Seating and Shelter Ideas for School Playgrounds

seating and shelter ideas for school

As the most used area in a school, no playground should be without seating and shelter. Today, we are lucky to have a wide choice of playground furniture to choose from, so if you are finding it difficult to make a decision about which pieces are right for your school, here are some suggestions we think you’ll find useful.

Picnic tables for packed lunches

Lots of kids still bring packed lunches, something schools can find quite useful as it takes the pressure off the canteen during the hectic and increasingly short lunch break. Installing external picnic tables can provide additional relief as sandwich eaters choosing to go outside will free up tables inside. The tables can also be used during normal break times for kids to sit together comfortably and socialise – something they can’t do on damp grass.

Available in a variety of shapes and sizes, including those designed for wheelchair access, our sturdy picnic benches don’t require additional seating and will last for many years.

Circle seating for groups

Sitting in a circle not only makes it incredibly easy for everyone to listen in and get involved in group interactions; it’s also very inclusive. By installing circular seating, you can encourage this form of activity and provide groups with a comfortable place to hang out and socialise in the playground.

Our C-shaped log amphitheatres are ideal, as they provide safe and easy access in and out of the circle and leave enough space for wheelchair users to join in. Our collection includes one, two and three-tier amphitheatres, catering for groups large and small. They are also incredibly useful for children to sit on during outdoor lessons, including circle time.

Nature seating

Adding a little bit of greenery to your playground not only makes it look more attractive; it can offer a calming haven to boost wellbeing, something a lot of children need to cope with the busy and demanding school day.

To benefit from that greenery, children really need to be amongst it, which is why it’s a good idea to add planters with built-in seating. With a trellis providing a living wall that divides a space from the rest of the playground, and planters to add colour and scent, the built-in bench gives pupils the ideal place to sit, relax and find some much-needed breathing space. Additionally, if you are lucky enough to have a green area with trees, there are benches available that can be installed around the trunks.

Sheltered seating

Wet breaks are miserable experiences for kids and for the staff who have to patrol them. It’s not just rain that’s unpleasant either, cold or windy break times can be just as dismal. A way to provide protection all year round and give some shade on hot days is to install ESP Play’s octagonal shelters.

These large, wooden constructions with weatherproof roofing, provide shelter for whole class-sized groups of children and come with a range of options, from completely open with just a roof, to those with backrest-high, wind shielding walls and internal seating around the circumference. It is even possible to choose options with decking, whiteboards and chalkboards.

Of course, aside from offering somewhere to avoid the worst of the weather, these shelters also double up as great outdoor classrooms and can even be used for in-the-round music, dance and drama performances.

Feature seating

Playground seating doesn’t need to be merely functional; it can also be a real feature of your outdoor space that adds interest and excitement. Our benches, for example, can be gnarly and crooked, have painted wooden trees attached or, in the case of our sunshine seat, take the shape of a sun and rays, with the rays forming mini seating bays around the outside of the central hexagon.

Feature seating also comes in the form of toadstools and storytelling chairs, while interestingly designed shelters can be found in our range of forest play huts, each kept dry by a roof carpeted in artificial grass. One of these doubles up as a picnic table while another even has doors to close out the wind and rain.

Conclusion

Great outdoor seating and shelters not only provide protection from the elements; they can transform a playground, making it a more child-friendly, sociable and comfortable place to be in and enjoy. At the same time, many of them can be used to deliver outdoor learning. Hopefully, the suggestions mentioned here will give you some inspiration for developing your own playground.

For information about our wide range of playground furniture, visit our seating and shelter pages.

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Latest School Playground Seating and Shelter Solutions

As schools strive to improve the quality of their playgrounds and develop them into places for learning and recreation, they face two common challenges: finding practical playground seating and providing shelter from the elements. Today, there is a range of different solutions you can choose from to solve these problems and in this post, we’ll look at what they are.

literacy and phonics

Outdoor seating for al fresco eating

Lack of internal space and shorter lunch times means schools often lack the capacity to seat all children in the dining hall. This leads to hurried service, overcrowding and children turning up late to afternoon lessons. While the most common solution is to let kids who bring packed lunches eat them in a classroom, that classroom often needs a good clean-up before the next lesson starts.

One way to take the pressure off is to install outdoor picnic benches. Strong and sturdy, each one can accommodate a small group of children who can sit and eat together in comfort.

Picnic benches come in a range of sizes, shapes (rectangle or circular) and designs, most with the seating built-in. There is also a specially adapted picnic table that is suitable for wheelchair users.

Make your playground a seat of learning

Outdoor learning often involves children working in groups and there are a number of seating options that are ideal for this. These include our log amphitheatres which enable the group to form a three-sided audience with space in the middle for the teacher or another group member to present to them. Amphitheatres are available in single, double and three-tier versions, enabling you to cater for groups of different sizes. It is also possible to install a wooden stage in front of the amphitheatre to create an outdoor performance space.

Another popular solution for primary schools is to create storytelling circles using padded log seats and mushroom seats. You can add to the magic by putting one of our storytelling chairs in the centre of the circle. These are excellent for outdoor storytelling and reading sessions or for circle time.

Finally, there are specially designed handwriting practice tables. These mini picnic benches, featuring a number of switchable, ruled whiteboard surfaces, are designed for younger children to work in pairs or with one to one support.

Social seating for recreation

literacy and phonics

While all the seating mentioned above can be used by children to sit and chat with their friends during break times, there are others available as well. These include planter seats which incorporate wooden planters, allowing you to grow flowers or shrubs to create a more pleasant playground environment. If you have trees in your outdoor area, we also have a hexagonal tree bench which goes around the trunk. This is a great choice to give children somewhere shady to sit on hot days or for them to find a bit of natural shelter in the rain.

There is also an assortment of benches, including log benches, crooked benches and even benches that have green painted wooden tree posts built-in. One of our most popular benches is the sunshine seat, a version of an amphitheatre that looks like a sun with rays coming out. The rays, of course, are additional seats that help create five mini seating bays to accommodate different groups of friends.

Finally, there is also a range of games tables, mini picnic benches with an assortment of traditional board games built into the table-top, these include snakes and ladders, Connect 4, solitaire, noughts and crosses, chequers and more.

Shelters for learning

literacy and phonics

Octagonal shelters are ideal outdoor classrooms. Open to the air but with inbuilt seating, walls high enough for backrests and a roof to keep the rain or sun at bay, they offer the ideal circle for teaching and learning. They can even come with a whiteboard or blackboard and can be finished with decked flooring. You can use these shelters for a variety of outdoor learning scenarios: for performing drama or dance, for whole-class reading, class debates or as a place to base lessons which require pupils to explore the wider school environment.

Playground shelters for keeping dry

There are some days when it's perfect for playing out and some days when it’s an obvious no-no. Somewhere in between, are those days when the kids are sent out but it's cold, damp and miserable. While many will just get on and play, there are always those left huddling in corners, shivering in doorways, hiding in the toilets and wandering aimlessly around the school in a desperate attempt to find some warmth and comfort.

A shelter is a simple way to make these kinds of days a little easier on the pupils and to make break duty less of a hassle. Aside from the octagonal shelters mentioned above, there are also shaded pergolas and roofed shelters of differing sizes and with specifications that include seating. All of these can help keep the children dry in drizzly outdoor breaks and keep the sun off their heads when its in danger of causing sunburn. Put next to a wall or in a corner, they can also provide shelter from the wind.

For primary schools, our Woodland and Forest range of products include a number of play huts that are ideal for small groups of children to play in during colder weather, there are even ones with picnic tables so that they can eat outdoors under a roof.

Conclusion

Hopefully, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the wide variety of seating, benches and shelters now available for schools and the number of uses they can be put to. Together, they truly allow you to create a multi-purpose outdoor space, suitable for all occasions.

For more information visit our shelter and seating sections.

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