4 Reasons to Change Your Playground Surfacing

A lot of schools still use traditional playground surfacing like asphalt or tarmac, however, over time and with constant use they degrade: edges crumble, busy pathways wear away and bare patches begin to appear. Surfacing materials like loose gravel and bark mulch also deteriorate. Paying for regular repairs and maintenance that can leave your playground looking like a patchwork quilt is not always the cost-effective solution. Modern playground surfacing uses materials that are safer, longer lasting and better value for money. In this post, we’ll look at four reasons why it might be time to change your playground surfacing.

1. Your current playground surface is a safety hazard

Safeguarding has to be at the top of any school’s list of priorities and this includes making sure your playground doesn’t put children at risk. If there are obvious signs that your current surface is becoming defective, it may become a safety hazard.

Defective surfacing can cause children to trip or slip, risking broken bones or head injuries. Loose gravel is not only slippery but can also be sharp and break the skin. Materials like bark mulch, which is biodegradable, can cause splinters when it begins to break down and if it is harbouring fungi or unsavoury microbes, could cause an infection.

Besides the risk of injury, there are financial implications, too. As many schools will testify, there are quite a lot of parents today who will head straight to the solicitors if their child gets hurt in the playground. A tumble on the tarmac often results in a significant settlement.

2. Playground maintenance has become expensive

Another reason you may want to change your playground surfacing is if you are continually having to spend a lot of money on its upkeep. Resurfacing tarmac or asphalt doesn’t come cheaply, even if you are only patching specific areas. If this is happening constantly, that money could be more wisely spent on a safer and longer lasting solution that won’t need so much maintenance. The same applies to re-gravelling or replenishing bark mulch.

There are hidden savings to be made from investing in a better surface too. For example, a safer surface may reduce your liability insurance costs. You may also cut down the number of hours that your caretaking staff need to spend looking after your surfacing. Bark, for example, get easily blown around creating potential slip hazards. By replacing it, it won’t need to be swept up every time it gets a little windy.

3. Better surfaces, cleaner schools

Many traditional surfaces can be dirty, especially in the rain; particularly areas surfaced with grass or soil which become muddy after they have been trampled on by a swarm of school kids. Of course, when the bell goes, all this dirt gets brought into school.

Mud left by one child quickly becomes a trip hazard for those following behind, especially on stairs or tiled flooring. You also end up with a completely messy floor, littered with pale grey footprints, that your caretaking staff will need to spend time cleaning and polishing after school. Of course, when the mud dries, all those tiny bits of grit are going to scrape the shine off your newly varnished wooden floors, shortening the amount of time the varnish will last. If you have carpets, they too are going to get dirty and will need cleaning more regularly.

Modern surfacing is much cleaner and whilst it won’t fully eradicate every piece of dirt that gets brought into school, it can help reduce it, meaning less wear and tear of your indoor flooring and less time needed to keep it clean.

4. Your playground is a dreary space

When children play together, especially in larger numbers, there is more opportunity for them to develop important social skills. Many of the markings used for sports and games will help pupils with key skills such as turn taking, patience, respect for others and empathy.

At the same time, children will need to interact in order to play together or when asking other children for a turn on a game. This will help them become better negotiators and improve their ability to resolve disputes. It can also lead to new friendships.

Is it time for a change?

Great playground surfacing can revitalise your outdoor environment. Surfaces can be created from a range of materials and colours and come with a wide range of playground markings that create sports pitches and games areas.

There are several examples of modern surfacing that are worth a mention. A highly popular solution is Wetpour surfacing. Wetpour is a soft surface that is very effective in reducing injury from falls. It’s ideal for putting under climbing equipment or for areas where children are involved in active play. What’s more, it’s long lasting, colourful and can be created in a range of intricate designs.

If you currently use bark mulch on your play areas, a safer, cheaper and longer lasting alternative is to use rubber mulch. Made from recycled tyres, this coated, shredded rubber comes in a range of colours and can even look like natural bark. However, unlike bark, it’s bound together, so it doesn’t get blown away, can’t get chucked around and doesn’t rot.

If you need a hard surface, then a much better alternative to asphalt or tarmac is resin bound gravel, a highly attractive surface with a smooth finish using naturally coloured stones bonded together using resin. Tough, long-lasting and available in a range of colours, it’s the ideal hard surface.

If you want grassy areas that don’t get muddy, there are two other surfacing options. You can cover existing grassed areas in grass matting or you can replace your natural grass with artificial grass. This is great for sports areas and comes with the advantage of never needing to be watered, fed or mowed.

For more information about all our surfaces, check out our playground surfacing 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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