How to Create a Communal School Playground

Communal school playgrounds

Social interaction is incredibly vital for young people. It helps the development of language and communication; it forges and strengthens interpersonal relationships, and it enables children to acquire the key social skills that they’ll need to rely on for the rest of their lives. As most social interaction happens during free time, creating a communal school playground that facilitates and promotes interaction can be highly beneficial. Not only does it allow children to benefit from social interaction in the future; it caters for their happiness and wellbeing needs today. Here, we look at some of the features you can add to your playground to make it more communal.

A sports zone

By their very nature, team sports involve a great deal of social interaction. There’s the camaraderie within each team, the banter between teams, and taking part requires people to adopt roles, negotiate, communicate and follow a set of rules. In this sense, team sports are of high value when it comes to social interaction and facilitating them should be high on the agenda when creating a communal playground.

There are plenty of choices available for schools when it comes to adding a team sports zone to a playground. For those with larger budgets, there’s always the option of installing artificial grass pitches for sports like football, hockey, tennis, cricket and rugby. A more affordable option is to have playground markings added to your existing surfacing. These are available for sports such as football, netball, basketball, cricket and tennis. For schools with smaller playgrounds, it is even possible to get a multicourt, where the markings for three separate sports are overlaid in different colours, so children can interchange which games they play. Of course, these markings can be embellished with the requisite goals and nets, and there are even multi-form versions of these to go with the multicourt.

A roleplay area

Roleplay is something younger children do naturally. It’s a key part of growing up that helps them discover how the world is through playing characters and acting out scenarios. Through roleplay, children learn about people, relationships, roles, rules and status. It helps them develop social skills and develop problem-solving, communication, empathy and self-confidence. It’s a rich source of essential learning that also has the benefit of being great fun.

Facilitating roleplay can easily be done just by leaving a basket of costume pieces and props to play with. Provide a pram and a doll, for example, and a child will take on the role of a parent and their friends as doctors, shopkeepers, grandparents or other characters. For more thrilling roleplay, our wide range of imaginative play equipment can help take their inventiveness even further. Our collection includes shop kiosks, play trains, playboats, castle-themed climbing towers and much more.

A communal seating area

Hanging out is also important for social interaction. It’s where ideas and opinions are discussed, views exchanged, similarities and differences explored and where relationships bond. All communal playgrounds should have somewhere where children can simply just sit in their friendship groups and chat, even if it’s about nothing more than their favourite band, team or Tik-Tok video.

From circular benches and picnic tables, to play huts and large octagonal shelters, there is plenty of seating equipment now available that’s specifically designed to encourage social interaction in the playground and provide children with comfortable places to sit or eat.

A climbing zone

Whether it’s a play tower, trim tail, rope climbing equipment or a climbing frame, children love to play on them with their friends. They inspire roleplay and present new challenges while requiring children to communicate constantly as they make use of them or try to get from A to B. We often see children in climbing zones helping others get around, giving encouragement and praising success, all key ingredients to making a playground more inclusive and communal.

A games zone

Creating a playground game zone is another way to encourage social interaction and provide entertainment. Playing games together strengthens bonds between children and improves their communication and interpersonal skills.

Playground markings can be installed for traditional hopscotch and skipping type games, and modern tabletop games with built-in seating can be purchased for those that are less inclined to physical activity and are more interested in strategy games, like chess, ludo, snakes and ladders and Connect 4. We also have table games available, like spinning football, puzzles and table tennis.

Conclusion

A communal playground is one in which every member of the school community feels welcome and in which all pupils are given the facilities and encouragement to interact with each other. This type of environment is essential for developing social and interpersonal skills and helps the school be a more harmonious and inclusive place to attend. If you are looking to make your playground more communal, hopefully, the ideas suggested here will help.

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How to Improve Social Interaction in the Playground

Finding ways to help children interact more leads to numerous benefits for both the individual child and the school community as a whole. This can be challenging to do in a classroom setting when the time is structured around the curriculum and much of the social interaction is manufactured to meet the aims of the lesson. Truer interactions take place when the children have the freedom to be themselves and, in schools, this most often happens at break times. Here, we’ll look at a number of outdoor activities that can enhance social interaction and help develop social skills.

social interaction

Team sports

Team sports give children lots of opportunities to interact with each other. These include picking the teams, deciding on the positions and choosing which side is the first to start. Each of these activities requires children to negotiate, take on roles and accept the choices of the wider group. When the game starts, interaction continues through the discussion of in-match tactics as well as by giving encouragement to teammates and in the celebration of goals.

One of the important features of team sports is that there are a set of rules which need to be followed. Children taking part quickly become aware of what is not allowed and what constitutes a foul. As these rules are needed for the game to progress smoothly, children develop a social awareness of the need to abide by them.

Sports can also help children with conflict resolution. Minor disputes can arise during a game – was the player really off-side? Who is going to take the penalty? Learning these skills in game situations when there are a fixed set of rules can improve a child’s ability to handle conflict in settings where right and wrong are much more open to question.

Team sports can be exceptionally beneficial for social interaction in the playground and the introduction of a MUGA, that provides a wider range of sports, can be one of the best ways to inspire more pupils to take part.

Roleplay

Young children love role play and when provided with the right equipment, it comes naturally to them. It also plays a pivotal role in child development, helping to bring on many of the skills needed to be proficient at social interaction, such as confidence, communication and problem-solving.

By taking on the role of another person, be that a made-up character, someone from fiction or even someone they know, children act out scenarios that are a practice for the real world and which help them to understand and navigate society better. These made-up situations help them develop important social skills, too: listening, responding, turn-taking, initiating conversation, asking questions. In addition, they become more socially aware, developing empathy, understanding when they’ve upset someone and learning how to resolve problems.

There are many ways to motivate pupils to participate in roleplay. A good way to start is to provide them with plenty of props and costumes. There are, however, some excellent pieces of playground equipment that create the settings that unleash their creativity to a greater extent and transport them to imaginary worlds. From shop kiosks to wigwams, steam trains to castle-themed climbing towers, there is a lot of imaginative play equipment to choose from.

Outdoor games

Outdoor games help smaller groups of children develop interpersonal skills, foster better relationships and build friendships. All of these can have an impact both in school and in the community as a whole. The simple act of playing together, whether in a pair or friendship group, improves personal communication and forges bonds between people as they take part in fun activities.

The range of outdoor games available for school playgrounds is wider than ever. Besides the traditional playground markings for games like hopscotch, there are also outdoor versions of popular table games like chess, Ludo, snakes and ladders and Connect 4. You can even get outdoor table football, table tennis and puzzle tables.

Performing

Performing provides many of the same opportunities for social interaction as both team sports and roleplay. Those taking part in a made-up drama will develop skills in improvisation and communication. And as social interaction is the basis for most drama, the opportunity to progress in this area is obvious. Providing an outdoor stage in the playground is the simplest way to get children to start improvising and performing in front of their peers is a fantastic confidence booster.

That same stage can also be used to create dance routines, an activity that relies on social interaction in order to decide the moves and work together as a unified team. Similar skills can be learned from working together as a music ensemble, using outdoor percussion instruments, to create beats and rhythms and perform them in time for their peers.

Summing Up

Social interaction is an essential skill, helping children to be confident enough to communicate with others and do so in a way that helps them achieve and which enables the school community to get along more harmoniously. Hopefully, the ideas and equipment mentioned here will help you extend the opportunities for social interaction at your school.

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