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Outdoor Play: Why is it Important?

Outdoor Play: Why is it Important?

Children can spend many hours looking at electronic screens such as computers, televisions and phones and will often choose to do this over outdoor activities resulting in outdoor play declining, subsequently causing us to have more sedentary lifestyles.

As the longest established playground company in the UK, it is our passion to get children playing outside and getting active during the school day to keep them fit and healthy!

What are the benefits of outdoor play?

There are several benefits of outdoor play including, but not limited to, advancing motor skills, development of communication and language with peers, improving muscle strength, appreciation for the environment, reduced risk of mental illness, problem solving and building self-awareness and esteem; the list goes on!

According to the NHS, children and young people aged between 5 and 18 should reduce their time spent sitting or lying down and aim to spread activities throughout the day, including outdoor play.


Studies have shown that outdoor play is crucial for a healthy development of the brain, especially the frontal cortex which is responsible for controlling emotions and problem solving; research has shown that this area of the brain is activated during playtime.



Outdoor play vs Indoor play

Indoor play is just as important as outdoor play, however there are many benefits for children playing outdoors:


Firstly, outdoor play allows children to run around more freely in the fresh air and encourages noisy/boisterous play resulting in children feeling less restricted.


Outdoor equipment is more likely to be larger due to space, encouraging children to explore and challenge themselves working on their physical development. Problem solving, turn taking and negotiating is also promoted which then facilitates establishing positive relationships with peers.


There is generally more space for children to explore outside, which encourages them to decide how they want to use the provided space resulting in them becoming more independent learners and less dependent on adults’ guidance.


Finally, being outside reduces the temptation to sit down in front of a screen and allows children to be children! Around 88% of teachers say that children are happier after playing outdoors, and approximately 97% say that outdoor play is critical for children to reach their full potential.


Steps to consider when creating an outdoor play area

Step 1: Age Range

It is important to consider the intended age range of the play area. You want to ensure that there is enough of a challenge for the children to keep engaged in the equipment, they might not achieve the goal straight away, but you want to give them the motivation to keep trying. Children generally need something to aspire to, otherwise they may become disengaged and bored of the equipment too quickly.

However, you also need to ensure the chosen equipment isn’t impossible for the children to use, this could also result in them becoming uninterested in using the equipment.


Step 2: What are the intended outcomes?

It is imperative to consider what needs to be achieved in the play area, what skills do you want to the children to develop?

  • If you want to develop children’s muscle strength and physical development, then our Horizontal Monkey Bars are perfect; our Horizontal Monkey Bars also promote grip & grasp and aid gross motor skills which, in turn, aids pencil grip to help children with their writing in the classroom. Our Essential Trails including the Borneo Trail or Amazon Trail are also great to encourage muscle strength and physical development.


  • If communication and language are the intended outcomes for your area, our Talking Flowers are perfect to encourage children to speak to each other from across the playground! Our Takamaka provides a perfect social environment as well as a quiet relaxing space. Finally, our Trapezium Stages are an excellent asset to a playground to allow children to express themselves, build confidence and develop the all-important language skills.


  • To build on problem solving our Physical Development Blocks are perfect for an EYFS/KS1 setting as well as our wide range of Activity Panels which include mark making, turn taking and problem solving.Problem solving skills benefit children as they promote active listening, creativity and rational thinking which can all be applied to classroom learning

  • If a sensory space is required then we have a wide range of equipment, including our Messy Range and our music panels are perfect, including The Shaker, Tube Glockenspiel and Piano. We also have our Sand Play and Water Play ranges which benefit sensory development. Sensory play is so important for children’s development as it engages the 5 senses (sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing) while additionally promoting investigation, curiosity and problem solving.


Step 3: Inclusivity

Considering how the provided play space can be made inclusive for a range of ages and abilities is crucial. All the children should be able to access the equipment safely to reach their full potential.

Read our latest blogs about how engage SEND children in outdoor play:


Step 4: Consider your Budget

This is probably the most important step when planning your outdoor play space! There are many ways to fundraise for your new playground including Bake Sales, Christmas and Summer Fairs etc, but these can take a little while to raise the funds!

There are several funding programmes and grants that schools can apply for including Awards for All, Sport England and OneStop Carriers for Cause.


Contact our helpful team today on 01252 515199 to find out more about funding you could be eligible for.


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