How to make the most of your playground

Even small playgrounds and outdoor areas can be transformed into effective pockets of learning…

Inchyra Nursery, Falkirk, ScotlandThe EYFS framework places a lot of emphasis on the importance of outdoor spaces and their role in enriching a Early Years learning environment. Providing an outdoor area that is stimulating and accessible to all is a tough task for any Early Years Practitioner, however when outdoor space is limited, for example in an inner city nursery, then the task can seem near-impossible!

However, even the smallest of outdoor spaces can be put to good use as outdoor learning areas- here are our tips for making the most out of what you have:

1. Plan your outdoor area
This is an essential first step – especially if you don’t have much space. Scaled drawing of your area can really help you work out what can fit where. Don’t forget areas which in the past may have been overlooked, such as an overgrown passage way or a flower beds – these can be turned into great outdoor spaces which offer excellent learning opportunities.

2. Consider the needs of your children
Take into consideration the different age groups at your nursery – different ages will have different needs and all need to be taken into account in order to appeal to all the children and enable them, and you, to get the most out of the areas. Don’t forget to ask the children what they want – such as a quiet area to relax, or a fun and exciting play area where they can run around and do lots of activities. It might be completely different from what you expect, and this knowledge will ensure you create something the children will love to use.

3. Don’t forget your wall space
Walls can offer lots of learning and play opportunities. You can fix boards to the walls or add paint or markings to create vibrant pictures or games for the children to play. Interactive play panels are an easy and cost effective option and these can also be post mounted if you don’t have any available wall space. Chalkboards are also great and allow children to explore their creativity without the worry of any mess being made.

4. Include flexible mediums
Sand and water are two very flexible mediums which can be used in small or large spaces and with planning these mediums can be used to appeal to all age groups and provide rich learning opportunities. It is worth considering providing some cover over these areas-particularly with sand pits as this will stop them getting wet and allow play in any weather.

5. Mix it up
To keep the area fresh and interesting, try to provide changeable resources such as balls, scooters, wind chimes and other outdoor instruments and toys and containers for sand and water areas. If you outdoor space is naturalistic then Nature will provide changeable resources for free such as the wind, rain and snow and leaves, twigs and wildlife.

6. Ensure your space is accessible to all
Your play area needs to be available to all children in your care and so you need to make sure that anyone with limited mobility or those who are sensory impaired can also enjoy your area and get as much out of it as possible. For more information on how to achieve this read our recent post about Creating an enjoyable outdoor space for everyone.

7. Enable access all year round
The Great British weather very rarely does what we want and so a covered section in your outdoor area is a good idea as this will ensure that your planned activities can go ahead no matter what the weather does. It will also provide shade and shelter on hot sunny days, when considered a structure to provide cover ensure that it will provide good UV protection so that if children are using it on a sunny day they will be protected from the sun. Our canopies are a popular way to create shade and shelter in an Early Years setting and our affordable Coniston Wall Mounted Canopy can also provide shade over windows or doors to keep areas inside your setting cooler too.

Here are some examples of how a canopy can add an extra dimension to you outdoor space:

making the most of your playground

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Free Flow Outdoor Play and Outdoor Learning.
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Rachel is Able Canopies' previous Marketing Coordinator, she is an advocate of outdoor learning and the benefits the outdoor brings to all.

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