6 Ingenious School Playground Furniture Designs

Playground furniture

While traditional wooden benches and picnic tables will always have a role to play in furnishing a school playground, today they are joined by a growing collection of other playground furniture that provides a range of practical uses for a variety of different purposes. Here, we’ll take a look at some of the more ingenious ones available.

1. Wheelchair accessible picnic tables

Traditional picnic tables aren’t particularly practical for wheelchair users. Indeed, they can be seen as a subtle form of social exclusion. Though someone using a wheelchair can position themselves at the end of the table where there are no seats to get in the way, the support bar that holds the legs of the table together prevents them from getting close enough to use the tabletop like the rest of their friends. To use it at all they need to be able to lean forward, which might be impossible for some children and even for those that can, it’s not user-friendly.

A wheelchair-accessible picnic table simply has one of the benches removed. Doing this allows the wheelchair user to get as close to the surface as everyone else – helping them feel part of any conversation and use the tabletop to rest their elbows, put their lunch boxes on or read a book. It’s a practical solution and, importantly, makes your playground seating inclusive.

2. Playground amphitheatres

If your circle times are often plagued by soggy bottoms from children having to sit on damp soil, the playground amphitheatre is your ideal solution. Made from sturdy logs and available in one, two and three-tier sizes, the largest able to seat up to 30 children, they provide comfortable circular seating ideal for group discussions, drama, story times and any other activity you could use them for. What’s more, their attractive shape and tiers are a natural draw for pupils who just love to use them to chat with friends during breaktimes.

3. Easel tables

Great for both learning and play, these are picnic style tables that have been transformed into sit down easels that children can use for a variety of artistic pursuits. There are three different types to choose from: a drywipe whiteboard, chalkboard and a magnetic board, with the boards raised at a slant to face the child. All easel tables are double-sided so pairs of children can sit together on either side, working individually or collaboratively in their chosen medium.

4. Story telling chair and mushroom seats

A story telling chair surrounded by mushroom seats creates the ideal storytelling circle to get young children engrossed in the magical pleasures of a good literary adventure. The high backed wooden chair with its rustic arms and half-moon and star design makes a perfect centrepiece to draw children’s attention, while the yellow mushroom-shaped seats with their red spots are a fun and inviting way to sit and enjoy the story. Made from moulded multi-coloured rubber crumbs, they are safe and comfortable and come in two different sizes.

5. Planter seating units

Want to give your children somewhere to sit with a touch of nature? Planter seating units provide both. Made from wood, they provide a comfortable bench for children to sit on but instead of being supported by legs, the benches rest on sturdy planters in which you can grow flowers, shrubs or climbers. Ideal for placing in green areas of your playground, or indeed, to help create a green area if you don’t have one, they provide a practical place to sit with all the benefits of mother nature.  They come in small and large sizes and there are even corner versions available.

If you have trees in your play area, you could also consider a hexagonal tree bench.  Designed to go around the entire trunk of the tree so that the children can sit back and lean on it, they offer a quiet escape from the busier parts of the playground while also helping to keep children sheltered from the hot sun or light showers.

6. Crooked benches and tables

Who needs nice straight benches or picnic table when you can find a gnarly crooked one to sit on? We know which one young children would prefer. Purposely designed to look crooked, they are, of course, extremely sturdy and safe to use but with added fun built-in. There are benches of different sizes, a picnic table and two special versions, the crooked pine tree bench and crooked compass tree seat, that have a tall wooden pine tree-shaped post as their centrepiece. If you’re looking to create a playground with a sense of magic and wonder, these are the perfect seating solutions.

Conclusion

With a little bit of inventiveness, the playground furniture of today provides some unique improvements on the standard pieces you find everywhere. They make playgrounds more inclusive, provide greater opportunities for play and creativity and make the playground more enjoyable and inviting for everyone.

For more information about all these pieces of playground furniture, visit our Seating page.

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Practical Solutions to Help Schools Teach PE in the Playground

For schools with limited outdoor space, it can be difficult to find the room to have a playground and somewhere dedicated to teaching PE. However, there are solutions and these come from turning your playground into a multi-use space that can be permanently equipped for both PE and play. In this post, we’ll look at a number of the possible solutions you can use.

Starting from the ground up

When planning your multi-use outdoor playground/PE space, you need to consider the ways the surface will be used during both lessons and break times. You obviously want something which will be safe for all kinds of activities and which lends itself to the wide number of activities you may wish to teach.

There are a number of possible playground surfacing solutions here. One of the most popular options is wetpour surfacing which gives a cushioned rubber surface that protects against injury but still has the necessary firmness to play all kinds of sports. Alternatively, you can opt for artificial grass which is ideal for sports and never needs cutting.

Defining the sports pitches and courts

Once you have established the best type of playground surfacing for your needs, the next stage of the process is to look at the type of sports your PE curriculum covers. If possible, you should try and dovetail this to match the kinds of sports your pupils will to want to play during breaktimes. Finding common ground here, will enable you to provide facilities which children will get the most benefit from.

After making your decision, you can then select the necessary playground markings to have installed. There is a wide variety to choose from and they are all suitable for the surfaces mentioned above and can also be installed on your existing hard surfaced playground. Here at ESP Play, we can provide the markings for football, futsal (five-a-side football), netball, rounders, basketball, tennis and cricket. For those particularly short of space, it is possible to create a multi-sports area by overlaying markings for different sports using different colours.

These markings enable PE staff to teach these sports whilst letting children have the fun of playing them during break times.

Choose playground markings for skills training

There is also a wide range of markings available for teaching important physical skills. These can be used for improving balance, endurance, coordination, footwork, hurdles, and a range of ball skills. Our ‘Famous Five’ multi-skills markings are a particular favourite amongst PE teachers.

Equip your playground

After selecting your markings, you can then proceed to equip your multi-use playground for your selected sports. This sports equipment includes goals (with nets or recesses), basketball and netball hoops. In addition, there is multi-sports equipment, such as our combined football - hoop units which are ideal for football, five-a-side, hockey, netball and basketball.

There is also a range of equipment that can be used for training and even for additional sports. These include freestanding ball catchers, ball walls for practicing football, tennis and cricket, and a range of colourful wall targets. There are even climbing walls.

Add features for developing strength and stamina

A key purpose of PE is to develop the physical fitness of your pupils. At the same time, we all want to encourage pupils to be more active during breaktimes. One of the ways to achieve both these aims is to add an outdoor gym section to your playground.

At ESP Play, we have the ideal solution in the AllGo+ Gym. This is a safe to use, outdoor gym that uses body weight only to help pupils develop their strength and stamina. It’s ideal for fitness classes, circuit training and for children to use during their free time. It can also be hired out to local fitness groups.

The equipment provided in the AllGo+ range includes monkey bars, circle steps, press up bars, leg risers, flat and inclined sit-up benches, step up stations and fast feet floor markings.     

Curriculum resources

Of course, if you are developing your playground to use for outdoor PE, you may also need some curriculum resources as well. The resources currently available include a range of interchangeable activity boards. You can choose from a plain whiteboard or ones which are designed for specific activities, such as yoga, dance, movement, skills keywords and a scoreboard.

Conclusion

As you can see, if your short of space for PE and need to use your playground, it is possible to do so. What’s more, equipping your PE space in the right way can make a huge difference to the range of activities your pupils can do during breaktimes. This can help motivate them to become much more active and healthier whilst having fun at the same time.

Hopefully, the ideas here will help you understand what you can do in your playground. Here at ESP Play, we have everything you need to create your multi-use PE area/playground from the ground up. For more information, take a look at our sports equipment.

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Best Outdoor Playground Equipment for Schools

UK school playgrounds have undergone something of a revolution in the last few years. Gone are the days when children were hoofed out on to dull asphalted yards with nothing more to entertain them than a ball and a skipping rope.

Today, schoolyards are far more vibrant and exciting, and this is all possible because of the wide range of playground equipment available, including different varieties of surfacing, playground markings, play equipment and even resources to create exciting outdoor classrooms.

So, if your school playground still looks like a throwback to the middle of the last century, as in the 1940s image above, we hope these products will give you an idea of how you can make yours fit for the 21st-century child.

Safest playground flooring

Traditionally, school playgrounds are surfaced with asphalt or tarmac. Whilst these are hardy surfaces, their hardness can lead to health and safety risks such as cuts, bumps and grazes. During snowy or icy weather, they can also become very slippery, putting pupils and staff at risk of more serious injury. If you intend to modernise your playground and are considering climbing equipment, hard surfaces create a risk for those who may fall.

Today, there is a range of different playground surfaces to choose from and it is possible to create different zones each with a different type of surface. For safety, however, the ideal solution would be to install wetpour surfacing. This soft surfacing solution is made from resin bound recycled tyre crumbs and, while firm enough to walk and play on, is able to cushion children when they fall, reducing the likelihood of injuries. Wetpour surfacing can also be installed in a variety of colours to give your playground a more exciting feel.

Most useful playground markings

There are a plethora of playground marking available and they can be used for all sorts of purposes: traditional games, literacy and numeracy development, sports skill training and much more.

Perhaps the most useful, and one of ESP Play’s most popular playground markings, are the multicourt markings. Ideal for small playgrounds, a multicourt creates three sports courts in one area: futsal (like 5-a-side football), netball and basketball. This is done by overlaying the markings for each sport in different colours.

A multicourt enables pupils to play fitness enhancing sports together during break and lunchtimes and can also be used during PE lessons or for inter-school competitions. Nets and goals are also available.

Healthiest sports equipment

Today’s schools are spoiled for choice when it comes to playground sports equipment, from full-sized artificial pitches to ball walls, basketball nets, soccer goals and even outdoor table tennis. However, if you want to take pupil fitness to the next level, then our outdoor AllGo+ Gym is a must.

The gym equipment, which uses body weight only, comprises a range of different pieces of which you can mix and match to suit your own needs. These include: press up and pull up bars, flat and inclined sit-up benches, monkey bars, leg risers, step markers and circles steps. Made from wood, they are less expensive, safer and easier to maintain than steel alternatives.

Best playground seating and furniture

playground seating

Outdoor seating and furniture have long been neglected in schools. When they’re installed, they give children places to sit, chat and eat lunch. When you buy picnic benches, you are also getting the seating resources for an outdoor classroom and reducing the pressure for space in the canteen.

If you want the ultimate outdoor seating solution, check out the ESP Play octagonal shelter with solid sides, seating and decking. This large shelter provides lots of seating, protection from the wind and rain and can be used for outdoor lessons and as a mini performance area as well as for use by children during break times.

Most exciting outdoor play equipment

Great outdoor play equipment needs to fulfil a number of roles. It should give children something entertaining to do, stimulate physical activity and encourage them to play together. At ESP Play, we have a variety of equipment types which do this. These include imaginative play equipment, sand and water play, trim trails, play towers, and climbing equipment.

Perhaps the most exciting new product we have is our Freeflow modular climbing equipment. Designed to excite and challenge students whilst keeping them active and healthy, it’s the ideal obstacle course for children and one which you can add to as and when your budget allows.

Conclusion

As you can see, outdoor playground equipment has come a long way and for good reasons. A well-equipped playground helps children stay active, learn new skills, develop relationships and enjoy school more. It can even have positive effects on mental health, behaviour and progress. In this sense, updating your playground is much more than giving kids something to do at break times, it’s an investment in their future wellbeing.

For more information about the wide range of outdoor playground equipment available at ESP Play, visit our homepage.

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5 Tips on How to Equip an Outdoor Classroom

Children love learning outdoors when the weather is warm. It gets them some well needed fresh air, stops them feeling cooped up and can be a real relief from the stifling heat of poorly ventilated classrooms. The problem for many schools, however, is that taking learning outdoors isn’t practical as they just don’t have the resources. Well, not anymore. Now it’s possible to resource an outdoor space so that it can be used for a wide range of subject areas. In this post, we’ll give you five tips on how to equip your outdoor classroom.

1. Make sure you have the right playground flooring

If children are going to work outdoors, it’s likely that, at some stage, they will need to write or draw. The most comfortable position for this without a chair and desk is to sit or lay on the floor. Hard playground surfaces, however, aren’t good for this. They are uncomfortable and often leave children’s uniforms covered in a layer of dust or dirt. Softer surfaces, like grass, are much more suitable.

If you have a grassy area, then this would be the ideal place to locate your outdoor classroom. If you don’t have natural grass, you should consider installing artificial grass. It’s just as comfortable and clean to sit on, with the added advantages that it doesn’t need maintaining or mowing like real grass and doesn’t get muddy. Alternatively, you can also use a rubber wetpour surface which has a cushioned or padded feel to it. Either of these surfaces would be perfect for children to sit on and lay on to write.

2. Get some outdoor work benches

If you need a few tables and chairs for children to sit at, it isn’t always practical to carry ones from the classroom out into the yard. Picnic tables are a much better solution. They can be left out in the playground and used during break times and lunchtimes, too.

Alternatively, you can purchase curriculum based picnic style tables, with interchangeable tops such as our handwriting practice tabletop and MFL practice tabletop. These allow pupils to work on specific curriculum areas whilst sat at the tables.

3. Get subject specific outdoor resources

Wouldn’t it be great if you could install wooden posts in your playground to which you could easily attach a range of interchangeable, subject specific, working panels? Especially if you could put them up when you need them and take them down when you were finished. Well, you can – and there is a multitude to choose from covering almost every curriculum area and every age from EYFS to KS4.

Interchangeable panels can be used by staff to write out learning objectives and instructions or used by pupils to write, draw, measure, calculate, note take and much more. When you’re finished, simply wipe clean, take down and put them away for safe storage.

ESP Play outdoor curriculum panels are much more than simple outdoor whiteboards. Most of them incorporate useful tools such as abacuses, coordinate grids, weather measurement instruments (for measuring rainfall and windspeed), timelines, moving clock faces, etc.

These boards are designed to be useful and hard wearing outdoor classroom resources that can save teachers time and engage children in their lessons. Currently, we provide outdoor panels for the following subject areas: art and design, design and technology, English, geography, history, maths, MFL, music, PE and science. We also provide cross-curricular panels too.

4. Put your pupils on a pedestal

Outdoor lessons are great for groupwork and one of the best ways to finish off is to get the children to show the rest of the class what they have achieved. The ideal place to do this is on a raised platform where they can be seen clearly by everyone.

You can install a raised stage area inexpensively in any playground and putting one in your outdoor classroom is an easy way to create a focal point where the teacher or groups of children can present to others.  

Perfect for performances, presentations, speeches and showcasing work, we have a range of stages at ESP Play, including square, triangular, half stage and octagonal shaped stages.

5. Protect pupils from the sun

Whilst it is great to work outdoors, sometimes there is the risk of sunburn or sunstroke if it gets too hot. Providing an area where children can get some shade from direct sunlight whilst continuing with their lesson can be a useful addition to your outdoor classroom. It can also help if there’s an unexpected spot of rain.

Outdoor shading can be provided in three different way. The simplest form is a sail cover – a weatherproof canvas attached to the top of fixed poles. Alternatively, there is a range of pergolas available, including ones with built-in seats and decked flooring. Finally, you can install wooden structures, such as our large octagonal shelter, which comes with tiered seating, sides and a trellis.

All these shading products would be helpful not just for outdoor lessons but for use at break and lunchtimes. The large octagonal shelter can even be used to host some open-air performances.

Conclusion

Many schools are now developing outdoor classrooms as a way to enrich the curriculum and engage pupils in a wider range of activities. Here at ESP Play, we have been listening to what our customers have been saying and have responded by producing many of the resources these schools have been asking for. If you are considering creating your own outdoor classroom, we hope you’ll find these resources useful to you.

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