Outdoor Play Equipment for the EYFS Framework

Outdoor Play Equipment for the EYFS Framework

According to the UK Government, the seven areas of learning in the EYFS framework should mostly be delivered through games and play. This makes the playground not just somewhere children have fun, but also an arena in which learning can take place. To make this possible, it is important to choose outdoor play equipment that facilitates EYFS learning. Here we look at the seven areas of EYFS and show how play equipment can be successfully used.

Communication and language

With the right equipment, the playground provides plenty of opportunities for children to develop their communication and language skills. A simple outdoor stage, play towers and shop kiosks, for example, encourage children to participate in role play, either during free play or organised activities. Playground markings for interactive games are also helpful because activities such as football or hopscotch require children to communicate with each other in order to take part.

Literacy

Literacy, which is naturally related to communication and language, can also be developed in an outdoor setting. Creating a storytelling circle, complete with a storytelling chair and mushroom-design seating is a great way to encourage listening to stories and to inspire children to tell their own.

Additionally, there is a range of specialist literacy playground markings for games involving letters and phonic sounds, as well as outdoor whiteboards and chalkboards to encourage mark making.

Mathematics

The playground provides unlimited opportunities for children to develop numeracy skills, including learning to recognise numbers, count forwards and backwards and even basic adding and subtraction. There is a wide range of maths-based playground markings that display numbers and encourage children to count as they play.

At the same time, there is equipment that can help develop other maths skills, even though the children wouldn’t recognise these as maths, for example, battleships boards and soma cubes.

Expressive arts and design

Children love expressing themselves artistically and there are numerous ways you can use playground equipment to encourage and facilitate this. Outdoor stages and roleplay equipment can motivate children to perform made up plays; the wide range of whiteboards, chalkboards and painting stations provide endless opportunities to create art, and the selection of fun, outdoor percussion instruments, that everyone can play, motivate children to experiment with sound, patterns and beats.

Physical development

Young children are naturally full of energy so it takes little to get them moving around. However, to develop strength and stamina, as well as balance, agility and coordination, it’s helpful to have the right equipment. One ideal solution is to install EYFS Trim Trails equipment. With balance beams, log striders, climbing nets, tunnels, jungle bars and rope traverses to choose from, it’s easy to create a fun but challenging obstacle course.

A lot of modern play tower equipment also comes with features that encourage physical development, these include traversing slopes, ropes and nets, climbing poles, wobbly bridges and slides.

Personal, social and emotional development

Often their first experience of prolonged time away from their families, going to an EYFS setting requires children to quickly develop their personal, social and emotional skills. Encouraging interaction is essential to help children negotiate this steep learning curve and, just as with language and communication, playing group games and taking part in role play activities are key to doing this. Again, playground markings and roleplay equipment help facilitate this, as does messy play equipment, like mud kitchens and water and sand equipment, that children love to play with together.

Understanding the world

Young children find nature fascinating and there’s no better place to give them an understanding of it than outdoors. Unfortunately, not all EYFS providers have an outdoor space where the children can interact with nature. However, this can be overcome with the latest Nature Garden outdoor equipment, such as planters and trellises that can provide greenery even in hard-surfaced play areas, as well as bird feeders and boxes, insect habitats and butterfly boxes.

Additionally, there is equipment for planting seeds and observing them grow and specially designed products that let youngsters see what happens beneath the soil's surface. There are even simple to use weather stations that can be used to monitor the weather.

Conclusion

With games and play an essential element of delivering the EYFS framework, the early years playground is a key learning environment for young children. With careful thought and clever design, even the smallest of spaces can be transformed into a resource that offers a multitude of fun opportunities that facilitate, motivate and inspire children to learn across all seven areas of the EYFS curriculum.

For more information about our range of EYFS and nursery products, visit our Early Years page.

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The Benefits of Free Play in EYFS Settings

Free play in EYFS

Modern childhood is increasingly regimented, especially in education where the demands of the statutory EYFS framework put increasing emphasis on more formal, structured types of learning. While the pros and cons of this approach are hotly debated, one thing remains clear: at a young age, free play is vital to child development. Here we look at how children benefit from free play and how EYFS providers can facilitate it.

What is free play?

Free play, also known as unstructured play, means giving children the opportunity to choose what they want to do and how they do it. Although adults need to facilitate the time, space and equipment needed, children should be the ones leading the activities and adults should not direct or guide them to meet learning outcomes or curriculum targets. It should be nothing more than pure play.

This, of course, doesn’t mean free play is without value. In fact, it is fundamental to child development and beneficial in numerous ways.

Social, emotional & personal development

When able to play freely, children interact in different ways and have many different experiences, some real and, through roleplay, some imaginary. Both types of experience help children explore the world they live in. They learn how to make friends, communicate, express emotions and feelings and, through roleplay, they can explore a wide range of different social situations, roles and relationships.

This is highly valuable for helping them develop key social skills, build self-confidence and overcome anxieties. It also helps them to understand other people’s feelings and how their own behaviour can affect others.

Cognitive & problem-solving skills

Many of the cognitive and problem-solving skills children need to progress in education are developed naturally through free play: they learn to think for themselves and solve problems creatively, coming up with their own solutions. The more opportunity they have, the more they are able to apply what they have learnt to other problems, including those inside the classroom.

Provided they have the right resources available to them, free play also gives children the chance to explore the properties of different physical materials. This is why equipment like magnetic water walls and messy play areas with mud kitchens and sand pits are so important. It’s play in one sense, but science and maths in another.

Problem solving also comes into play when there are disagreements or fallings-out in the playground. Faced with these issues, children quickly learn the skills to resolve them, such as turn-taking, sharing, negotiating and compromising.

Physical development

Young children’s bodies are still developing and need physical activity to increase strength and stamina, as well as develop physical skills, like fine motor, balance and coordination. As children at this age are often bouncing with energy, their free play choices usually involve physical exertion of some kind; however, they need plenty of opportunities to be active and have the right apparatus available to them to develop in the ways their bodies need.

To facilitate this, EYFS providers need a well-designed and suitably equipped playground that presents children with a selection of age-appropriate physical challenges. This should offer children the opportunity to do active things like run, jump, swing, climb and manoeuvre, as well as take part in activities that develop more refined skills, like catching, throwing, balancing, stepping, drawing, and digging.

Taking part in active free play doesn’t just help with physical development. When children enjoy these activities at an early age, it improves the chance that they will go on to adopt healthier lifestyles as they grow older and could, therefore, play a key role in their long-term health. Physical activity is also beneficial for mental wellbeing. With mental health issues now affecting growing numbers of children right across the age ranges, it is important to give them more opportunities to take part.

Conclusion

Free play is essential for child development, giving children the opportunity to develop social, emotional, personal, cognitive, problem-solving and physical skills. Rather than being thrust upon them through a regimented curriculum, it allows children to learn creatively and intuitively, at their own pace and in a way that suits their own interests and needs.

While EYFS providers have to fulfil the requirements of the EYFS framework, providing opportunities for free play enhances children’s ability to succeed at this stage of their education. To facilitate this, providers need to ensure that their children have the adequate time, space and resources to take part.

If you are looking for free play equipment for your EYFS playground, visit our EYFS Products page.

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How to Create a Stimulating EYFS Playground

Stimulating EYFS Playground

As EYFS children learn through play, the playground is just as valuable a learning environment as the classroom. This means that to facilitate good learning experiences, it is important to create a stimulating outdoor area where education and personal development can thrive. For inspiration, this post will examine some of the things EYFS providers can do to make their playgrounds more inspiring.

Providing the right resources

Just like in the classroom, making your playground a great place to learn means providing your pupils with the right resources for their needs. While fulfilling the requirements of the EYFS curriculum is a key part of this, so is taking into account the abilities and interests of your own pupils. When upgrading a playground, it is always helpful to seek the opinions of your children and their parents to see what kind of equipment they would like to have. Getting parents on board can also be very useful for helping with fundraising.

For EYFS children, the right resources could include a wide range of different things. Play towers, for example, are great for developing both physical skills through climbing and motivating children to participate in adventurous role play activities. Sensory development can be encouraged by the introduction of magnetic water walls, sand boxes, outdoor percussion instruments or wobbly mirrors. Messy play, whether with mud kitchens, sandpits or water tables, is great fun and motivates creative and tactile skills.

At such a young age, it is important to stimulate children’s imagination and inquisitiveness, and there is a lot of equipment to help them achieve this. Indeed, at ESP Play, we have curated our own collection of imaginary playground equipment that includes pieces such as play huts, hollow logs, shop kiosks, bridges, climb-on boats, sit-on trains and more.

An organised space that invites and challenges

An effective EYFS playground needs to be well organised, inviting and provide children with challenge.

Good organisation is important to ensure safety and to provide learning experiences that can move seamlessly in and out of the classroom. Achieving this comes down to great design, something we have years of experience of at ESP Play. We have a free playground design service and our design team are happy to work with you to create a well organised outdoor space featuring a range of activity zones that are perfectly suited to your needs.

To make an outdoor play space inviting, it has to appeal to its intended audience. Though EYFS children are naturally attracted to brightly coloured and quirky equipment, it is essential that what’s there is age-appropriate and suited to the interests of your children. It’s another reason to collaborate closely with the children and their parents so that what you install is sure to be a winner.

Challenge is important to help children make progress and something that Ofsted inspectors will be looking for when they visit. Challenge comes in many forms, whether it involves physical activity, like mastering an EYFS climbing wall or Trim Trails obstacle course, developing coordination and road safety while triking around a playground roadway, or sitting in the storytelling chair to tell their friends a story. All these pieces, and more, can help children overcome fears, develop new skills and achieve new heights.

Inspiring confidence and independence

One of the chief aims of EYFS is to prepare children for school and part of this is helping them to become more self-confident and independent so they can do things for themselves. Our Early Years Trim Trails are an excellent resource for this. Specially designed for youngsters, these obstacle courses provide challenges that, when met, increase confidence and inspire children to be more independent. What’s more, as some of the obstacles take time to overcome, children naturally develop resilience as they attempt to master them. The best thing of course is that with balance beams, jungle bars, wobbly bridges and rope traversing options, these courses are great fun to play on.

Healthy options

EYFS playgrounds also need to motivate children to take part in physical activity in order to develop strength, agility and coordination and to improve general health. Stimulation, in this case, involves providing resources that make children active.

Strength can be improved through installing climbing and swinging apparatus, for example, traversing walls and jungle bars. For developing agility and coordination, there are numerous game-based playground markings suitable for EYFS children that are ideal for the purpose. These include agility ladders, steppers, and twisty lines. There are also many playground markings that combine coordination activities with basic numeracy and literacy skills, such as phonic spots, number arches and alphabet targets.

For more cardiovascular activities, you can also provide equipment like hurdles markings and pitch/court markings for football, netball, rounders and various other sports.

Conclusion

A stimulating EYFS playground is one where young children are motivated to get outside and participate. Designed correctly, you can inspire children to do things that help them learn, personally develop and stay fit and healthy through having fun.

For more ideas of how to make your EYFS playground more stimulating, visit our products page.

 

 

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Flat on Inspiration? Why Landscaping is the New Playground Trend

school playground landscaping

Traditionally, playgrounds have always been flat. Indeed, natural undulations were often levelled out to make them flat. Today, however, research tells us that adding mounds, ramps and other raised features brings both educational and play benefits while improving the overall aesthetic of the playground. Here we look at why landscaping has become the new trend in playground design.

New dimensions, new challenges

Landscaped playgrounds are intrinsically more interesting for children to explore and bring a whole new dynamic to play and outdoor learning. Mounds, for example, are features that demand to be climbed and conquered, to roll down, to chase friends around, to stand on top of and view the landscape from a different perspective. In this sense, they are rich in play and development opportunities and provide valuable new challenges for children.

Adding a vertical dimension provides enhanced physical play that, through moving uphill and downhill and manoeuvring around landscaped contours, helps speed up the development of important gross motor skills and coordination, while improving overall strength and fitness.

Kinaestheic skills

Research has shown that the new activities which raised landscaping provides, such as climbing, jumping and rolling, helps with the development of kinaesthesia, the body's ability to sense action, movement and location. Often considered a sixth sense, it is these skills that allow people to move without thinking about the next step – we develop the ability to understand where our bodies are in relation to the things around us and know the next movement.

The ups and downs of problem-solving

As adults, we probably don’t think too much about negotiating a climb, but if you are a child, playground mounds, bridges, ramps and climbing equipment throw up a number of intriguing problems that need to be solved. How many ways can they get to the top and down again? Which are the best ways? How physically demanding will it be? Have they the strength to get up? What’s the safest way to go?

Of course, by giving it a go and playing on these features, they are able to answer those questions, solve those problems and transfer what they have learnt to help them tackle other challenges. At the same time, children are given new chances to assess, manage and take risks.

An island of opportunity

In a sea of busy play, the peak of a playground knoll can also become an island of retreat; one where older children, especially, like to enjoy the vantage point to chat with their friends and watch what others do in the playground.

Risen platforms can also become so much else, providing endless role play and other opportunities: a desert island for pirates and buried treasure, the home of a giant, a strange new planet, the back of a whale. What’s more, when you build bridges to them or put tunnels under them, there is even more potential for creative play.

Defining the space

Raised mounds also have practical uses that can help make the playground safer. They can be used to separate different play zones, particularly when you don’t want the activities in one zone to interfere with what’s going on in another. Even if the raised area is only low, it can stop children from spilling over, direct them to a safer route and prevent things like footballs from going astray. A gentle rise in level is also great for slowing down traffic in busy areas, reducing the risk of children colliding.

A more inviting environment

There is nothing inviting or inspiring about a flat playground surfaced with grey asphalt. Today, there is a wider range of surfacing types to choose from, including rubber mulch, wetpour, resin-bound gravel, block paving and artificial grass. And the spectrum of colours these come in enable schools and nurseries to create vibrant and exciting places to play and learn.

With landscaping, this can now be achieved in 3D, whether that’s the addition of an artificially grassed knoll or a brightly coloured, wetpour mound as part of the overall design.

Conclusion

Landscaping your school playground by introducing raised areas and equipment, enhances the entire topography. It brings new features that add to the aesthetic and make the space more fun to explore. This inspires children to participate in a wider range of play and develop new skills more quickly. Additionally, raised areas can be used to enhance safety and to create quiet zones where children can sit together with interesting views of what’s going on in the rest of the playground.

If you are considering redesigning your school playground, why not take advantage of ESP Play’s free playground design service?

 

 

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5 Outdoor Imaginative Play Ideas For EYFS

EYFS Imaginative play equipment

The ability of imaginative play to support children’s cognitive development makes it an essential ingredient of EYFS. It enables children to explore, discover and make connections and helps them develop critical language and thinking skills. The great news for EYFS teachers is that there are many great ways to introduce imaginative play into the playground. Here we’ll look at five of the best.

The playground is the perfect environment for imaginative play. Outdoors, children are allowed to run, climb, make noise, get messy, put their hands on things and get stuck in. And with more space and fewer restrictions, they are freer to unleash their imaginations and benefit more from their play. This is especially true when there is a variety of imaginative play options for them to choose from. Hopefully, the ones we mention below will give you an idea of how to create a more imaginative environment for your EYFS pupils.

1. A world of pretend

Young children love roleplay and pretend play and they are naturally inclined to get involved. Here, they’ll use their imaginations to invent new worlds, play different characters and act out endless scenarios, all of which help them to understand the world they live in. They’ll explore situations, feelings and relationships, discover new ways to interact, finding out more about themselves as they do so.

The best way to encourage roleplay and pretend play is to provide a range of opportunities for children to imagine being someone, something or somewhere else. The easiest way is to provide improvisation stimuli, like props and costumes. However, you can take this to a completely new level by introducing imaginative play products like pirate ships, wigwams, bridges, tunnels, play huts and trains. Outdoor play equipment of this kind can transport children’s imaginations to a world of new experiences while speeding up their cognitive development.

2. Action adventure

While there is purpose-built apparatus to stimulate pretend play, feedback from our customers has shown that a lot of our active play equipment is also used for imaginative play. As a result, we’ve incorporated some imaginative elements into our active play equipment. Our Tangled, rope playing equipment, for example, is inspired by giant spiders and spiders’ webs, our castle play towers are inspired by medieval castles and our Wild Wood collection has seen new additions that incorporate tree and leaf designs and wobbly seats.

3. Glorious mud

Okay, real mud might be a bit too messy for EYFS environments, but messy play, in general, is excellent for developing imaginations. It’s fun, it's tangible, it's hands-on and it's great for developing sensory perception, problem-solving and decision-making skills. From traditional activities like sandpits and mud kitchens to more modern innovations, like magnetic water walls and splash trays, there are opportunities to learn about physical properties, make decisions about how to make things and solve problems when those sandcastles don’t turn out just right.

4. Sound and music

Imaginative play that involves sound and music is great for developing sensory skills, helping children to differentiate different sounds and patterns. There are lots of ways you can introduce sound making into the playground: tins and plastic containers partially filled with rice or dried peas, bendy tubes that whistle when you whirl them, gongs, cymbals and bells, speaking cones made from rolled-up sheets of paper and so forth.

Alternatively, you can install outdoor musical instruments specially designed for heavy use in EYFS playgrounds. Purpose-built to inspire the imaginations of young ones, they include drainpipe drums and drum tables, xylophones, washboards and chimes. Together, they provide a range of different percussion instruments which, as they don’t need specific musical skills to play, enable children to explore sound and music independently, with friends or in teacher-led activities.

5. Fantasy and fiction

Nothing opens up young imaginations more than listening to a good story – whether it's read to them by a teacher or told to them by a classmate. It takes their minds to places they have never previously imagined and in doing so, expands their own imaginations and helps them create stories of their own.

How do you create the perfect storytelling environment? At ESP, we’ve come up with a solution that we think is the perfect fantasy setting for listening to fiction: a circle of toadstool designed chairs with a large, wooden fairy tale inspired storytelling chair taking centre stage. Gathering around to listen will be like stepping into a magic world. And, of course, anyone can take that seat and tell their wonderful stories.

Conclusion

EYFS children learn through play and imaginative play is one of the best ways to develop those all-important cognitive skills. To facilitate this effectively, schools and nurseries need to provide resources and equipment that encourage children to take part and inspire them to fire up their imaginations. Hopefully, the suggestions we have made here will give you ideas for your own playground.

For more information and to see our range of products, visit our Imaginative Play page.

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