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Age-appropriate playground games for your outdoor play equipment

Age-appropriate playground games for your outdoor play equipment

We all know that children have different milestones when it comes to their physical development. It starts with tummy time and crawling and progresses to riding a bike and swimming lengths. When considering your outdoor play equipment, you need to account for the developmental stages and abilities of children at different ages.

In this blog, we share ten age-appropriate playground games to try on your outdoor play equipment, factoring in physical development, social demand and language acquisition.

What makes a playground game age-appropriate?

Physical growth and maturity come with age and is a gradual process that occurs over time. Obviously, there are exceptions. Children develop at different rates. Some shoot up like bean sprouts in a single term physically, and others may have developmental delays linked to a range of reasons like trauma and Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND).

Chronological age is often what we use as a guide for what is and isn’t suitable for that child. For example, games they play on and offline, films they watch and activities they participate in. In your school, you may have some Year 1’s who may run rings around your Year 6’s, but for physical development, you wouldn’t expect them to have the same strength level.

When planning playground games for kids, it is important to consider the following factors:

Physical Strength

Social Awareness

Inclusive Practice

Pupil Safety

Age-appropriate physical development activities

An EYFS child and a Year 6 child will have very different levels of mobility, strength and even bone density. They are also unlikely to have the same interests when choosing games to play during playtime. For a game to be age-appropriate when considering physical development, there are a number of questions you may want to ask:

  • What level of intensity is this activity?
  • How long will the game last?
  • Have the children participated in vigorous activity already today?
  • Is the play equipment suitable for the child’s height, weight and coordination?



Age-appropriate social skills activities

It is important for playground games to continue the work taking place inside the classroom. Playground games should help to develop their communication and language, cooperation and confidence. For EYFS and KS1 children, games with simple rules and movements are great choices.  For KS2 children, games which involve more strategy and physical coordination are popular.

Well-chosen playground games can help you support children with Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN) or other language disorders to get the most from their playtimes. Interacting with other children and promoting sharing and turn-taking skills through the medium of play helps to consolidate the modelled social skills focused on in the classroom.



Inclusive games for primary children

Inclusive playgrounds come in all shapes and sizes. The underlying similarity between them all is the intentionality behind the choice of playground equipment, the use of equipment and the culture that is promoted. When choosing age-appropriate playground games, be aware of the barriers to participation children may experience.



Health and safety for playground games

Playtime is a chance for children to let off steam so they return to the classroom ready to learn. Many children benefit from experiencing sensory feedback to regulate their nervous systems. Sometimes children need sensory circuits to seek the feedback required by using equipment in ways different to their initial design. It is important to recognise the sensory need a child may be expressing and use the equipment safely but flexibly.

Thinking of playground games that are suitable for levels of development can be tricky. We certainly don’t want you to spend your precious downtime scrolling through ideas online.

Let’s look into ten ideas for age-appropriate games to try on your outdoor play equipment.



Outdoor play equipment games for EYFS

The EYFS Framework clearly explains the importance of outdoor and physical play. Supporting children’s physical development helps them to be happy, healthy and active. Physical strength is just one of many benefits of outdoor play.

H3: Traffic Lights- with a twist

A popular game that requires children to listen to various commands and respond appropriately. The most common examples are ‘Red-Freeze’, ‘Amber-Balance’ and ‘Green- Go’, but these can be easily adapted to suit the abilities and needs of the children. Incorporate physical development blocks into the game to develop balance, coordination and spatial awareness whilst also helping children manage risks in a safe and fun way.


Hunting for treasure

Digging or splashing for buried treasure and making mud pies are ideal games for EYFS to play in a water or sand pit. They allow for sensory exploration, imaginative play and fine motor skill development. Children can dig, pour, measure and investigate- all supporting STEM learning and sharing and turn taking.

You choose!

Some children may prefer free-flow play rather than structured playground games with directions and rules. Dens and playhouses create the perfect base for this. Whether they are playing house or shop, they are building social interaction and communication skills through play.



Outdoor playground equipment games for KS1

The jump from EYFS to KS1 often moves away from play-based learning and more towards structured tabletop activities. Allowing KS1 children to play imaginatively can help with the transition to more formal learning.

Move, move, move!

For those children who prefer to retreat from the hustle and bustle of the main playground, and for the aspiring dancers and martial arts, why not provide an area or performance stage for them to practise their routine and skills?

H3: All aboard

Vehicles and Transport are always a popular theme for KS1 games. Playing on cars, trains, and even boats develops core strength and creativity. Let their imagination run wild, all within the safety of a playground. To give the game more direction, tie into geography research into some of the great train rides of the world- like The Rocky Mountaineer journey through Canada.

The floor is lava!

A game you will certainly have heard of and can be flexible to tie into any of your outdoor play equipment. You can differentiate the rules to meet the children’s balance, equipment availability and confidence with the game. When a person shouts ‘The floor is lava’ the children will have a set length of time (you can choose this) to clear the floor, fully or partially.

Increase the game challenge levels by adding in pick-up sticks or trim trails (like the PI Fitness and Adventure Trail). The children will have to use their strength to balance off the floor using the equipment.


Ready, steady go

Relay races are one of the oldest playground games and are so simple to play and adapt to meet any age group, equipment availability and physical strength and mobility. Climbing frames and Trim Trails lend themselves perfectly to this playground game. At the same time, they provide opportunities for physical development, coordination and balance.

Check out how Norbury Hall Primary School developed their playground for KS1 and KS2 games.


Outdoor equipment games for KS2

KS2 children are likely to be taller and stronger and have increased language skills to help with more complex problem-solving playground games. However, with age becomes a reluctance to play as freely as the younger children do. Meaning, KS2 children may require more structure with their games to encourage active play during the school day.

Over and under we go

Obstacle courses can be permanently set up (like our popular Sport Trim Trail) or can be created in no time. Star jumps, throwing a beanbag in a hoop, and hopping around a set course can all make up an entertaining obstacle course for KS2 children. The children may enjoy the competitive edge of working against a friend or can boost self-esteem by trying to beat their own record.


Team spirit

Traditional competitive games are taught throughout the National Curriculum, building sport-specific skills and team building capacity with each progressing year. Giving KS2 children opportunity to run their own traditional sports games during lunch time can help to promote leadership, negotiation and listening skills whilst enjoying games in a Multi-use games area (MUGA). Some firm favourites are basketball, netball, handball or football.


How can Playtime by Fawns help?

Our expert team can help you from start to finish for the entirety of your playground project. Beginning with a design consultation, our friendly team can help advise you on playground equipment, surfaces and designs that will help you make the most of your playground space.

With over 30 years under our belts working across hundreds of schools, we design, create and install high-quality playground equipment that can offer countless playground games opportunities for your pupils.

Contact one of our team for more information

More articles you may like:

Getting active: Small playground ideas for schools

Outdoor play: Why is it important?

Making the most of playtime: How to engage SEND children in outdoor play