Outdoor PE Solutions for Small Playgrounds

PE solutions for small playgrounds

For many schools, especially primaries with small playgrounds, delivering a broad and balanced outdoor PE curriculum can be a big challenge. Here we look at some of the practical solutions available today that can help you offer a greater choice of sports and training and which are ideal for schools with limited outdoor space.

Reliable foundations

If you have a smaller outdoor space, it is likely that it will need to be used for both PE and general outdoor play. For this reason, you’ll need surfacing that is ideal for many different types of activity, is hardwearing and can be used in all weathers.

There are two modern surfacing solutions that are ideal for this: resin bound gravel and wetpour surfacing. Replacing tarmac and asphalt as the hard surface of choice, resin bound gravel offers improved drainage for all year use and a firmer footing for reduced risk and superior sports performance.

Wetpour surfacing, which is made from recycled rubber, offers a great grip on footwear, too. It is also softer and provides cushioning, making it great for outdoor sports as it reduces the chances of injury should pupils take a tumble during a PE activity. For the same reasons, it’s equally good for general outdoor play, especially around climbing equipment.

For those with additional space, a third alternative is artificial grass. Usable all year round, even when normal grass is too muddy, is easily maintained, without the need for mowing or reseeding, ensuring that whatever the weather, outdoor PE lessons can go ahead.

Pitch, court & trainer markings

The PE curriculum entitles pupils to participate in a broad range of sports, however, what a school can offer is often limited to the types of pitches, courts and equipment they have. Playground markings, which work with resin bound gravel, wetpour and older types of hard surfaces, are an inexpensive way of providing a wide variety of outdoor pitches and courts, for sports such as football, netball, basketball, rounders, tennis and cricket. For those schools short of outdoor space, it is even possible to create a multi-sports court that provides the markings for three different sports on the same pitch, each in different colours.

Additionally, there are also a wide variety of training markings available, designed to help pupils improve skills, including balance, endurance, coordination, footwork, hurdles and ball skills.

Add the right sports equipment

Of course, surfacing and markings won’t provide all the resources you need for outdoor PE. So, it is important to consider the additional equipment that can embellish these and expand your provision. The latest sports equipment lets you add high-quality, space saving football and hockey goals and basketball and netball hoops to your pitch markings. For those with space shortages, there are even multi-sports versions that combine goals and hoops into a single piece of equipment that can be kept outdoors for use in football, hockey, netball and basketball – you can even let children make use of these during playtimes.

As for training, there is also equipment like ball walls for football, tennis and cricket, and for accuracy training, there are ball catches and wall targets.

Create an outdoor gym

Aside from teaching pupils about different sports, another key purpose of PE is to give pupils the opportunity to stay fit and healthy. For those with limited indoor space, it is now possible to create an outdoor gym in the playground.

What’s great about the AllGo+ Gym is that it relies only on body weight, so there are no heavy weights that can cause injury. This makes it ideal for use in schools where it can help with physical fitness sessions, like circuit training. Equipment included in the AllGo+ Gym includes press up bars, monkey bars, circle steps, flat and inclined sit-up benches, leg raisers, step-up stations and fast feet floor markings. Additionally, each piece comes with its own instruction post and health and safety advice.


If you are stuck for space to deliver your outdoor PE, there are now solutions there to help you. From establishing a safe surface that can be used in all weathers to space-saving multi-sports markings, built-in outdoor goals, nets and training equipment and even outdoor, body weight only gyms, there’s everything you need to enhance and expand your provision and to offer pupils a wider range of activities to participate in during their free time.

If you are looking to update your outdoor PE provision, take a look at our wide selection of surfacing, sports markings, gym and sports equipment.


Why Great Design Matters for Small School Playgrounds

small school playground design

Everywhere you look these days, school playgrounds seem to be getting kitted out with the latest, must-have outdoor equipment. The one thing many of these modern playgrounds have in common is that they are of a decent size. For schools with smaller playgrounds, it can be hard to find the right solution when there is so little space available. However, with the right design team behind you, the possibilities are endless. Here we discuss why great design matters for small school playgrounds.

Dilemmas and challenges

Schools with small playgrounds are often faced with the dilemma that, by installing playground equipment, they make available space even smaller. It seems like there is a choice between giving children things to do and space to run around. A good playground, however, should aim to do both. The challenge is in finding a way to achieve this – and this is where having the help of a specialist school playground design team, like ESP Play, can be invaluable.

The importance of zones

No matter how big or small your outdoor space, the modern approach to designing playgrounds involves the creation of zones. This means creating discrete areas for different types of activities. Separating activities in this way is essential for making the playground safer, more inclusive and providing a wider range of play opportunities.

A smaller playground might not be able to have as many zones as a larger one, or, if it does, the zones might have less or smaller equipment. However, by using them, you can create areas for different activities, such as active play, creative play, sensory play and even quiet areas for sitting and chatting. A good designer will make sure that the layout of the playground is such that children taking part in one activity won’t be disrupted or put at risk by those taking part in another and that there is adequate access to and from each zone. In this way, no one is excluded from taking part and staff will have fewer issues to deal with as the design limits the potential for hazards.

Clever space-saving design

ESP Play’s experienced playground designers have created countless designs for small playgrounds up and down the country and understand not just the issues but the unseen opportunities that schools miss.

One frequently missed opportunity is not taking advantage of your school and playground walls. For playgrounds with limited space, these offer incredible potential, enabling the school to add a wide range of fun and educational equipment that doesn’t take up precious space elsewhere. What’s great is that even if you don’t currently have any walls, it’s relatively simple to install a fence that’s strong enough to serve the same purpose.  School walls can be used to install blackboards and whiteboards, traversing walls, magnetic water walls, ball targets and basketball hoops. They can also be used to create nature zones in your playground through the use of planters and trellises, together with wall-attached bug houses, bird feeders and butterfly houses. All these things, and more, can be put around the edges of your playground without taking up precious space in the centre.

Your choice of zones

When it comes to making use of the space, it’s up to you which zones to create and what features you might want them to have. For example, you could create a messy play area next to a wall that features a magnetic water wall as well as a small sandpit and a mud kitchen. The wall could also incorporate hangers on which you could keep aprons to keep the children dry and free of sand.

Small playgrounds don’t need to lack exciting climbing equipment either. Although you might be hard pushed to fit in a large climbing frame, smaller versions are available that can still offer plenty of fun-filled thrills for your pupils, whether that’s play towers for younger children or the Free Flow Expedition package. If you’re really stuck for space, you can choose individual pieces from our Trim Trails equipment, including jungle bars, wobbly bridges, balance beams, log stairs and many more.

There’s also a lot of equipment for imaginative play zones, where children can indulge in creative activities and role play. From mini-stages and shop kiosks to boats, carriages and trains, these pieces offer great fun without taking up too much space.

As for reserving a space for running around, that’s possible too – and can best be achieved with the addition of a few playground markings to provide the sports pitches and traditional playground games markings to inspire participation and keep the activities within designated areas.


As you can see, having a small school playground doesn’t mean your pupils can’t benefit from the great equipment you see being installed in other schools. However, it does mean you’ll need to be a little cleverer when it comes to getting the design right and that you choose the right pieces to match the space you have available.

For more information about our Free Playground Design Service, visit our Playground Design page.


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