The key elements of Play: 5 must-haves for your next Outdoor Play Space

Exploring the key elements of play and how to integrate them into your next outdoor play space.

Outdoor play areas in schools are often overlooked in favour of indoor learning spaces. These play areas, however, are incredibly important for young children and greatly enhance many valuable life skills. When investing in an improved play area, a school is investing in the physical, emotional, and developmental needs of its students.

An amazing outdoor playscape adds tremendous value to what a school can offer. Also, it’s a bonus for staff – it is far more enjoyable to teach in an attractive, purpose-built space that engages children. So what are the key elements of play to include? We explore them here.

The key elements of Play

Focus on the action

Active play is first on the list for playground must-haves, and for good reason. It provides much needed exercise and enables children to expend pent-up energy. This leaves them refreshed and ready to return to indoor lessons with a renewed focus. Strategic playground design considers structures and site layout to create an area maximises scope for active play. Ideally, providing open space between active play opportunities allows children to circulate between and around play zones.

Enable gatherings

Social play, whether led by a teacher or led by the children themselves, requires places for children to gather. Discovery tables or outdoor classroom spaces with log seats or benches create natural hubs for coming together to listen, talk, share and learn.

Create imaginative opportunity

Children’s imaginations can transform simple forms into magical spaces and mythical creatures. Creating a playspace that encourages that creativity and dramatic play means that shapes, forms and structures should be open ended and non-prescriptive. Perhaps a hut becomes a forest treehouse or an enchanted palace? Or maybe it’s simply a place to hide when playing a game of hide-and-seek.

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Provide shade

On hot summer days, some welcome shade makes any space more enjoyable as well as more practical. Designing a playscape that incorporates both large and small shaded areas prioritises sun protection for young skin. Canopies, whether trees or shade structures, create a spatial perimeter that defines a space, which can make it more inviting for smaller children.

Make use of natural materials

Wood, sand, water, rocks, trees and plants all contribute to sensory play experiences that expand a child’s understanding of the world around them. Sensory play activates the brain and stimulates a desire for children to experiment with the manipulation of different materials.

Call in the playground experts

Playcubed have been creating school playground areas for over 40 years. In this time, we’ve grown to become an authority on the world of play. We know that when outdoor environments are interesting, complex and challenging, children are more engaged and have better opportunity to create, move, explore and develop physical, social and emotional skills.

So, why not contact us today to create a space that is packed with the key elements of play.