How to Make School Playgrounds Usable All Year Round

all year playground

Poor weather can have a very disruptive effect on the school day. When wet or wintery weather puts a stop to breaktimes, the lack of outdoor play means teachers don’t get their breaks, the pupils get irritable and find it hard to settle, and indoor play means classrooms get messy. The quality of learning and classroom behaviour can take a nosedive as a result. While extreme weather means you cannot guarantee keeping a playground open every day, there are things you can do to make the outdoor space more accessible all year round and cut the number of indoor playtimes.

In many cases, schools decide to cancel outdoor play not just because the weather is poor, but because the playground is not designed or equipped to keep children comfortable or safe when things take a turn for the worse. Here we’ll look at some of the things you can do to change this.

The importance of good surfacing

Great playground surfacing is the most important ingredient when creating a space that you want to be usable throughout the year. Schools often close playgrounds because of safety concerns due to slippery surfaces, but with the right surfacing in place, this can be reduced - as can puddles and mud.

While wet playgrounds increase the risk of slipping, installing playground surfacing that has proper drainage and which provides a superior grip on pupils’ footwear can reduce this. Improved drainage means surface water is soon dissipated and that large puddles don’t form. With less water on the surface and a surfacing type that provides a firmer footing, the chances of someone falling over are significantly reduced. Replacing asphalt with resin-bound gravel is one way to achieve this, though, for even greater safety, the ideal solution is wetpour surfacing.

Wetpour surfacing is made from 100% recycled tyres and not only provides the necessary grip to stop children sliding in wet conditions; it also provides cushioning so that if a fall does happen, the risk of injury is much reduced. This makes it ideal for all-year playgrounds and for installing under climbing equipment.

For grassed areas, there are two solutions. The simple and inexpensive way to stop grassed areas from turning into a quagmire and to make them usable in wet and wintery conditions is to install grass matting. This is a rubber mesh embedded into the surface that prevents the grass from being worn away and thus stops muddy patches from forming. Alternatively, you can install artificial grass that has superior drainage and where there is no soil directly underfoot to create any mud. Not only can this all-weather surface be used throughout the year; there’s the added benefit that it doesn’t need regular mowing, reseeding or feeding.

Provide shelter

Another reason schools stop children playing out is to protect them from cold, wind and heavy rain. In most cases, warm, waterproof clothing and suitable footwear are all that is needed for children to be happy and safe playing outside. However, you can make the playground more comfortable by adding shelter.

Replacing mesh fencing with a wooden alternative not only makes the playground look better; it provides shelter from cold winds and helps stop some of the rain. However, if you want to provide even greater protection and comfort, then the ideal solution would be an octagonal shelter. With a roof to keep out the rain, side panels to keep out the wind and seating for up to thirty children, this makes the perfect bolt-hole during inclement weather – and can be used all year round as an outdoor classroom.

There is a range of other solutions too. Play huts are ideal for small groups of children to hide away from the worst of the elements, sail shades protect from both the rain and the sun, and there is a wide selection of covered pergolas and other types of shelter available.

All-weather play equipment

If you are sending children out to play when it's cold and wet, they will still need things to do to keep them engaged. While you might not want them to use climbing equipment that gets slippery or get soaked going down a wet slide, there are still lots of things you can offer. Playground markings for football, netball and other sports enable children to participate in active games, as do fun marking for traditional playground games like hopscotch.

Children also love imaginative and creative play and, as they involve less running around, they are perhaps more suitable and safer activities in poor weather conditions. There is a wide range of imaginative play equipment to choose from, including outdoor musical instruments, mud kitchens, magnetic water walls, chalkboards, magnetic boards and whiteboards, outdoor stages and much more.

Conclusion

With the right surfacing and shelter, and a carefully curated selection of all-weather play equipment, schools can reduce the number of play and lunch breaks lost to poor weather. This eases the pressure on teaching staff and classroom assistants, reduces classroom disruption caused by children getting frustrated at being stuck indoors and stops classrooms from getting messy during indoor breaktimes.

For more information about our surfacing, shelters and playground equipment, visit our Products page.

(0)

5 Benefits of Artificial Grass for Schools and Nurseries

There are plenty of choices when it comes to playground surfacing but one of the most popular is artificial grass. Ideal for both playgrounds and sports surfaces, it’s become a go-to solution for nurseries, primary and secondary schools. If you are considering installing artificial grass in your school, here, we’ll look at the benefits you’ll receive.

1. Low maintenance surfacing

While there are a lot of good things about natural grass, it requires high maintenance to keep it in good condition and looking after it properly doesn’t come cheaply. During the spring and summer months, grass grows incredibly quickly and to be of any use as a sports or playground surface needs cutting weekly. Paying a gardener to cut large areas of grass consistently throughout the school year can be a significant cost. Artificial grass, on the other hand, never needs cutting and removes this financial burden.

At the same time, natural grass areas can create health and safety issues that need maintenance to reduce risk. Constant use and the effects of weather can lead to uneven or slippery surfaces and raised divots that children can trip over. Again, putting these issues right leads to further maintenance costs.

Heavy traffic is another maintenance issue for grass as it causes the turf to be worn away. It’s easy to spot unsightly pathways across school grassed areas or bald patches in front of the goal on football pitches. If left untreated, the erosion would spread and the soil underneath get worn away until the surfaces become unusable.

Artificial grass is purposely designed to be low maintenance, providing a safe, robust surface that is easy to look after and lasts for years.

 

2. All year, all-weather use

British weather being what it is, there are always times of the year when grassed surfaces become a no-go area. Periods of prolonged or heavy rain can quickly turn a sports field into a quagmire and a safe play area into a slippery hazard zone. There’s an increased risk of injury, soil gets trampled all over the school and PE students and their kit end up caked in mud. In many cases, the PE curriculum will be disrupted and areas of the playground made out of bounds – and it can take days for the grassed areas to dry out.

The weather resistance of artificial grass removes this problem. It won’t stop the children getting cold or wet, nor, unless you have underground heating, will it stop snow from settling; however, for the best part of the year, the surface will remain useable without having to worry about children slipping or getting a mud bath.

3. Increases opportunities for play

Artificial grass has become an integral element of modern playground design used to improve the aesthetics of the playground, creating a stimulating outdoor environment that inspires and motivates children to participate in a wider variety of outdoor play. It can be used to create specific, all-weather play zones and provide more suitable surfaces to surround and put under play equipment.

4. Safer surface for play equipment

The modern school playground makes increasing use of play and outdoor learning equipment. Today, you can expect to see play towers, climbing frames, creativity and roleplay apparatus, sports equipment, messy play areas, nature zones, playground markings plus a wealth of outdoor classroom equipment installed in a schoolyard.

One of the benefits of artificial grass is that it provides additional safety for children using much of this apparatus. This is because it can be installed with a shockpad underlayer that absorbs impact if a child trips or falls and reduces the potential for injury. This makes it the ideal solution for putting underneath equipment like play towers, traversing walls and climbing frames.

5. Put nature where there isn’t any

Many schools simply don’t have any green space available for them to use and this means the children are bereft of nature when playing outdoors. Over the last few years, there has been increasing demand for nature zones to be incorporated into playground designs, often to create a quiet, calming space for children and to improve the provision of science.

Although artificial grass isn’t real nature, it can provide the perfect surface on which to install planters and trellises to create a green zone in your playground. Trellises can be used to grow climbers or shrubs that create living walls and planters can be used to add colourful plants. Add a water feature, a bird feeder and a bug house and the area can be completely transformed. The artificial grass provides a low maintenance, complementary surface that is usable all year round and comfortable to sit on during drier weather.

Conclusion

Artificial grass is a practical solution for school surfacing. It needs little maintenance, can be used all year round, provides safe surfaces for physical activities, increases opportunities for play, improves the aesthetics of the playground and enables the creation of green spaces in places where this is normally difficult to achieve.

For more information, visit our Artificial Grass page.

(0)

All-Weather Outdoor Play, Sports and Learning Solutions for Schools

Wet breaks are something every teacher dreads. Instead of a much-needed cuppa in the staffroom, you’re stuck in class with thirty cooped up kids. It’s noisy, chaotic and stressful. What’s more, it's probably unnecessary. Today, playgrounds can be created that enable suitably dressed pupils to go out in all but the worst weather. Indeed, you can now install surfacing and shelters that let children play, do sports and even learn in an outdoor classroom all year round. Here, we’ll look at the options you can choose.

literacy and phonics

All-year playground surfacing

One of the biggest problems with school playgrounds in bad weather is with the playground surfaces. Grassy areas get muddy, asphalt gets puddles and both become slippery safety hazards. Feet get wet, shoes get caked in mud and someone always gets injured in one way or another.

Those things, however, don’t need to happen. The simple use of grass matting, a form of protective rubber mesh that is placed over the top of grassed areas, prevents the soil underneath from being churned up during wet weather but leaves space for the grass to grow through. The area can be used all year round, without the risk of it turning into a quagmire or the associated hazard of slippage and the cleaning up operation needed to remove thousands of muddy footprints from the corridors and carpets. You’ll also benefit from not having to constantly reseed or even re-turf the grassed areas.

Perhaps more innovative is wetpour surfacing. Made from recycled rubber granules bonded together with resin, this free draining playground surface provides children with an area where surface water quickly drains away, preventing puddles and limiting the chance of ice forming. What’s more, its textured surface provides excellent grip in wet weather, reducing the potential for slippage. Perhaps best of all, however, if children do slip or fall, the absorbent texture of the rubber materials means they’ll have a cushioned landing, minimising the possibility of injury. Resin-bound rubber mulch provides similar protection. If you still want a hard surface for your playground, you can also opt for the fully permeable resin bound gravel. Both this and wetpour surfaces can be used with playground markings and come in a variety of colours.

All-weather sports surfacing

At least when the wet bell goes its only playtime that’s disrupted, for PE teachers, however, bad weather can cause serious disruption to curriculum provision. Besides preventing planned lessons going ahead, bad weather means PE staff have to find alternative lessons to teach, often at very short notice and sometimes without the availability of a suitable indoor space.

All-weather sports surfaces ensure continuity of curriculum delivery in all but the harshest of conditions. The aforementioned wetpour surfacing is an ideal all-weather surface for sports and can be marked out for a wide range of sports pitches and courts, including multi-court markings which can be very helpful for those with limited outdoor space. There are also a number of training markings which can be installed, there’s even a multi-skills zone.

For schools which require a higher-standard of all-weather sports surfacing, artificial grass provides the ultimate solution. Catering for all sports, including football, hockey and netball, they enable PE lessons, extracurricular training and match fixtures to go ahead uninterrupted throughout the year. Various markings are available and the artificial grass is available in different lengths to suit your needs.

The stay-dry outdoor classroom

Outdoor classrooms have become very popular over the last decade with many schools seeing the benefits that open-air learning brings and the advantages of doing more exciting, active lessons where children have the space to move around and make use of the outdoor environment. One of the downsides is that, too frequently, these lessons take place only during the warm spring and summer days and as a result, rather than being scheduled into a scheme of work, they usually only happen on the hoof when there’s a particularly sunny day.

One way to extend outdoor teaching throughout the school year is to install a class-sized shelter. Our octagonal shelters, for example, come with a range of purpose-built features that make them ideal for such purposes. They are roofed, to keep out the rain and provide seating for the whole class, with windbreaker side panels to keep cold breezes off the children’s backs. Benches are provided for seating and these are arranged in an octagonal formation, making them ideal for circle-time activities. The shelters can even come with whiteboards or blackboards preinstalled.

Conclusion

Bad weather can seriously impact day to day school-life, closing down playgrounds, halting PE lessons and preventing outdoor learning from taking place. However, with the right surfacing and shelters, it is possible to make use of your outdoor spaces in all but the harshest of weather conditions.

(0)

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.

(0)

Statement Playground Equipment with Instant Kid Appeal

If you need to transform your playground by installing equipment that makes a statement and which is guaranteed to get the pupils excited, then this post has exactly what you’re looking for. Here, we’ll look at equipment which has an immediate impact and has proven to be hugely popular with children up and down the country.

Freeflow climbing system

Bring excitement to your playground by installing the Freeflow climbing frame system. This modular system of interconnected components can be erected using the elements of your choice and in a layout that your pupils find most exciting. Elements can include tyre bridges, traverse walls and nets, rope crossings, crazy trails and more. There are three different packages available, Expedition, Adventure and Conquest, each with increasing numbers of components. It’s even possible to add new components to your system over time, to help spread the cost.

What makes Freeflow particularly appealing to children is that the various climbing elements are laid out in a grid structure. This means there is no definitive beginning or end and no prescribed pathway, so pupils can start and finish where they please and take the route that they find most enjoyable. This freedom of choice is where the equipment’s name, Freeflow, originated.

Aside from the sheer joy of playing on it, Freeflow is designed to encourage physical activity and to develop strength, stamina and coordination.

Trim Trails

Trim Trails

More challenge is to be had with a Trim Trails obstacle course. Kids love the physical and strategic challenges these present, spending countless playtimes trying to master individual obstacles, navigating various routes and competing with each other to finish a particular course quickest.

One of the great things about Trim Trails is that they are made up of various individual components, and this makes it possible to create a bespoke course that combines the pieces which are most suitable for your pupils. These include chin-up and dip bars, climbing nets, log climbers, balance bars, jungle bars, striding posts, swinging logs, wobbly bridges, clamber under and over challenges and many more obstacles.

There are various sets of Trim Trails available, each catering for different ages, from EYFS to secondary age. There is also a range of interchangeable Trim Trails that have easily changeable components. With these, you can routinely change elements of your course, giving children different challenges to try out.

Just like the Freeflow climbing system, Trim Trails equipment also encourages participation in physical activity and in helping to develop pupils’ resilience and self-esteem.

Tangled

The Tangled range of playground equipment has become one of the most popular options for primary schools over recent years. Inspired by pirate ship rigging and giant spiders’ webs, it provides children with unlimited opportunity for both rope play and role play. Activities they can participate in include balancing, climbing, swinging and overcoming challenging manoeuvres. There are, currently, eight exciting components which can be combined to create a Tangled system. Each component has a unique design and an alluring name (e.g. tarantula, cobweb, black widow and wolf) making them irresistible statement pieces for your pupils.

Created specifically for younger children, Tangled is low-level equipment, that comes in various sizes and is just the right height off the ground for EYFS to KS2 pupils, enabling them to play safely and with confidence.

Roleplay play towers

A fantastic way to cater for children’s love of climbing and their sense of adventure is to install our roleplay play towers. From a physical activity perspective, they give ample opportunity for fun-filled play with components such as traversing ramps, tunnels, slides, bridges, sliding poles and rope ladders. They are also designed to encourage children to make up their own role play adventures and our selection of equipment provide many inspirational features such as towers and turrets, drawbridges, flags and pitched roofed dens.

There is a wide range of play tower systems to choose from, so whatever your budget or the size of your playground, there will be something suitable. These range from the simple Kingsley Play Tower and Dalton Play Castle, all the way up to our show-stopper, Vancouver Play Tower and Windsor Play Castle models.

Conclusion

If you want to purchase playground equipment that makes a statement and which has an immediate impact on your pupils’ outdoor enjoyment, then the four types of equipment presented here should help you find a solution. Whether you choose Freeflow, Trim Trails, Tangled or play towers, you can be sure that your playground will look the part and your pupils will be racing to have a turn.

(0)

Product Enquiry