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Creating a Play Space to be Proud Of...

Playground Design Ideas for Primary Schools

Movement and physical play are central to early childhood education. Pupils need to develop awareness of themselves, objects and others in the available space around them. Control and coordination of large and small movements allows pupils to move safely and confidently in a range of environments. Children need to be able to manipulate a variety of materials and objects with ease and enjoyment. Through being outside within nature pupils can feel good about themselves and further develop their knowledge of the changing world around them.

a birdseye view of the bright and colourful playground

Changes in society have led to children leading increasingly sedentary lifestyles therefore it is vitally important that schools provide environments for pupils to move and be active.

Physical development is recognised as a prime area of learning within EYFS. Government guidance states that physical activity is vital in children’s          all- round development, enabling them to pursue happy, healthy and active lives.

a birdseye view of a grizedale forest circuit

A Pentagon Playground is a worthwhile investment, allowing active play to become a normal part of children’s everyday lives. When engaged in regular outdoor play children become capable, confident, resilient and focussed.

Knowledgeable Playground Consultant, Nicole Fairman is an expert in Early Years and Outdoor Learning having completed her degree in Primary Education. Nicole is able to listen and suggest ideas and solutions when working with a variety of educational settings. She designs flexible playspaces which make fantastic use of available space and facilitate outstanding teaching and learning. Let’s have a closer look at some of the inspirational playspaces Nicole has collaborated with across the South West of England.

a birdseye view of the beige surfacing and green artificial grass surfacing

Orchid Vale Primary School in Swindon

Orchid Vale presented us with a very exciting project which included a complete reinvention of the outdoor nursery space. The outdoor area is now the perfect place for friendships to be formed as young learners experience shared active play.

a birdseye view of the orchid vale eyfs area with the sandpit and play house

A Small Covered Sand Box allow children to develop their fine motor skills when using a variety of tools to pour, fill, push, dig and pat. Structures can be made as children improve their hand/eye coordination when using 3D moulds. Young children will learn to share the available space in the sand pit with others as they develop self-awareness.

Cooperation, turn-taking and sharing equipment are essential skills when experimenting with a Water Wall with Water Play Package. Water is a wonderful sensory element for children to explore. Changing the temperature, colour or adding different materials such as toys/glitter to the water can encourage young scientists to develop their thinking skills.

a low-level sandpit sitting on the floor with children gathering around playing with the sand

Another wonderful sensory addition to the space included a Mud Kitchen with Weighing Scales. As children move the brilliant material that is mud, they are working muscles in their upper arms through reaching, stretching, lifting and carrying. This helps to build arm control which is essential for tasks such as fastening buttons and handwriting.

A Performance Stage helps children to develop speaking and listening skills. Through play, pupils will create their own narratives which form the basis of reading and writing. Chalkboards allow for spontaneous mark making with pupil’s drawings enhancing their stories and shows. Freestanding Chimes allow children to add rhythms to their performances whilst learning notes and letter formation.

a child stood in front of the freestanding chimes and played with the beater against the chimes

Physical Development Within EYFS

Children naturally seek opportunities for movements that stimulate vestibular and proprioceptive development. The bespoke trim trail obstacles at Orchid Vale include: a Log Balance Weaver, Net Tunnel Bridge, Incline Balance Beam Crossing, Horizontal Climbing Wall Traverse and a set of Stepping Logs. Pupils are able to crawl, climb, run, step, conquer the slopes and travel up and down the beam. Providing children with their own trim trail allows them to be moderately to vigorously active for short bursts each day.

a birdseye view of the climbing equipment at orchid vale primary school

A set of Get Set, Go! Blocks – The Mendips Set can encourage pupils to hop, skip and step up and down the different shaped blocks involving the brain in using both sides of the body in a coordinated manner.

children climb over the climb through tunnel hill

An impressive 12m by 3m Timber Canopy now spans the length of the area just outside the nursery classroom. The canopy acts as an extension of the classroom space whilst allowing children to move freely, enjoying the many benefits of being outdoors, within nature. Transitions between the indoor and outdoor spaces are smooth thanks to the new canopy, pupils can now enjoy the benefits of outdoor education in varying weather conditions.

a child tries to crawl through the net tunnel

Mill Water School in Devon

Mill Water is a specialist school for children and young people who have complex, severe and profound learning difficulties. The school provides individualised, holistic education for pupils aged 3-19 within a caring and nurturing environment. It was fantastic to partner with this inspirational school which constantly evolves to meet the needs of their children. This project focussed on a complete redesign of the EYFS outdoor space.

a corner shot of the entire sen play area with green surfacing and play tower

Pentagon Playturf Artificial Grass provides a natural, tactile, all-weather surfacing which helps to lift the aesthetic of the outdoor area. Blue Wetpour has been used to weave a track throughout the space where children can enjoy using wheeled vehicles. Moving quickly and turning corners stimulates motion-detecting vestibular organs which support postural control and balance.

a birdseye view of the blue wetpour and green artificial grass

Areas of Calm and Softness

A Sensory Seating Circle and pair of Sensory Spinners help to create an area for rest and recovery. Pupils may need help with transitions in an active, busy environment and this wonderful space allows children to withdraw from activity whilst providing time for restoration. The sensory area provides tactile and auditory elements which help pupils to develop self-awareness and to regulate emotions.

a little girl sits in front of the sensory spinner and plays with the teachers' support

A Set of Individual Chimes encourages gesture and movements. Music supports emotional and social development as children move in time to the beat with their peers. Mill Water now have a range of areas which promote participation and meet the needs of all pupils.

a child stands and hits the chimes with support from a teacher

A Wide Range of Physical Obstacles to Choose From

As part of continuous provision, Mill Water wanted to create physically challenging areas where pupils would achieve muscular development and upper body strength. Care was given to ensure that all pieces selected would be fully accessible to pupils of different abilities and ages.

a child slides down the green slide on a low-level play tower

A Restormel Modular Play Tower provides a perfect introduction to early climbing skills. The elevated level of the climber allows children to clamber up, slide down, seek shelter and peer through the bubble window. Pupils will find interesting ways of moving between the contrasting levels as they are motivated to explore the world around them. This type of physical play is difficult to achieve indoors but the outdoor environment offers so much scope for physicality in early education.

a child crawls up the rock climbing wall on the low level active play tower

The perfect obstacle to promote energetic movement is a Climb Through Tunnel Hill. Tunnels and bridges encourage children to move along and through them which increases motivation to be active. A Tunnel Hill supports imaginative play based learning and social interactions.

Den Making Posts challenge children’s overall physicality as well as fine motor control. Den making can allow pupils to withdraw from an activity when they need to, creating a comfortable and protected space in the outdoors.

a child stands in between the den-making posts and ties ropes and string between the den-making posts

Resilience and perseverance are demonstrated by pupils as they tackle the Clatter Bridge. Rope Handrails help children to find their balance and develop grip strength as they clatter across the foot-treads. Walk and Stretch Steps encourage children to pull themselves up, developing core stability as they work against their own weight. Having a wide range of physical obstacles allows pupils at Mill Water to engage in a range of adult-led and self-led activities for increasing periods of time. Children are able to develop a growing range of likes and dislikes, helping them to feel safe and happy in school.

a child crosses the clatter bridge

Widcombe CE Junior School in Bath

Widcombe Junior School recognises the importance of children leading healthy and active lifestyles and wanted to provide their pupils with unique, challenging playground equipment that would excite all.

The impressive Puzzlewood Forest Circuit is the ultimate climbing frame for primary pupils! Learners can tackle the different levels, move along the beams and use core strength to scramble through the net. Pupils will take some risks, find out about their own strengths, learn to carry on and celebrate success with their peers on the climber.

a birdseye view of the wooden climber with children playing happily on it

Every time children use the climber; they will push their own abilities and develop their capabilities. By engaging in daily active play children learn how to keep themselves and others safe.

Widcombe Junior School also opted for our popular Bowfell Climber. This exciting, pyramid- shaped structure encourages problem solving as pupils plan out their own route to the top! There is plenty of space for children to explore this climber together allowing large scale, active, whole-body work for all.

a shot of the wooden bowfell climber

A set of Forest Pull Up and Roll Over Bars encourages budding athletes to hang, stretch and swing. The sensory stimulation provided by the bars can hugely benefit pupils when developing a sense of body awareness or learning to coordinate movements of both sides of the body.

Spinning can activate the inner cavities of the ear. Sensors alert the brain to the position of the head which develops grounding and helps to sustain attention. Rocking and spinning stimulates the vestibular system which controls balance, posture and spatial orientation.

a child swings from the low-level rollover bars

A Tranquil Space for Outdoor Learning

At Widcombe Junior School learning experiences often take place outdoors. Now that the school have their own outdoor learning base, inspirational lessons within the natural environment will become commonplace.

A 7.5m Octagonal Gazebo looks striking in its new home, nestled in the shade amongst the trees. A decked base keeps the classroom clean and mud free and ensures that the space can be used in all weathers. The waterproof roof construction allows pupils to stay dry, focussed and ready to learn even on rainy days!

a shot of the empty octagonal gazebo

The new learning hub can comfortably seat 70 pupils, offering plenty of space for endless learning opportunities. The outdoor classroom could be used for lessons which require group/partner work, offering more room to move freely and to project voices. It could be used as an intervention area for group support, practical science, PSHE lessons and circle time, outdoor assemblies or to quietly read and focus on the class novel at the end of the school day.

Each of these unique projects have greatly enhanced outdoor provision, allowing for plenty of active play all year round. Distinct learning zones help pupils to be inquisitive, playful and creative. Pentagon Play offer a wide range of equipment which can be fixed or moveable allowing practitioners to vary their outdoor area on a daily basis.

a low-level climber with children climbing on it with confidence

A Pentagon Playground carefully considers school requirements, progress and impact, budget, safety factors and most importantly fun and time for imaginative play. Our dedicated team of installers work hard to ensure that our quality, timber products are perfectly placed and will stand the test of time. Trust in us to make your dream playground space a reality.