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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Top 10 Playground Markings for EYFS

A great deal of the learning that takes place during early years education is done through play. This post will look at a selection of playground markings that are both fun for young children to play on but which also help them with a range of basic skills. Covering literacy, numeracy, time, direction, weather and road safety, here are our top ten playground markings for EYFS.

1. Alpha Clock Target

The multi-purpose alpha clock target is ideal for taking literacy and numeracy outdoors to help children learn the alphabet, basic numbers and the position of the hours on an analogue clock. It can also be used for throwing practice and to develop coordination skills.

There are numerous games that can be devised for this marking, such as standing in the centre and throwing bean bags towards a letter or getting children to run around the circle and when someone shouts for them to stop, they call out the number they land on.

2. Mathematical Number Grid

Installing a mathematical number grid playground marking is a great way to help children learn to count up to 100 and discover the relationship between numbers. There are lots of games that can be played on the grid, such as stepping up in multiples, standing on odds and evens, counting on using dice – you can even chalk on some snakes and ladders.

3. The Offset-Stepper

The offset stepper combines traditional hopscotch with number learning and physical agility. Children can count up to and down from 12 in single or multiple numbers, having to hop, jump, step and side shuffle as they go.

4. Phonetic Spots

Using some of the most common phonetic letter combinations, the fun phonetic spots marking is a great way to begin to teach basic reading skills. Just get the children to land on a spot and shout out the correct sound. Once they have mastered individual sounds, stand on two spots and combine them. For more advanced games, stand on a spot and say a word that has the sound in it.

5. Roadway

The roadway is a large marking that is excellent for getting children participating in role play as it creates a road system in your playground that children can take journeys on. It can include parking bays, a petrol station, a roundabout, shops and zebra crossings.

Aside from creative play, it is also useful for teaching road safety. Children can learn the safe places to cross a road, how to stop, look and listen and find out which side of the road traffic travels on - all in the safety of the playground.

6. Weather Symbols & Days

winter weather

Featuring the days of the school week (Monday to Friday) and the weather symbols for sunshine, rain, cloud and snow, the weather playground marking is a good way to help children to recognise the spellings of the days of the week and learn about different types of weather.

7. Compass Multi-marking

The compass multi-marking enables children to learn the basic compass points, north, south, east and west, together with the more advanced directions, NE, SE, SW and NW. The compass points are installed accurately in playgrounds so that children can use them to learn about their environment. For example, they can discover that the canteen is to the north and the exits are to the south. They can even use it to look at things like the way the sun travels through the sky during the day or to find clues in a playground treasure hunt.

8. Compass Hopscotch

Another compass variation is the compass hopscotch marking. Aside from learning the compass points, pupils can practice their knowledge by being asked to follow directions as they play the game, for example, start at the south, then head west.

9. Footwork Vowels

This literacy-focused marking is designed to help children learn the vowels, a key skill needed when they start to read. It can be used for games where children call out a vowel so that their friends have to stand on it or for teachers to call out vowels in rapid succession so that the children have to step quickly to keep up. This is also a great marking to help with balance and agility.

10. Letter Stepper

The letter stepper marking lets children follow the alphabet all the way from A to Z and learn different colours as they go. As a stepper, it’s good for developing balance and can be used in a range of fun ways that combine literacy and numeracy, for example, step on every second letter and call it out or find the letters of your name and count how many letters it has.


As you can see, our top ten EYFS playground markings don’t just provide opportunities for lots of fun, they can also help children learn about letters, sounds, numbers, directions, time, days of the week and weather types. In addition, they can be used to bring on physical skills such as balance, coordination and agility as well as fostering social skills as the pupils learn to play together.


Can Outdoor Play Really Accelerate Pupil Progress?

While we aren’t suggesting that schools cut down curriculum time in favour of extended breaks, recent research has shown that providing an outdoor environment that enables pupils to participate in active play can have a positive effect on their academic progress. In this post, we’ll look at what your school can do to help your pupils.

Fitter children progress better

According to Public Health England, there is a correlation between the fitness of a pupil and their academic progress. Those who are aerobically active tend to produce better academic results than their inactive classmates. Being able to increase aerobic fitness in a cohort of students, therefore, is a good way to help them progress better in their studies.

One of the problems facing schools is the lack of physical activity children do. With an over-fondness for screen time and lack of opportunity at home, few children get the hour of daily physical activity recommended for good heart health. However, schools can do things to encourage more active play on their own premises. One inexpensive solution is to install playground markings. There’s such a wide range to choose from that you’ll find something that will tempt even the most inert pupils to get moving. These include sports markings such as football, netball, tennis and basketball, training markings for ball and feet skills, plus a wide range of games, like hopscotch.

Getting children to boost their aerobic health means they’ll be fitter overall and more alert in lessons, helping them have more focus and energy to progress further.

Cut down on poor behaviour

The poor behaviour of a small number of pupils can affect the learning of the entire class and if this happens persistently, the long-term progress of all pupils can be held back. Finding adequate solutions to classroom behaviour can, therefore, help everyone achieve their targets. Here again, physical activity has been shown to have an influence, reducing disruptive behaviour and improving social relationships within the classroom. Key to this is finding ways of getting pupils not just to play actively but to do so together. Installing climbing frames and roleplay equipment, together with the sports markings mentioned above, is one way to encourage such group activities.

Develop problem-solving skils

Being able to solve problems is essential if children are to make progress in their studies, however, it is a skill that isn’t just acquired from sitting behind a desk. Problem-solving is something that can be learnt in the playground and transferred to more academic pursuits. By installing equipment such as Trim Trails, pupils will not only enjoy playing on these fun obstacle courses, they’ll also need to spend time solving the navigation problems they put in their way. What’s the best route? What’s the right way to get across a piece of equipment? How do I stop myself from falling off? Do I need speed or balance to complete this obstacle effectively?

Of course, as this is play, children see the challenge as fun and those who are averse to work will learn without feeling the pressures that they may do during lesson times. What’s even better about Trim Trails is that you can add interchangeable components, enabling you to provide children with a new set of problems to solve whenever you want.

Where's the proof?

Research carried out by Public Health England shows that pupils who take part in physical activity progress better academically. On average, those who took part regularly achieved GCSE exam marks that were between ten and twenty per cent higher than their less-active counterparts. That shows there is a significant gap in progress between those who are active and those who are not.

For schools, therefore, the message is clear. If you want pupils to make better progress, the playground can offer solutions that can work in tandem with your classroom initiatives. Getting pupils to play more actively can make them aerobically fitter, help them learn to solve problems, prevent disruption and keep them motivated and on task.

Indeed, independent research from Liverpool John Moores and Roehampton Universities has shown that in schools with outdoor playground equipment, 70% of pupils spent more time being moderately and vigorously active. And with such a wide range of playground equipment now available, schools can cater for the diverse interests of all their pupils.


With the constant pressure to improve pupil progress, many schools have put far more emphasis on the classroom than they have on the playground. The link between physical activity and academic performance, however, is an important reminder that the brain relies on the body if it is to perform at its best. Giving opportunities for fun, active play is one way to help boost progress while giving something back to the children who work so hard and under increasing pressure.


5 Reasons Why Schools Should Install Artificial Grass

Real grass is great. It’s comfortable to sit on, easy to play on and ideal for sports. However, it has its drawbacks and for schools that like grass surfaces, artificial grass provides the same benefits but without any of the issues that grass causes. Need convincing? Then read on and we’ll explain why, for schools, artificial grass is better.

1. It’s less expensive to maintain

While we all love the smell of freshly cut grass, no-one likes it better than the company that gets paid to cut it. And grass needs cutting regularly, particularly in spring and summer and especially if you need it keeping short to play sports on.

Besides regular mowing, there’s also a need for regular maintenance. With hundreds of children running all over it every day, real grass gets worn away. You’ll find bare patches and unplanned footpaths appearing in the areas that are most heavily used. On top of that, there are issues caused by moss, weeds and periods of drought which can cause the grass to die off and need reseeding.

All of this maintenance can be expensive. Indeed, if mega-rich sports clubs have shifted to artificial grass because the natural variety is costly to maintain, then it’s certainly something that cash-strapped schools could benefit from.

Artificial grass doesn’t need cutting and is made from highly durable materials that last for years. Unlike natural grass, which gets worn away, it is designed for regular, heavy use.

2. It's cleaner

Artificial Grass - ESP Play

One of the big issues with real grass is that it needs soil to grow in. When soil mixes with rain and gets churned up by all those feet, the result is mud. Mud, unfortunately, gets everywhere. It sticks to children’s shoes and they trample it all through the school where it dries and forms a layer of dirt that blankets everything. That sparkling corridor that the cleaner polished the night before looks like it hasn’t seen water in years by the end of morning break.

The result of mud is children’s clothes getting dirty, PE lessons having to finish early so pupils can get cleaned up and the expense of having to clean the floors so regularly. Without mud, floors take less time to clean and this means schools could reduce cleaning costs over the year.

The advantage of artificial grass is that there is a self-draining barrier between the surface and the soil underneath which prevents mud from being formed; as a result, your school and your pupils will be cleaner.

3. An all-weather surface

The other disadvantage of mud is that it prevents children from playing on the grass after a downpour. Not only do the children get muddy feet but they are also liable to slip and injure themselves. Muddy pitches also put a stop to many PE activities, forcing teachers to abandon their plans and seek indoor alternatives, which isn’t good when they have a scheme of work to complete and there’s a shortage of available indoor space.

With artificial grass, this doesn’t need to happen. The lack of soil means It doesn’t get muddy, its self-draining properties prevent pools from forming and because it’s laid over an impact-absorbing layer, it doesn’t freeze rock solid in winter. Not only does this mean schools can get much more use out of artificial grass surfacing than from real grass; it also ensures that the surface is always usable, enabling them to stick to their plans, come rain or shine.

4. It's safer to use

Artificial grass is safer than real grass in a number of ways. One way is that it reduces allergies. Quite a few people have grass allergies, some are allergic to its pollen, others develop rashes just by touching it and there are those that are allergic to the moulds which are dispersed when grass is cut. Replacing real grass with artificial grass eradicates the causes of these allergic reactions.

As artificial grass has an impact-absorbing underlayer, it also reduces the chances of children being seriously injured if they fall or slip when at play. This makes it great as a surface onto which you can install other outdoor play equipment, such as climbing frames and Trim Trail obstacle courses.

The protective layer also prevents sharp stones or bits of glass that have been buried in the soil rising to the surface where they have the potential to cause injury. And if a pupil does have a cut or scrape, there won’t be any soil getting into the wound, reducing the chance of infection.

5. It always looks great

As a school, you always want your outdoor spaces to look inviting for your pupils to play on. While natural grass can look fantastic when it’s in good condition and has been recently trimmed, its appeal can waver. It can turn brown, grow mossy, develop bald-patches, become unkempt and look like a wet weekend at Glastonbury Festival.

Artificial grass keeps its looks all year round, perfectly green and immaculately trimmed, making it look inviting for the children and appealing to visitors.


As you can see, while there are lots of reasons to love real grass, if you are a school, artificial grass might be more of a fit. It’s cheaper to maintain, cleaner and safer. What’s more, it can be used in all weathers and looks great all year round.

For more information about our range of artificial grass surfaces, check out our artificial grass page.


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