It’s in everyone’s interest that young people succeed and, for schools, this means providing children with the opportunities and skills to achieve, whether that be in academic studies or in any other field. While much of the input will take place in the classroom, the school playground is increasingly being used as a space for learning and, in this post, we’ll look at the best playground solutions to help children achieve.
1. If at first you don't succeed...
Failure is an integral part of success – ask anyone who’s ever learnt to ride a bike. The problem is that some people never learn to ride because, after falling off, they give up. To succeed they need the resilience to get back on and the ability to learn from their mistakes.
In the playground, children tend to be less self-conscious about failure and this makes it the ideal location to develop resilience and perseverance. This is especially so when there is an array of play equipment. When there is a variety of different activities on offer, children soon realise that no one is good at everything and that it is okay to fail at things when you first give them a try.
Great pieces of equipment for building resilience are those challenging pieces which children have to learn to master, such as Trim Trails obstacle courses and traversing walls where trial and error are necessary for success.
2. The joy of learning
The human mind is naturally hedonistic and this means we tend to switch off if something isn’t enjoyable. When children get bored, they don’t learn so well and this can be a barrier to success. The opposite is also true: provide pupils with enjoyable activities and they will be more engaged, better motivated and eager to learn.
To increase enjoyment, more and more teachers are leaving the classroom to deliver active lessons in the playground. Why teach numbers and phonics on a whiteboard when you can have kids learning the same skills jumping on a giant number grid or playing a phonetic stepping game? Is it more interesting to look at a diagram of a plant’s root system or to see the real thing in a discovery planter? With such a variety of outdoor curriculum equipment available today, there’s a wealth of opportunity to provide children with a wide range of fun, active, outdoor lessons.
Children love games and when they are incorporated into the learning experience, they are more motivated to achieve. Gamification is the process of using games to encourage participation; for example, replace rewards certificates with game-like point scoring where children can ‘level up’ and they’ll be much more inclined to want to earn rewards.
Games can be incorporated into everyday learning, too. For example, you can use outdoor battle boards (battleships) to teach coordinates, maths traversing walls to teach number skills, or tangram table puzzles to teach shapes. Using these kinds of sensory play in gamification lessons improves children’s ability to remember the skills they have learnt and this can be instrumental for future success.
4. An easy way to learn hard lessons
There are certain hard lessons in life that we’d all rather children didn’t have to experience. One way to help children avoid making such mistakes is to let them role play scenarios where they can experience these traumas by proxy and learn important lessons that they can take away and use.
Today’s outdoor stages make an ideal playground performance space to create role plays about important issues. When exploring bullying, for example, the children can experience what it is like to be a victim and see the consequences for the perpetrator. This can have a significant impact on the entire group; changing attitudes, reinforcing important values, preventing children from bullying and convincing those who see it to report it. In the long term, knowing the difference between right and wrong can be crucial in ensuring a child has a successful future ahead of them.
5. Dealing with stress
The world we live in is increasingly stressful and mental health is a growing issue. In schools, children who find it hard to cope with stress do less well in exams and are more prone to a range of other mental health issues. In order to counter this, most schools now provide spaces where children can escape from the pressures of the classroom and teach them strategies to help them cope.
Outdoor spaces are by far the best places to create an escape. They let pupils step away from the building associated with the pressure of learning and they are outside in the fresh air and open to the sunshine that provides mood enhancing vitamin D. One solution is to create peaceful nature gardens with planters and trellises, embellished with bug houses and bird feeders. Alternatively, you could install a MUGA, where the children can let off steam by participating in energetic sports or learning to relax by doing a spot of tai chi or yoga.
We all want children to achieve their potential but to do this successfully, they’ll need to overcome the obstacles that life puts in their way. This can be poor resilience, boredom, a lack of motivation, not knowing the right path or not being able to deal with stress. Schools are tasked with helping children in all these areas and it can be a challenge to find the right solutions. Hopefully, this post will have shown you that the playground can be one of your strongest assets and that, with the right equipment in place, it can work wonders for helping your pupils be successful.