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By Jon Alexander 18 Apr, 2017

The Academies Show is the leading free-to-attend event for schools and academies. Bringing together education professionals, key decision makers and high quality service providers, the show offers unrivalled networking opportunities and the tools to better understand the latest education policies. The event includes conferences and hands-on theaters, as well as many key note speakers .

The Playcubed team are looking forward to meeting you and discussing your playground ideas at stand 546.

When: Wednesday 26th April 2017, 09:00 - 16:30
Where: Excel London. ( View on maps )
Tickets: FREE, must be pre-booked online. Tickets can be booked here .
Event website:  www.academiesshow.london/

Venue and travel information can be found here .
By Jon Alexander 08 Feb, 2017

Play England's release,  Charter for Children’s Play,   describes play as: ‘what children and young people do when they follow their own ideas and interests, in their own way, and for their own reasons.’ Play should be freely chosen, personally directed and intrinsically motivated. That is, children and young people should be able to determine and control their play by following their own instincts, ideas and interests.

Play has also frequently been described as ‘what children and young people do when they are not being told what to do by adults’ . Many adults think that play is unnecessary; however play is a vital part of childhood and is necessary for every child’s healthy development. Through play children are able to develop the skills and abilities they will require as they grow older . Play is a biological, psychological and social necessity that is fundamental to the healthy growth, development and well-being of individuals and communities. 

It can take many forms; how a child plays is unique to him or her. For some, playing can be doing nothing in particular, it can mean doing lots, being boisterous, showing off, being contemplative, overcoming difficulties...etc. Through play children explore the world and learn to take responsibility for their own choices . Play can be sociable or solitary, play can help children to climb, swing, gallop and chase. It can help them to try new things out, push boundaries , develop confidence, explore and experiment the world around them. You can read more on the benefits of play here .

Having time and space to play gives children the opportunity to meet and socialise with their friends, keeps them physically active, and gives the freedom to choose what they want to do. Play supports children to move through each stage of their development naturally, allowing them to make friends, come to terms with difficulties, follow their instincts, think and learn from others. When children are asked about what they think is important in their lives, 'playing' and 'friends' is usually at the top of the list!

By Jon Alexander 06 Feb, 2017

Here we explore the top reasons why Artificial Grass has become so popular in schools:


Maxmise the use of your space

Artificial Grass fully utilises the space your school has by making it available for all-year-round use. Often schools have areas of natural turf which, whilst great in the warmer months, cannot be used during the winter. Such areas are prone to becoming boggy in the wet, and normally take such high footfall that they are more akin to mud patches than grass areas! This is where artificial grass comes into its own – it is ready for action all-year-round and stays looking it’s best even after years of heavy use! By choosing Artificial Grass you are maximising the use you can get out of your outdoor areas.


Minimal Maintenance

Artificial grass requires minimal maintenance, and even then a simple regular brush over is virtually all it needs. No more weeding, mowing or watering. You can read more on this in our Artificial Grass Easy 5 Step Maintenance Guide .


At last, Clean Uniforms!

The parents will thank you! Investing in artificial grass spells the end of muddy, grass-stained uniforms and footprints in the corridor!


It Blends in with the Natural Surroundings

A further benefit of Artificial Grass is that it’s unobtrusive to the eye. Like natural turf in appearance and colour, artificial grass blends in with natural surroundings without looking ugly or drawing attention to itself (that said, there are plenty of coloured options if you're after something ‘louder’).  In fact it’s becoming more and more popular as a domestic garden surface due to its pristine appearance.


Add some Style!

If you have a larger area, artificial grass is a great way to add some style to your playground! It can be mixed with other artificial surfaces , cut into shapes or patterns or used with contrasting colours with amazing results. Take a look at the surfacing in these projects at The Rise School and  Plumcroft Primary School .


Save Long Term

Artificial Grass enables you to save on maintenance and labour costs.


Soften the Blows

Although not a safety surface in it's own right (more on that below), Artificial Grass does have impact absorbing qualities, helping to cushion falls and making it a safe option over other playground surfaces.


Keep it safe

When installed with our optional UltraMat, artificial grass is a compliant safety surface. This means it can be used beneath playground equipment to meet safety regulations and satisfy fall height criteria.


If you considering having Artificial Grass installed at your school please contact us on 01322 279799 , send us an email or fill out an online enquiry here .

By Jon Alexander 03 Feb, 2017

A Themed Play Area is an area that replicates a real life situation. For example a library, a fire station, a theatre, jungle themes, historical scenes, space…the only limits are your imagination! Our bespoke design service means we can take your ideas for any theme (within reason) and create it into a feasible and compliant play space. We have recently installed areas themed to The Railway Children and X-Factor!

Themed play brings a number of unique benefits to children’s development.

By Jon Alexander 17 Jan, 2017

Propose something different!

Lots of schools will be applying for funding for an outdoor learning area. Can you make your project stand out by theming it with a focus on healthy living, wildlife or the arts? The project needs to be original and creative, whilst also being relevant and current.


Share it out

Think how the new development can be used, not only by the school children , but also  the wider community. Could community groups use the facility in the evenings or at weekends? Could you make ball courts or grassed pitches available? Is there a heritage or ecological aspect that could be exploited – could the space be used for community research or local history? Consider the use of the facility during the holidays for a school holiday camp. Your application will carry more weight if their are wider beneficiaries than just your school.


Get community buy in

Consult the community before you prepare your bid. This can include questionaires to pupils and parents, making contact with local youth groups, community organisations and voluntary groups. Find out whether they could use your space and what they would use it for. Early consultation can help you design a project that will benefit as many people as possible, strengthening your bid for funds. Include quotes from children and potential beneficiaries to make your bid stand out. Advise on how the new area will improve the users health and well-being, with the inclusion of outdoor gym equipment or a trim trail .


Take the initiative

Its worth showing some initiative by arranging some fundraising events yourselves. Whilst it may feel your putting yourself out for such a small proportion of the funds, it puts your application in a more positive light in the eyes of decision makers. School Discos, Quiz Nights, Sponsor Challenges, Fun Days, Talent Shows, Raffles, Jumble Sales, Car Washes and Bake Sales are all possible fundraising ideas!


Avoid Assumptions

Never assume that a funding body, whether local, regional or national, is familiar with your community, your school, the geographical area, local issues or your educational track record/reputation. Always include a context for your project that demonstrates your expertise as a school and the need for the project.


Write well

Good writing is the key to a good proposal. When presenting your bid, write in clear bold sentences. Don’t use acronyms or jargon. Use active language that is positive and persuasive; 'this project is necessary because...' rather than 'If this project doesn't happen...'. It may be worth contacting a bid writing company to get it done professionally. 

 

A thoroughly researched scheme with imaginative ideas, and a well written proposal is far more likely to succeed in securing funding. Visit our funding page for contact details of some funding groups.

By Jon Alexander 06 Jan, 2017

Play supports a problem-solving mindset by encouraging the following factors:

1. Thinking Independently:

We don’t have to tell children what to play - they decide themselves. How their playtime pans out is up to them, as they make those decisions on their own. This way children develop to think and solve problems independently.

They learn this skill as they enjoy free play and decide what playtime activities to enjoy and how to do those activities. That independence during play helps them become independent thinkers  as they grow into adulthood.

2. Learning to Improvise:

It happens all too often, we only have a few seconds to solve a problem...in these instances the ability to improvise comes in handy. Children learn to improvise during dramatic play.

3. Solving Interpersonal Problems:

Almost every day, our kids face interpersonal problems as they interact with friends, siblings, and classmates. Through social play, they develop the interpersonal skills  they need to solve these problems. Children learn through play to communicate, share and compromise. They take turns being the star of the show, ask friends which game they want to play and don't hog the swing. These skills will help them as they navigate friendships, succeed at work, and have families of their own.

4. Becoming Self-Confident:

As adults, we can't ask everyone else's opinion before we solve a problem. We have to be confident that we're making the right decisions without constantly second-guessing ourselves.

Children build this self-confidence  as they play. They learn more about their likes, interests, values, and talents as they play games and sports. Give children opportunities to play and they will gain the self-confidence they need to make their own decisions.

5. Appreciating Other Viewpoints:

Play helps children appreciate other viewpoints. Not only do they learn to appreciate the interests, feelings and desires of their playmates, but they also they learn about diversity  and other cultures, traditions and religions as they play. They will need to appreciate the viewpoints other people have as they solve problems in the future.

6. Considering the Outcomes:

One of my daughters enjoys books that allow the reader to choose from several endings. There are no wrong answers, and it's like reading a different book every day!

I thought about those books today as I reflected on how play can teach our kids to be better problem-solvers. How many blocks can I stack before the wall falls down? Can I jump from this stepping post to the next without falling? Considering the outcomes as they play prepares them to question, examine, and think critically as they make decisions in their everyday life.

7. Learning to Make Mistakes:

Sometimes, we won't make the right decision, and that's OK. Learning to make mistakes and dealing with the consequences is part of life. Children learn how far they can push the boundaries , learn to calculate risks and how to avoid getting themselves in that situation again.

By Jon Alexander 06 Jan, 2017

Don't underestimate child's play. It may look like leisure time, but when children are playing tag, fighting imaginary dragons  or organising a game of hopscotch, they're actually developing crucial life skills — and preparing their brains for the challenges of adulthood.

Aside from the health, mental and educational benefits of play, we explore the key factors of play that shape the adult in the making!

Better behavior

Research has proved that active play has a direct benefit to how children behave in lessons. As highlighted in a 2009 study, children behave better in the classroom when they have the chance to blow off steam on the playground during the day. Researchers compared teacher ratings of 8- and 9-year-olds behavior in schools with and without playtime periods. The children who had more than 15 minutes per day of breaks behaved better during academic time. Unfortunately, 30 percent of the more than 10,000 children in the study had no play activity or less than 15 minutes of play activity each day. 

Adults are the same - if we are working through a demanding project, we are more productive overall if we stop every hour or so for a short break. And there's nothing like a walk around the block at lunchtime to clear the mind and enable you to focus during the afternoon. The same principal can be applied to children in the school day.


Playing for the team

Play teaches children to, well, play nice. Research published in the Early Childhood Education Journal in 2007 revealed that both free play and adult-guided play can help preschoolers learn awareness of other people's feelings, to share things, to learn to wait their turn. Playing also teaches kids to regulate their own emotions, a skill that serves them well as they move through life ( learn more of the benefits of play here ).

"You get to try things out with no consequences," said Kathy Hirsch-Pasek, a child development psychologist at Temple University, who researches the benefits of play. "[Play] also allows you to wear different hats, to master social rules. That's huge."


Life long advantages

Play gets children active much more than television or computer-game time ( more about that here ). The American Heart Association recommends that children over the age of 2 engage in at least an hour a day of moderate, enjoyable physical activity.

There's evidence that active children grow into active adults, thus decreasing their risk of heart disease and other scourges of a sedentary lifestyle. One study, published in 2005 in the Journal of Preventative Medicine, followed Finnish citizens over 21 years and concluded that the most active 9 to 18 year-olds later remained highly active later in life compared to those who where inactive in their youth.


Learning boost

A 2009 study in the Journal of School Health found that the more physical activity tests children can pass, the more likely they are to do well on academic tests. That suggests unrelenting classroom time may not be the best way to improve test scores and learning .

"Children learn to count when they're doing hopscotch," Hirsch-Pasek said. "They learn about numbers when they're playing stickball, and believe me they know which team is ahead. They are telling stories on the playground, and they're getting active."


It's fun

All work and no play really does make Jack a dull boy. Play is a natural state of childhood, Hirsch-Pasek said, pointing out that even non-mammals do it . University of Tennessee biopsychologist Gordon Burghardt told The Scientist magazine in 2010 that he's even observed turtles playing!

Not only that, but play extends the same freedom to children that adults may take for granted. Adults get breaks, children need them too.

By Jon Alexander 15 Dec, 2016

‘Beneficial risk’ is the fancy term for acceptable levels of risk in a playground. In some instances it is referred to as ‘Good risk’.

Controlled risk-taking is an important part of a child’s development. As discussed in our post Rounded Adults , play makes an essential contribution to a child developing into a capable and balanced adult. Similarly, risk also plays a part. For example, climbing is risk, but one through which children develop coordination, balance and awareness. Children don’t think about these things, but they intuitively crave the experience of climbing. In fact, if there is nothing to climb on in a playground area, they'll look for a tree!

The head of the Health and Safety Executive, Judith Hackitt says that " the creeping culture of risk aversion puts at risk children's preparation for adult life ". Her remarks coincide with the government's publication of new health and safety guidance for schools  that has shrunk from 150 pages in length to just eight. What this suggests is the authorities are recognising that ‘over-protecting’ today’s children from common risks may not be such a good idea.

Play England 2007 informs us “Good risks and hazards in play provision are those that engage and challenge children, and support their growth, learning and development. These might include… loose materials that give children the chance to create and destroy constructions using their skill, creativity and imagination. Bad risks and hazards are those that are difficult or impossible for children to assess for themselves, and that have no obvious benefits. These might include sharp edges or points on equipment, weak structures that may collapse, and items that include traps for heads or fingers.”

Beneficial risk also gives children opportunities of self-assessment; What am I comfortable doing? When am I going too far? When should I stop and back out? Through this process, children learn how to overcome obstacles and to assess both the positive and negative consequences of risk. In fact, beneficial risk in playgrounds helps develop safer habits and instincts in children. Those children left to roam in places that naturally offer multiple opportunities for fun and challenging engagement are actually less prone to engage in overly risky, undisciplined or bullying behavior. They are also less inclined to seek stimulation in uncontrolled environments outside the playground.

Needless to say, playground safety remains top priority - we ensure all our play areas comply with safety criteria and are independently tested by a third party on completion. But surely wrapping children in a protective bubble is not always the best way to stimulate their intellectual growth? There must be a balance. Adding an element of beneficial risk to playgrounds keeps them engaged on physical and mental levels, and also teaches them the skills to better assess and negotiate challenging situations and obstacles on their own.

By Jon Alexander 01 Dec, 2016

Did you know play doesn’t just have many benefits  to help with your child’s development , like enhancing self-confidence and strengthening his/her brain, but it’s also a great way for you for children to stress less?

A study from 2010 by the American Psychological Association  saw a disconnect between kids’ stress and how adults perceive their stress. Forty-three percent of children age 8-17 worry about family finances, doing well in school and/or getting into good college. These stresses often contribute to headaches, sleeplessness and stomach-aches, and go largely unnoticed by parents: 13 percent think their children’s headaches are caused by stress and 44 percent of kids report sleeplessness, while only 13 percent of parents think their children have sleeping difficulties.

Some of the best activities to help with stress are often the ones that take up the most energy. This is because exercise releases oxytocin and serotonin, thus making your children more relaxed and focused. That's why it’s not a bad idea to incorporate an active session in your day schedule, something the Japanese have been doing for a while .

Free play, where children don’t have a structured schedule of what they are doing for playtime, is one of the best forms of play for this. It is a great way for them to focus on creative thinking, which allows them to forget what is troubling them. Kids are much happier after play, which helps to improve their behavior, increasing participation in the classroom

Free play allows kids to develop emotionally, too. As they are putting themselves in situations that they have ‘created’, they consequently think about how to respond. By developing emotionally as a child it may help reduce some anxiety disorders in the future. “Individuals suffering from anxiety disorders describe losing emotional control as one of their greatest fears. They are afraid of their own fear, and therefore small degrees of fear generated by mildly threatening situations lead to high degrees of fear generated by the person’s fear of losing control,” according to Peter Gray, a psychology professor at Boston College . If kids don’t get the opportunity to play freely, they won’t be prepared to deal with their emotions correctly as they grow older. Free play also helps kids learn to play together and get along, among many other benefits, which can also decrease stress as they will have lots of friends to interact with.

Children are much like adults in the sense of requiring play to relax – after all, many adults take up a hobby sport, go to yoga class, walk the dog… there is a whole list of activities we do, maybe without even thinking, that revolve around a regular exercise routine for the purpose of relaxing, enjoyment or stress relief.

A professionally designed play space provides the perfect environment for children to maximise what they can get out of play, often including dedicated areas for free play and active play. Contact us to discuss how we can create one at your school, or see some of our completed projects for inspiration .

By Jon Alexander 30 Nov, 2016

We’ve all heard the theory - children are able to learn faster than adults. But is that really the case? And if so, how come? Surely we adults, with all our qualifications and years of experience, are able to pick things up quicker than the youngsters.

Yes, children learn more quickly:

Many argue that children are the better learners. It is thought that children are less afraid to take risks, having less responsibilities and less vulnerability for mistakes. A child’s environment is a big motivational factor in their learning. They are at school studying many different subjects, playing different sports, and taking part in different extra-curricular activities. This child environment contrasts with adults who are usually focused on one subject area and are less open to different learning opportunities in their lives.

Some people believe that children are more creative, spontaneous and energetic than adults, making them better learners. Adults may be less inclined to be corrected and feel like they have learnt what they need to know in comparison to a developing child.

No, adults learn more quickly:

Other people believe that adults are better learners, as they can build on their prior knowledge and experiences of the world when learning.

Adults have also 'learned how to learn' and know what they enjoy. Enjoyment and having fun helps learning and therefore adults know better what they like.

Whilst many of the facts and figures learnt at school have either got pushed to the back of our brains or completely forgotten, we hope that the ability to learn remains. Children can’t possibly remember everything their teacher has told them. They should however, be able to ask questions, explore, investigate, question their thoughts, listen and think. These are the important skills that are learnt and will be vital skills used throughout life. Indeed, one of the main aims of Primary Education is to tutor children in 'how to learn'.

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