings. There are specific fun and games markings that enable children to play both traditional and modern playground games. There are even designs to encourage role play, such as our roadway markings which comes complete with a roundabout, parking spaces and a zebra crossing.

You may be more familiar with sports markings which can be used both at playtimes and for PE lessons. These create the pitches pupils need to play football, netball and basketball, plus a range of other popular sports.

6. Equipment children love

What gets the biggest thumbs up from pupils is when you install the types of equipment found in public playgrounds. Today’s children want exciting things to play on, like climbing equipment and its now possible to install these in schools. And with items such as Trim Trails obstacle courses, Free Flow climbing frames, traversing walls, play towers and even parkour equipment, you’re bound to give your pupils the ultimate, playtime fun.

Not only are these pieces of equipment designed for safety; they also get the children to become more active during their free time and help develop a wide range of social and learning skills.

There is also a lot of fun equipment designed especially for younger children, such as outdoor musical instruments, mud kitchens and splashy water and sand equipment.

Conclusion

If you are looking to bring your playground into the 21st Century, hopefully, the points we have discussed here will help you see what the main features of a modern school playground are. With modern surfacing, places for sitting and eating, shelter from the rain and wind, natural areas for those who need to relax and exciting areas for those who need to burn off steam, today’s school playground genuinely caters for the needs of children when they are outdoors.

If you are looking to modernise your school playground, check out our range of products or look at our free playground design service.

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North West Area Sales Manager at ESP Play

We're looking for a Sales Manager to join our experienced team.

Our people management strategy has a strong focus on empowering employees and building a culture in which they feel valued. In the past 12 months numerous strategic processes, training schemes and individual one-to-one coaching programmes have been introduced to ensure our team feel integral to the continual development of our business. We uphold clearly defined progressive personal development plans to develop employee knowledge and advance their skills, ensuring they have the relevant resources to do their job to the very best of their ability.

The leadership team behind ESP are responsible for the transformational approach to people management. Championing continuous professional development through promotion from within, encouraging employees to continue learning by supporting them through professional qualifications and improving the working environment through the integration of a market leading CRM platform.

As well as somewhat traditional practices we also promote a little ‘off the wall’ team building including days at the races, curry nights, family fun days, running club and bubble football - to name just a few!

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