Early Years Playground Equipment For Developing Key Skills

During Early Years, it’s critical that young children are given the opportunity to develop the key skills that will help them progress more quickly once they reach Key Stage 1 and beyond. For children at this age, play is an essential part of their learning routine so it is important to give them access to equipment that can help them acquire and hone these skills. This doesn’t just include indoor equipment: providing early years playground equipment can be just as beneficial and here we’ll look at how it can be used to develop the skills EYFS pupils need.

Personal effectiveness

early years outdoor play

Developing personal effectiveness means giving young children the skills needed to deal with the world in which they live. It means teaching them to set goals, take on challenges, develop resilience and experience success.

These are all skills that, with the appropriate resources, can be developed and practised in the nursery playground. Challenge, for example, can be facilitated by installing climbing and traversing walls installed over wetpour playground surfacing. Here, children can set themselves goals about which climbs to tackle and the best ways to make it from one end to the other. Of course, at some point, they might find the challenge daunting or even fall off and need to restart. Keeping going, however, helps them to be more resilient. When they finally overcome the challenge, they will then get to taste success. And while this all seems like a fun game, the personal effectiveness skills they acquire in the playground can, ultimately, be transferred to other scenarios.

Collaboration

early years outdoor play

Everyone needs to develop skills in working with others. Children will need it not just through their school years but in their careers and private lives, too. During their education, they’ll take part in paired and group work, as well as being involved with various teams. Indeed, as collaborative learning techniques are now widely used, it’s the pupils who have mastered those skills that will benefit the most, performing better in lessons, learning quicker and progressing further.

For Early Years providers wanting to increase the opportunities for the development of collaborative skills, there are a number of playground equipment pieces you can choose. An Early Years Trim Trail obstacle course is ideal for getting children to participate in teams, as they will need to work together to complete the course successfully. Outdoor percussive instruments are also helpful as children will have to cooperate when creating their own musical patterns using xylophones, drums, drainpipe drums and washboards.

Creative thinking

Creativity is the uppermost skill on Bloom’s Taxonomy pyramid so encouraging children to develop creative thinking skills can have significant benefits. Children are often at their most creative during unstructured activities where there are fewer rules to restrict their freedoms. This makes the playground the ideal place to provide such opportunities and by installing the right motivational equipment, you can help spark the creative fire.

For younger children, there are plenty of pieces available. There are outdoor art and design boards for painting, drawing and mark making, the musical instruments mentioned above, and for the dramatically inclined, there are stages where children can rehearse and perform dances, plays and other types of performance to their peers. All these forms of equipment can motivate early years pupils to take part in activities that hone their creative thinking.

Skills in communication

early years outdoor play markings

Being able to communicate well is crucial for helping children perform in the classroom and for their social development. It is vital, therefore, that there are plenty of opportunities to practice these skills from the earliest of nursery ages. Luckily, children of this age love to roleplay and this enables them to explore ways of communicating by thinking up different social scenarios and talking with a range of invented and real characters.

While early years pupils are naturally inclined to roleplay, they often require some form of inspiration, such as props and costumes, to get them started. With this in mind, here at ESP Play, we have put together a useful collection of outdoor roleplay equipment to encourage all children to get involved. You can choose from stages, shop kiosks, play huts, storytelling chairs, bridges, a carriage and even a wooden train.

Literacy and numeracy

early years outdoor play

The sooner a child learns numbers and letters and their corresponding sounds, the sooner they are able to develop skills in maths and English. Finding ways to encourage such learning can be a challenge in a nursery setting. However, there are ways you can use playground equipment so that the emphasis is on fun and the learning is done almost without thinking. For example, there are simple playground markings with numbers and letters on them. These can be used for hopscotch and other stepping or ball games. As they play, children will become naturally familiar with the letters and numbers without having to ‘learn’ them in a traditional way.

Conclusion

During EYFS, providers are required to help children develop a wide range of key skills. Doing so helps to remove many of the barriers they would face later on in their learning journey, making them better equipped to progress and attain. With the right outdoor equipment, many of these skills can be encouraged, developed and honed during play activities in the playground or outdoor area.

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Solutions for the Ideal Nursery Playground

An ideal nursery playground is one that best suits the needs of the young children that use it and, as every nursery is unique, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Indeed, as older children move on and younger ones join, those needs may change over time. To help you find a solution which works for you, here we’ll look at the basic elements of a nursery playground and show you what it is possible to achieve.

Think design rather than random organic growth

early years outdoor play

Even if you already have some equipment installed, it’s always a good idea to go back to the drawing board before buying anything new. If you buy something and put it somewhere just because that’s where there is a space, you might not be creating the most useful playground for your children.

Rather than letting your playground grow organically, rather like the random nature of many British town centres, a much better solution is to design the layout of your playground, just as you do your indoor space.

Through design, you’ll be able to create different zones for different purposes, enabling you to cater for a wider range of children’s needs while letting you better organise and manage outdoor activities. As a result, your nursery will be safer, as hazardous activities can be kept apart; and children can be more independent, as you’ll need to intervene less often.

Consider your needs

early years outdoor play

Once you have decided to create zones, you then need to think about the types of zones you might want and the equipment you put into them. Your choice here will be influenced by the interests and needs of your children and the need to deliver the EYFS curriculum. There is, however, no prescribed rule as to what you should include, so long as your nursery space and equipment is safe for children.

A place for active play

early years outdoor play - music

Nursery children can be full of energy and need an outdoor space where they can run around and be active. Not only is this great fun for them, it’s also healthy and encourages them to play together, form friendships and develop social and physical skills.

As children can quickly get fed up of just running around, it is a good idea to provide them with something more challenging and fun to play on but which still helps them stay active. Popular solutions include play towers with built-in slides, climbing nets, ropes and bridges, and low-height, Trim Trail obstacle course equipment that is specially designed for smaller children. Your active play area can also include playground markings, such as sports pitch markings or even a roadway with traffic lights, roundabouts and zebra crossings.

A space to be creative

early years outdoor play markings

Whether putting paint on paper, role playing or making sounds, nursery aged children have boundless imaginations and love being creative. While you may do some of these activities indoors, creating an outdoor zone where children can explore their imaginations more freely is a great way to develop their creative skills.

Nurseries have lots of options available to them when considering which creative playground equipment to purchase. There are plenty of easy to clean mark making tables and uprights that can be used for painting, drawing and chalking; there are a wide selection of built-in percussion instruments, like musical chimes, drainpipe drums and xylophones; and there are lots of pieces that can inspire the most inventive role plays, such as body-warping mirrors, log bridges and tunnels, play huts, shop kiosks, theatre façades, wigwams and wooden trains.

Somewhere to be messy

early years outdoor play

While messy play involving sand and water is the absolute bee’s knees for kids, it can be a very impractical activity to do indoors, creating slip hazards on the floors and requiring someone to deal with all the mess. Moving it outside into its own discrete zone, however, solves a lot of problems.

From a learning perspective, the great fun to be had playing with sand and water teaches children the different properties of these tactile materials, letting them explore how they feel and move and how they can be combined and made into sand castles, sculptures and mud pies. Indeed, water and sand play equipment, such as mud kitchens, splash pools and sand boxes provide the ideal sensory play area for nursery aged children.

A place to be reflective

early years outdoor play

Nothing gives a sense of calm more than being outside and surrounded by nature. Creating a quiet space not only helps children to feel relaxed and reflective, it also provides somewhere they can get up close to the natural world.

For nurseries that lack an on-site green space, it is possible to create them using planters and trellises. Trellises planted with climbers can be used to create green walls that separate the space from the rest of the busy playground and help keep it somewhere special. Planters can then be used to add colourful plants or even to grow food. You can replace the asphalt surface with artificial grass, if needed, or simply add a few benches or outdoor seats so children can be read to on warmer days.

To attract nature, simply install somewhere for insects to live, such as a butterfly box, insect habitat or ladybird towers. You can add a bird table, too. There’s an interesting selection of nature equipment you can choose from for your nursery garden.

Conclusion

Getting the right equipment for your playground and putting it in the most appropriate places can transform your nursery, making a far more enjoyable outdoor space that can be used for a wider range of learning activities. For more information about our range of nursery equipment, visit our Early Years page.

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Popular Early Years Outdoor Play Resources

A well-resourced early years outdoor play area is essential for today’s early years providers, as it gives children the opportunity to participate in fun outdoor activities that help them to learn while being active. When choosing your outdoor learning equipment, it is important that it meets the needs of the children in your care and helps you deliver the EYFS curriculum. Here, we’ll look at some of the most popular and fun early years outdoor play resources available today.

Water and sand equipment

early years outdoor play

Children love getting messy and playing with water and sand is not only lots of fun, it is also a brilliant way for them to experiment with senses and materials – whether that’s through building sand castles and moats, creating sand sculptures or making mud pies.

So, if you look after the kind of children that will get engrossed in water and sand play and spend hours working away at their creations, you can now bring the joy of the beach right into the heart of your nursery or pre-school with our range of outdoor water and sand play equipment. Our EYFS equipment is perfect for pre-school children, with mud kitchens, creation stations, magnetic water walls, water ball shoots and modular sand and water systems to choose from. And they are even designed to help cut down on the mess, which is great for those who are left to clean up afterwards.

Adventurous role play apparatus

early years outdoor play

Young children’s imaginations know no bounds and getting them to participate in role play is critical in helping them learn about themselves and their relationships with others and the world around them. When they do, there is a whole host of cognitive, social and communication skills being honed at the same time.

One of the best ways to encourage role play is to put the right pieces of outdoor equipment in a setting where there is the space to let imaginations run free. Here, your external space suddenly becomes a storybook wonderland: an ancient castle, a woodland kingdom or even a strange planet on a far-flung galaxy.

One of the most popular pieces of equipment chosen by EYFS providers are play towers. More than just a child’s climbing tower, these systems can include a variety of elements, such as bridges and tunnels, slides and sliding poles, ramps, rope nets and climbing walls. And to inspire those little minds, they are adorned with role play inducing designs, such as turrets, flags, drawbridges and pitched roofed dens.

Our Wild Wood collection is another popular choice as it can help give your outdoor space the feel of a woodland environment that is just waiting to be explored. Here children can have fun clambering through log tunnels, over tree trail obstacles and up a mini climbing mountain before making tea in the wigwams, play huts and dens.

Other popular choices include shop kiosks and theatre façades, which are always great for getting kids to interact and take on roles; warped mirrors that change your body into funny shapes; and wooden train and carriage structures that children can pretend to drive and travel in.

Percussion instruments

early years outdoor play - music

Mastering a musical instrument isn’t easy for pre-schoolers but they love to bang on a percussion instrument and enjoy making different notes and patterns. Now, you can add sound and music exploration to your curriculum through the use of our brightly coloured, no-skills-needed, outdoor musical instruments. These include musical chimes, drainpipe drums, a drum table, washboards, rain sound maker and xylophones. There’s also a talking tube that lets children sing and talk to each other through an underground tube.

Fun playground markings

early years outdoor play markings

Playground markings are an affordable way to create a fun playground and these range from simple hopscotch or stepping games, which can be used to help children learn basic numbers, sounds and letters, to more elaborate markings, such as the Roadway. The Roadway is a highly detailed road system installed on your playground that incorporates all the features needed to help your children learn about road safety while playing at being cars and lorries. You can even use it to drive trikes around. Its features include a road with white lines, roundabouts, zebra crossing, petrol stations, traffic lights and parking bays.

Conclusion

For EYFS providers looking to create a well-resourced early years outdoor play space that is both fun to play in and educational at the same time, there are plenty of options available. The challenge is to find the ones that are most suitable for the children in your care. Hopefully, by showing you some of the most popular products chosen by other providers, it will help you get a better idea of what might work for you.

For more information and to see an even wider range of ideas, check out our Early Years page.

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How EYFS Outdoor Play Improves Wellbeing

Looking after the wellbeing of young children and helping them foster healthy lifestyles is critical if we are to tackle the growing crisis in child mental health. With hundreds of thousands of school-aged children referred for treatment every year, the practice of improving wellbeing should begin right from the outset of their education, during EYFS. In this post, we’ll look at how outdoor play and the equipment in your playground can help the wellbeing of the children in your care.

It's good to get outdoors

Just getting the children outside is a step in the right direction if you want to improve their wellbeing. It stops them feeling cooped up, enables them to stretch their legs and move around and puts them in a situation where the normal rules of indoor behaviour are relaxed a little. This makes them feel at ease and less stressed.

Being outside also lets nature perform its magic on the children. 15 minutes of daylight hitting their skin produces enough vitamin D to keep them going through the day. It doesn’t even need to be sunny for this to happen. Not only is vitamin D good for the bones, it’s also great for wellbeing. Deficiencies in Vitamin D are linked to anxiety, depression and seasonal affective disorder (SAD), so getting outside can have a positive effect on mental health.

Raising activity levels

Helping children improve their mood is another way to increase wellbeing and the best way to do this is to encourage them to take part in physical exercise. When this is done on a regular basis it helps children to have a more positive and optimistic attitude and to feel more enthusiastic about participation in day to day activities. Exercise has also been shown to have a positive effect on behaviour as it reduces the stress levels that often trigger naughtiness.

There are a number of useful pieces of playground equipment that can help EYFS children get active enough to raise heart rates. These include a variety of playground markings for encouraging activities such as hopscotch and skipping or taking part in games like football and rounders.

Providing healthy enjoyment

Wellbeing can be improved simply by providing the opportunity to do things which children enjoy and which raise self-esteem. One of the best ways to enable this is to install equipment which is fun to play on and which presents challenges that, when met, make children feel good about themselves.

Climbing challenges are ideal for this and there are many pieces of EYFS climbing equipment that have been specially designed for the youngest of learners and which can be combined together to create a bespoke obstacle course. These include a variety of balance beams, net climbers, log strides, tunnels, bridges, slides and various other exciting pieces – all safe for EYFS children to use.

In addition, there are early years’ traversing walls, tree trail coppices and a plethora of low height play towers which are ideal for short legs and big ambitions. When children complete the challenges posed by these pieces, they are rewarded with a sense of accomplishment that will lift their mood and make them feel good for the rest of the day. In turn, this will inspire them to challenge themselves even harder next time.

A space for calm and balance

Blue skies, green grass, colourful flowers and birds singing. As adults, we know that getting out into nature, even if it’s just in the garden, can help soothe away the stresses and strains of the day and restore some much-needed calm and balance.

Quiet spaces are also good for the wellbeing of EYFS children. Indoors can often be crowded, busy and noisy, so providing an outdoor space just to sit and enjoy the quiet and the natural world can enable children to unwind and recharge.

This can be achieved by creating a nature garden using planters, trellises, a few outdoor seats and even a water feature or a wind chime. Adding bird tables and bug houses also encourages wildlife into the space, bringing a sense of awe and wonder that can help children develop an appreciation of nature.

Teaching healthy habits

The new Draft Ofsted Inspection Framework 2019 puts increased emphasis on wellbeing with EYFS providers now being judged on their ability to help children “know how to keep physically and mentally healthy”.

This is essential not just because of the current mental health crisis but because of the immense pressure children will face as they move on to primary and secondary schools. This pressure puts children under a great deal of stress and can exacerbate mental health problems if they are not taught coping strategies and given the opportunities to carry them out.

At the EYFS stage, learning about how to keep physically and mentally healthy often comes through experience. Children will feel better about themselves when they participate in physical outdoor activities or learn how to relax and unwind. Providing them with the opportunities to do this is a key way to ensure EYFS providers meet their Ofsted obligations.

Conclusion

With nurseries and EYFS providers having to take more responsibility for the wellbeing of children, providing well equipped outdoor spaces where fun physical activity or relaxation can happen will help reduce stress, improve mood and increase self-esteem. These activities can also be used to teach children how to look after their wellbeing in the future.

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How to Design an EYFS Playground

Giving children the opportunity to participate in free play has been shown to accelerate their development, helping them learn important new skills and widening their understanding of the world. For nurseries and EYFS providers, one way you can facilitate and encourage free play is to design your outdoor spaces in a way that motivates children to participate. In this post, we’ll look at the best ways to design your EYFS playground.

Principles of EYFS playground design

When creating your EYFS play area you’ll need to provide a variety of stimulating activities which cater for a range of needs and which offer children the opportunity to develop their cognitive, physical, social, and creative skills. The most successful way of achieving this is designing an outdoor space with different free play areas or zones.

Designing in this way allows you to better manage the activities that take place in each zone. It also improves safety, as activities that can be hazardous when taking place in the same space can be kept apart. An additional benefit of a zoned playground is that adults need to intervene less, enabling the children to focus on the play that’s so important to their development.

Common types of EYFS free play zone

There is no set rule about the types of zones you should create in your playground. Indeed, your choices may be dependent on the children you cater for, the nature of the space you have available and your budget. Here, however, are some of the most popular EYFS zones we create for our customers.

1. Active play zone

Physical activity encourages children to play together and thus creates opportunities to develop social skills. At the same time, the physical activity, in itself, helps to develop physical skills while improving fitness. EYFS active play zones are often kitted out with popular pieces of equipment. These include play towers, especially those that have slides, climbing nets, ropes and bridges, and low-height, Trim Trail obstacle course equipment.

These structures can be Interspersed with a range of fun playground markings, such as the mini roadway, which comes complete with road signs, roundabouts and zebra crossings.

2. Creative zones

Outdoor Playground Music Equipment

Developing children’s creativity is fundamental to bringing on their social and cognitive skills and this makes the creative zone a key part of the EYFS playground. Schools and nurseries are spoiled for choice when it comes to choosing creative playground equipment. Designed to help children explore their imaginations in safe but unstructured ways, these include body-warping mirrors, log bridges and tunnels, play huts, shop kiosks, wigwams and wooden trains. Add a box of props and costumes and, suddenly, your playground can become anywhere their imagination takes them.

For more artistic pursuits, there are also a range of painting, drawing and mark-making tables available, as well as stand up panels. One of the most popular creative pieces is the outdoor musical orchestra - composed of a range of fun to play on, no-skills-necessary, musical instruments. These include musical chimes, drainpipe drums, washboards and xylophones.

3. Sand, mud and water zones

Tactile materials such as sand, mud and water are ideal for children as they can be played with in so many different ways. From making sand castles and moats to baking mud pies, they are not only great fun, they also encourage kids to play together while letting children learn how these materials can be used, manipulated and combined. Water and sand play equipment lets you create the ultimate sensory play area for EYFS and with mud kitchens, splash pools and even magnetic water walls to choose from, there’s an opportunity to create one of the most popular zones in your playground.

4. Nature area

Putting a nature zone in your nursery or EYFS playground fulfils two important functions. Firstly, it creates a quiet space where children can be calm and relaxed and, secondly, it provides the opportunity for children to develop a love of and appreciation for nature.

Quiet outdoor spaces can be beneficial for children who feel anxious or upset and need to get away from the busier areas. When this happens in a green space, that calming effect can be even better. Quiet spaces are also ideal places where the whole group can sit in the sunshine and listen to stories being read to them.

A nature zone can be created through the purchase of wooden planters and trellises. These can be used to section off the space from the rest of the playground and can be filled with flowers, climbers and shrubs. You can then use butterfly boxes, insect habitats, ladybird towers and bird tables to encourage bugs and birds to visit – giving children access to their very own mini nature reserve. There’s a wide range of nature equipment you can use to make your nature zone enchanting for younger children.

5. Use the right surfacing

With little people doing so many different activities it’s important that you remember to include playground surfacing when creating your design. Sometimes, it’s a good idea to use different surfaces for each zone so that the children get the most benefit. A nature zone, for example, will want to be lawned, whereas an active play zone is perhaps best served by a cushioned, wetpour surface. With artificial grass, block paving, grass matting, resin bound gravel, rubber mulch and wetpour surfacing all available, there is a solution for every zone you may want.

Conclusion

EYFS free play equipment enables every youngster to learn while they play. The most effective way to put it to good use is by creating a zoned playground where there are discrete areas for specific activities. This helps to keep children safe while providing the stimulus they need to participate and learn. For more information about our range of EYFS playground equipment, visit our products page or call us on 01282 43 44 45.

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