How to Turn Your Playground into a Primary Science Lab

Teaching science in primary schools can be a difficult task. Unlike in secondaries, which have fully equipped labs and specialist science technicians, primary teachers have to deliver the curriculum in the same room that they teach all their other lessons and with very limited equipment on hand. Many schools, however, are finding that their playground is the ideal place to teach many aspects of the primary science curriculum and in this post, we’ll show you why.

Space to experiment

Science is one of those subjects that requires pupils to get up and move around. Children need to get involved in carrying out experiments; observing, measuring and recording things that happen. It’s hard to do that in a classroom where tables are laid out for more book and pen style learning and where space to move is limited. At the same time, science can be messy. Secondary science labs are designed for easy tidying up and quick cleaning, multi-purpose primary classrooms aren’t. They are often carpeted, which doesn’t bode well when kids are chucking soil or water around and they lack the storage space to make getting and returning equipment easy.

In the playground, however, there is much more space to carry out experiments and messy floors are not an issue. As for equipment, you can install it in the playground for the children’s use, so it is always accessible.

Setting up a science garden

The study of plants and animals is a key focus of Key Stage 1 and 2 science and requires children to be able to identify, name and describe the structure of common plants, trees and animals; explore habitats and learn about food chains; and look at how plants grow and develop.

All these things can be done in the playground by creating a small but well-equipped science garden. Planters and trellises can be used to grow a variety of different plants for the children to study and equipment such as a discovery planter will let children see roots grow under the soil and enable them to measure plant growth. For those experiments where everyone in the class gets the chance to plant their own seed and watch it grow, a growing tree is the ideal solution as it will house everyone’s plants. You can even use a growing board to compare the growth of different species.

When it comes to learning about animals in their own environment, there’s nothing better than installing a bug house. These provide the ideal living habitats for small insects and enable children to observe them at close quarters all year round. You can go even further by adding a bird table or a ladybird tower.

When teaching children how to identify different plant and animal species, why not consider our special nature boards? With colourful illustrations and clearly printed names, our range helps identify trees, creepy crawlies, seeds and other collectables and things that fly.

Studying the weather

The National Curriculum requires pupils to observe and describe the change of weather over the seasons and to make tables and charts about what they find. One of the best ways to make this possible is to install a weather station in the playground. This handy piece of equipment allows children to measure rainfall, temperature, air pressure and humidity, whilst recording sunshine, precipitation and wind. Readings can be placed on an outdoor plot board which children can use to record their readings on charts.

Playground sound lab

Primary pupils are expected to learn quite a lot about sound, including identifying how sounds are made; recognising that vibrations from sounds travel through a medium to the ear and get fainter over longer distances; finding patterns between the pitch of a sound and features of the object that produced it; and finding patterns between the volume and the strength of vibrations.

In the non-statutory guidance, it is recommended that these things are learnt through exploring different musical instruments. One way to enable this to happen is to create a playground sound lab by installing a range of specially designed outdoor musical instruments, such as chimes, drainpipe drums, xylophones and rain wheels. Instruments like these are easy to play and great fun, which is ideal for delivering enjoyable, though somewhat noisy, science lessons.

Other outdoor science resources

When it comes to outdoor music, drama and dance, there are times when the performers will want an audience. This could be for performing in front of friends at break, for peers during lessons or for parents in a formal production.

At ESP Play, we have the ideal selection of outdoor seating, such as log-built, tiered amphitheatres, log seats and storytelling chairs. We also have a wide range of shelters, including large octagonal shelters with seating and decked floors which are ideal for bandstands and performing theatre in the round.


Outdoor science equipment enables teachers to deliver the primary science curriculum in a fun and engaging way that will genuinely get the children enthused about their learning. The equipment available covers a wide range of the National Curriculum’s prescribed areas and enables pupils to have the space and facilities to undertake real observations and carry out experiments on the world around them.

For more information, visit our Science Outdoor Curriculum page.


How to Create an Expressive Arts Playground

Expressive arts are an important part of children’s education, enabling pupils to develop critical thinking, communication skills, creativity and a wider understanding of cultural diversity. However, with a curricular emphasis on more academic subjects and a lack of facilities, many children lack the opportunities to get involved. In this post, we’ll look at ways that schools can utilise their playgrounds to widen pupils’ access to expressive arts.

Outdoor music

Outdoor Playground Music Equipment

Children love making music but many of them struggle to play instruments. Even if they can, schools tend to keep their own instruments under lock and key because they are expensive to buy, so there is little chance to use them. There is, however, a helpful alternative: outdoor music equipment. Outdoor instruments are designed to be used by all children, including those that have not learned to play. Percussive in nature, they include drainpipe drums, drum tables, xylophones, chimes, washboards and rain wheels. There is even a talking tube that can be used as a natural microphone for those wishing to make their own noises.

Together, these instruments allow children to work together to create their own rhythms and tunes, to learn how the instruments work and explore a range of different sounds, patterns and playing techniques. As they are installed in the playground, they can be used during free time or used as part of the music curriculum.


Drama is a vital subject that enables pupils to explore and develop an understanding of a wide range of things: literary texts, moral dilemmas, cultural values and the thoughts and feelings of others. It can be used to help children feel empathy, solve problems and resolve issues, such as when acting out a bullying situation. It’s also great for developing performance and communication skills and improving confidence.

Children’s love of acting develops at an early age where they enjoy playing different characters in imaginative situations. To encourage this creativity, there is a selection of playground drama resources that schools can install. To get children actively engaged in role play, we have a stimulating range of imaginative outdoor equipment that includes trains, bridges, tunnels, shop kiosks, carriages, mud kitchens and play huts.

For more focused drama, there are also outdoor performance stages which can be used in curriculum time for exploring themes and set texts or to rehearse and perform school productions. Available in a range of sizes and shapes, they include a proscenium arch to create the ideal outdoor theatre setting.


With troupes like Diversity winning Britain’s Got Talent, dance has become ‘cool’ again for young people, including older boys who often shy away from the traditional dance styles. With dance being part of the PE curriculum, it is important to encourage everyone to participate and this can be done very simply by installing the outdoor performance stages mentioned above and providing students with a speaker from which to listen to the music they want to dance to. At secondary schools, most pupils will have their favourite tracks saved on their phones: purchasing a battery-operated Bluetooth speaker would enable them to play their music loud enough so they can create dance moves to it.


Art in school should not just be about developing technical skills and learning about past masters. Instead, children should be given the freedom to explore their creativity by drawing or painting what they want in the way they find best expresses their ideas – even if, artistically, it doesn’t have technical merit.

The resources needed to have this artistic freedom should be an essential part of any expressive arts playground. ESP Play’s outdoor art equipment is ideal for this as it enables children to do imaginative artwork whenever they like. Our resources include painting stations, whiteboards, chalkboards and for exploring a different media, we even have a weaving board for those with an interest in fabrics. All our outdoor boards are interchangeable, simple to clean and can be used during free time or in lessons.

Outdoor performance spaces

When it comes to outdoor music, drama and dance, there are times when the performers will want an audience. This could be for performing in front of friends at break, for peers during lessons or for parents in a formal production.

At ESP Play, we have the ideal selection of outdoor seating, such as log-built, tiered amphitheatres, log seats and storytelling chairs. We also have a wide range of shelters, including large octagonal shelters with seating and decked floors which are ideal for bandstands and performing theatre in the round.


All pupils should be given the opportunity to express themselves artistically and discover different art forms. Unfortunately, there is too little opportunity to do this during the school week. However, by creating an expressive arts playground or even an expressive arts zone within a larger playground, pupils can access inspirational equipment whenever they are free. The equipment can be used in lesson times too.

If you need guidance on designing an expressive arts playground, call us on 01282 43 44 45 or check out the product links in the post above.


How to Turn a Boring School Yard into an Adventure Playground

Teacher’s put a lot of time and effort into making their school’s environment exciting and inspirational. Walls and corridors are covered in highly colourful displays, there’s always artwork on show and classrooms are equipped with the latest resources. For many schools, however, this ends at the door to the playground. In this post, we’ll give you some ideas of how to turn your boring school yard into an exciting adventure playground.

Boring playgrounds cause problems

Come break time, too many pupils are put out to pasture on nothing more than a drab rectangle of grey tarmac with only the wind to inspire them. It’s no surprise then, that lots of primary kids ask to stay in and help the teacher and the many secondary students mooch around in corridors staring at their phones.

Without things to do, children get bored and frustrated. This can lead to poor behaviour during breaks and cause problems in the lessons that follow. It also means that many children don’t get any exercise during the school day. After being sat at a desk for a few hours, you want them to run around and burn off a bit of energy: it’s good for both their physical and mental health. Instead, many children just stand around waiting for the bell, eating crisps and sipping sugary drinks.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The outside of your school can be as inspirational as the inside, helping children to be healthier, more creative and more motivated for their next lesson. Here are some ideas about how you can achieve this in your school.

1. Get them playing team sports again

You don’t need to spend a fortune to inspire kids to play team sports during break times. Installing playground markings on your school yard surface marks out pitches and courts for a wide range of team games that kids love to play. There’s football, futsal (5-a-side football), netball, rounders, cricket, tennis and basketball to choose from. You can even get nets and goals to equip them fully. Once installed, you just need to put out a selection of bats and balls for the children to use.

The great thing about installing playground marking for team games is that it encourages lots of children to participate. You can also use the markings for PE lessons.

2. Drive them up the wall – literally!

We’ve all had lessons where the kids were ‘climbing the walls,’ – well, now this can happen in a good way. At ESP Play, we supply a selection of climbing walls specially designed for children to play on. Not only are these are great for getting pupils active, they are also good for helping kids challenge themselves and for developing resilience. Above all, they are fun to climb on and a great way to encourage physical activity.

3. Build an obstacle course

When it comes to playground design, one of the features that most schools want to install is some form of obstacle course. One of the best ways to do this is with a Trim Trail. The big advantage of a Trim Trail is that you can choose your own elements. There are lots to choose from, too: balance beams, climbing nets, scramble under nets, duck and dive posts, striding posts, jungle bars, wobbly bridges, tight ropes… the list goes on.

For schools with limited budgets, Trim Trails offer you the potential to build your adventure playground up over time, perhaps adding an extra element or two each academic year. You don’t need to buy everything at once.

For versatility, Trim Trails also come with easily interchangeable features, giving you the ability to adapt your playground equipment for different purposes or different groups. It also means you can give children lots of different challenges using the same pieces of outdoor equipment.

Kids love to play on Trim Trails, which is why you see them in so many public parks. Now you can have them in your own playground and inspire even more children to play.

4. Max up the fun with Freeflow

Our Freeflow obstacle courses have evolved through years of working with teachers and student councils to create the ultimate outdoor playground equipment. With a wide range of modules to choose from, you can create a bespoke adventure playground that meets the needs of your school and contains your pupils’ favourite obstacles.

Not only are our Freeflow courses irresistible to play on; they also help your pupils develop strength, stamina, coordination and team building skills. They can completely revolutionise your playground and increase your pupils’ enjoyment of your outdoor space.

5. Don’t forget to add bells and whistles

To add variety to your playground design, consider using outdoor play equipment for less sporty children to use during break times. For example, we have a range of creative outdoor equipment including musical instruments, stages, and structures which can be used to encourage roleplaying adventures. We’ve also got sandpits and water play equipment, nature equipment and lots of games ranging from hopscotch to chess.


Developing your outdoor space can have lots of benefits for your school. In enhances pupils’ enjoyment and can have a positive impact on their physical health and mental wellbeing. It can also help improve behaviour and progress in the classroom.

As you can see from this article, there are lots of options open to you to turn your boring school yard into an exciting adventure playground. If you want to discuss what we can do for you, give us a call on 01282 43 44 45.


The History of Playgrounds – Past, Present and Future.

Playgrounds are places designed for children to enjoy themselves in a carefree environment. A modern day playground is brimming with a wide range play equipment such as swings, slides, trim trails, play towers, sand boxes, jungle bars, playground markings and much more. Playgrounds help with the development of physical strength, fitness, co-ordination and flexibility; whilst providing a great place for interaction and enjoyment.


The introduction of playgrounds.

The idea of the playground originated in Germany and was invented as a platform for teaching children correct ways to play. The first purpose built children’s playground was built in 1859 in a park in Manchester, England. Although they had appeared before this period, playgrounds were properly introduced to the United States by President Roosevelt in 1907, of which he said:

“City streets are unsatisfactory playgrounds for children because of the danger, because most good games are against the law, because they are too hot in summer, and because in crowded sections of the city they are apt to be schools of crime. Neither do small back yards nor ornamental grass plots meet the needs of any but the very small children. Older children who would play vigorous games must have places especially set aside for them; and, since play is a fundamental need, playgrounds should be provided for every child as much as schools. This means that they must be distributed over the cities in such a way as to be within walking distance of every boy and girl, as most children can not afford to pay carfare.”

Playground Trends

London first witnessed the introduction of ’junk playgrounds’ in the period following World War II,  via the landscape architect and children’s rights campaigner Lady Allen of Hurtwood. She changed the name to ‘Adventure Playground’ in 1953; creating the National Playing Fields Association (now Fields in Trust), which saw the coordination of adventure playground projects throughout the country. These playgrounds were constructed from recycled ‘junk’ which the NPFA provided in order for children to design and create playgrounds in spaces such as bomb sites, building sites and wasteland.

Since then, playgrounds have seen many design trends and playground design can now be seen as a form of artistic architecture. A good design is considered: challenging but safe, aesthetically pleasing, cost effective and innovative. Materials that have been used and continue to be used include: wood, HDPE plastic, steel, aluminium, rope, rubber, artificial grass and many more. Most modern playground incorporate all these materials. Wood is currently very trendy due to its natural and decorative properties. It is common to see climbing frames, trim trails and swing posts using wood as a main material.

Laws of the modern playground

The 1980′s saw many laws and legislations come into play (no pun intended!) in order to avoid injuries to children. This area requires a blog of its own but a couple of important points include:

  • No sharp points or edges
  • Gaps must measure less than 3.5 inch or more than 9 inch.
  • Equipment more than 30inches high must be at least 9 foot appart.

These laws have helped prevent danger in playgrounds but designers are met with the challenge of making playgrounds equally fun whilst still being safe and legal. Good playground design requires concentration on both points in equal measures.


Playgrounds in Schools

School playgrounds incorporate playground equipment, playground markings and curriculum based items to provide children with an exciting learning zone.  ESP are experts in this area and are constantly researching, innovating and providing schools with products that incorporate the curriculum into the playground. Our multi-skills thermoplastic markings are a perfect example of building fundamental movement skills amongst children; meanwhile our science, maths and performance products use playground equipment to fuse activity and education into the outdoor play area.

In recent years there has a considerable increase in interest for the health and fitness of children; consequently schools have focussed more attention to the outdoor areas. This has resulted in more adventurous playgrounds becoming more common and it is not rare to see a school playground featuring far more than just a hopscotch and a netball court. Modern sports are encouraged in equal measures and our ‘Free:D’ Parkour for Schools range has proven very popular throughout the country.

The future of playgrounds?

Who knows what the future holds for playgrounds. In the UK, the ‘Olympic Legacy’ was supposed to increase sporting activity in schools, but the success rate only provided disappointment. Competitive sports have long been encouraged throughout the sporting curriculum. Maybe now is the time to let the children play and choose there own physical activities. We are strong believers that multi-skills playgrounds encourage skills that can be applied to every sporting activity; competitive or otherwise. Hopefully playgrounds of the future will offer more choice to children and more schools will encourage their children with more than just competitive sports. We offer the best of both worlds, join in with the fun!


By Matt Heap
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If you use this information as a source on your website, please link back to this blog.


Why learn outdoors and use physical activity in Science?

Why learn outdoors and use physical activity in Science?

At ESP we recognise the importance of learning outside the classroom and have now worked with hundreds of schools delivering our concept. Below are a few questions we come across when discussing our concept.

• Why bother going outside of the classroom?

• Why bother using physical activity in Science?

• The weather’s too bad.

• It’s hard work managing the pupils – their behaviour changes.

• The class is too big!

 It’s worth it because…

• Learning through physical activity outside of the classroom enriches the curriculum.

• It can give children new and exciting experiences that might inspire them.

• It meets the needs for a variety of learning styles (VAK) and can re-motivate children who do not thrive in the traditional classroom environment.

• It supports improved standards back INSIDE the classroom, raising attainment, reducing truancy and improving discipline.

• Learning outside the classroom is known to contribute significantly to raising standards & improving pupils’ personal, social & emotional development.

• Learning outside the classroom as a regular part of their school life results in benefits such as increased self esteem and pupils becoming more engaged in their education both inside and outside the classroom walls.

• Children need to move – not just for the sake of their physical selves, but also for social, emotional and cognitive development; movement benefits the whole child.

• There is a positive association between children’s level of physical activity (or sport) and cognitive functioning or academic success.

 What do OfSTED say?

An evaluation report published in 2008 makes very clear that learning outside the classroom significantly raises standards and achievements. It also enhances young people’s motivation and levels of interest, providing real, exciting and enjoyable contexts.

Start working in partnership with ESP and bring this positive experience to your school playground.

Our CPD and teacher training department has a wide range of national expertise and is responsible for supporting all of our playground equipment and services, making them relevant and purposeful to the national curriculum. This ensures that every school working in partnership with ESP delivers sustainable change.


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