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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Specialist Playground Tables for Learning and Fun

Playground tables

Ask most school staff what a playground table is and the most likely answer is a picnic bench. Indeed, most staff have never seen anything different in a playground. Over the last few years, however, outdoor tables have become increasingly specialised to provide children with more opportunities to have fun and to learn. If these fabulous tables are something new to you, here’s a look at some of the playground activities your pupils could be enjoying.

Compendium of games tables

Not too long ago, every family had a compendium of games, often featuring classic board games like Ludo, snakes and ladders, noughts and crosses, solitaire and chequers. Today, there are specially designed playground picnic tables that feature the playing boards and pieces of these much-loved games and provide the seating for children to participate. Brightly coloured and with large boards, they are fun and easy to play. Tables come in two sizes, the smaller featuring two games and the larger, three games. Besides the games mentioned above, you can also choose from Connect 4, Chinese chequers and the Green Challenge game.

Whiteboard table

Ideal for your arty kids, the whiteboard table, together with a selection of whiteboard pens gives children the opportunity to spend their lunches and break times drawing, colouring, writing or even just doodling. And when they’re done, a quick wipe with a cloth will present a blank canvas for the next person. These tables are also great for outdoor lessons where pupils can use them for writing down ideas, working out calculations, recording observations and so forth.

Investigation tables

The investigation table offers a modern, learning-friendly approach to those science lessons where you take a square surface of grass or soil, divide it into grids and record what you find in each. The table comes in three sections, one where finds are laid, another where they are sorted into grids for closer inspection, and a third where finds are recorded on a cm by cm ruled grid whiteboard.

These tables really look the business, inspiring pupils and providing them with the necessary apparatus to conduct field investigations following proper scientific methods.

Roadway tables

These six-seater and four-seater picnic benches feature a colourful map surface with an interconnected system of roadways, together with rivers and canals, a railway line and buildings. Ideal for children that like playing with toy people, cars, trains and boats, they are great for inventing games, pretend journeys and instigating roleplay. They can also be used to teach some of the basics of road safety and to introduce aspects of geography.

Waterplay tables

Kids love playing with water and waterplay tables allow them to do this in a way that’s safe and doesn’t cause too much mess. The water container is brightly coloured and features cartoon fish, an octopus, a crab and a starfish. There’s a fun funnel for pouring water in, a mini water wheel and even exciting water chutes for sending things down to make a splash. The table itself is built using a sturdy wooded frame to ensure it stays upright and doesn’t cause a mini flood.

Football table

This is a version of the traditional football table found in arcades, where players have to spin the handles to kick the ball and score a goal. The key difference is that this particular football table is designed to be kept outdoors in the playground. With high sides to protect against the wind, it's sturdy and waterproof and made from materials that aren’t going to get damaged from being open to the elements.

Colour puzzle and Tangram tables

Great for those children who like a stimulating mental challenge during their free time, both the colour puzzle and Tangram tables offer lots of problem-solving fun. With colourful shapes and patterns to sort out, these tables are entertaining and provide great learning opportunities too.

Drum table

Part of our collection of outdoor percussion instruments, the drum table, which features three different drums, is the perfect height for younger children to experiment with rhythm and sounds just by using their hands. Bright red and yellow and with the word ‘Music’ boldly showing on the front, it’s an eye-catching and fun addition to any playground, especially when complemented by some of the other great instruments in the collection.

Conclusion

As you can see, playground tables have evolved significantly over the last few years, with their specialisation providing much more value than somewhere to sit, chat and eat sandwiches.

For information about these and our other playground tables, click here.

 

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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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