Learning & Development, Sensory Play

Best Ideas For Outdoor Play In Early Years

children playing with a sand pit & wall at school

Outdoor playground equipment is essential in encouraging the development of social skills, imagination, and physical development from an early age. Furthermore, they provide children with infinite possibilities when playing their games, thus allowing for their imaginations to truly run wild!

In this blog, we’ll share with you our best ideas for outdoor play in early years that you could incorporate into your school to help your pupils learn, grow, and develop while having fun in new ways.

What Is Outdoor Play In Early Years  

Outdoor play in early years includes any type of play that takes place outdoors and is beneficial for children’s growth. Creating a varied play and learning environment is crucial in the development of their senses and in teaching them to process, organize, filter sensory inputs, and respond to them accordingly.

By being given the chance to play and learn freely within a varied sensory playground environment, children are offered the chance to develop their motor skills and learn social skills equally in a safe and exciting environment. Ultimately, sensory playground equipment best facilitates a child’s understanding of how to manage their emotional responses and become accustomed to the functionality of their bodies.

To help capitalize on these benefits, we’ve put together our top early years outdoor play ideas to help your students develop in the best way possible with their outdoor play equipment.

Create Participation Games

Jungle Gym for outdoor school playgrounds

Active participation is the best way for children to develop their senses, and outdoor play equipment such as climbing frames will allow them to move, climb, run, and jump through the world around them whilst learning to process various sensory inputs simultaneously. At Red Monkey Play, two of our favorite ideas for outdoor play in early years are the Jungle Gym Option 1 and Jungle Gym Option 2, as they’re packed with many fun activities that even your most seasoned playground athletes will be challenged!

Early years outdoor play equipment not only improves child development but also boosts children’s mental well-being whilst enhancing their passion for learning and their cognitive skills. This type of equipment comes in varying textures, with chutes and passages for children to explore during their time away from learning.

There are endless ways to utilize playground equipment to create a race that involves a few light climbing activities, runs, and relay-type tasks. For example, fetching flags or items from one area to another helps kids to develop their spatial awareness and encourages them to actively think about the route they must take to complete the run. Do you remember playing ‘tag’? Something as simple as this will always be fun and engaging for the little ones.

Role Play Games

Adventure Tower for school playgrounds

Role play is a key part of every child’s development, and our role play equipment plays a key part in supporting them to develop and experience new games and activities suitable for all ages and abilities.

Our dens and shelters can be easily transformed into shops and home fronts, nurseries, or maybe even into quiet places to chill out and relax. By crafting a varied play environment, we can best facilitate a child’s ability to role-play their own games and situations. For example, play equipment such as our Adventure Tower and Adventure Ahoy can facilitate a whole host of role-playing games, which can be used to develop students’ senses, and mental ability and, ultimately, further their psychological development as well. There are various challenging elements and puzzles incorporated into our playground equipment to keep the young minds constantly developing, learning, and curious to explore.

The importance of choice and possibility is something that we know is vital in child development, the reason why our expert team can design and create a varied range of sensory playground equipment to allow children to equally develop their motor and social skills in a safe and unique play environment. You can create ‘shops’ within each area of your school playground and roads and rules for getting ‘deliveries’ from one place to another. This will help them understand the basic constructs of a game, and hopefully, they’ll pull together to keep the rest of the players adhering to the ‘rules’.

Playing Adults

The explorer house

Whilst life as an adult may seem boring to us as we live it every day, for young children, it feels like an area of total wonder and mystery. Children love to make sense of the world in which they live by acting out situations before they happen and by copying what they see around them.

Our Explorer House offers a great chance to facilitate this type of domestic role play as it resembles something straight from The Shire, being a great example of the many wonderful and enchanting play environments we can offer. It is fully equipped with a grass roof and a viewing panel, which allow children to act out a whole host of games and role-play scenarios. From playing ‘mum and dad’ with a designated ‘child’ to more group-based activities like emulating the school itself and having a ‘teacher’ give a lesson on their favorite topics.

Themed Playground Game Ideas

Interactive Pirate Ship

Whilst some outdoor playground equipment is more versatile in its ability to serve in various scenarios such as a family home, castle, or supermarket, some provide a clear and obvious function. Sometimes, it is important to offer children the chance to play with clear and obvious equipment, as naturally, some imaginations develop quicker than others when it comes to playtime. Themed play equipment will also ensure that no children feels left out by not understanding the games that are going on. 

Our Interactive Pirate Ship is a great idea for inclusive outdoor play in early years as it’s full of engaging activities, including tactile sensory panels, climbing nets, and a steering wheel, which means there’s a part to play for all children. This bespoke pirate ship is also wheelchair accessible, being a part of our playground equipment for children with special education needs.

Are you wondering what to play on a pirate ship? Pirates, of course! There are also several other options you can create that involve staying out of the ‘water’ if you’re willing to be the shark, of course. You can encourage children to choose the best time to get to ‘dry land’, an area of the pirate ship you define. You can also watch out for the sharks, and the last one on the ship will be the shark next time.

An Introduction To Mother Nature

Sand pit & wall for outdoor playgrounds

Outdoor playground equipment offers children the chance to learn about different elements and to develop a love for mother nature that could last for a lifetime. Such learning can also be an early introduction to academic subjects and future hobbies!

For example, playing with sensory equipment like water play and sand play can be a great early introduction to science and maths. Children will learn through experience that water is fluid and sand is comprised of solid, yet both can be measured to fit into different-sized containers. Interactive and informative measuring games such as this can be facilitated with the likes of our Children’s Sand Pit & Wall and the Complete Water Wall

Additionally, our Water Area is completely customizable, as the mesh and wood can be interchangeable with exciting interactive chutes and waterways. You can also create a bespoke and engaging water zone by connecting water pulley systems and tactile Discovery Tables to allow your children to play a whole host of water-based games.

On sunny days, why not choose water pistols to amplify their experience, however, more often, there will be a cause for argument or upset, so be prepared to help them deal with confrontation and frustration! There are other ways to explore nature too for quieter kids who would rather be creative by using grass, flower petals, and natural sources to allow them to ‘paint’ while sitting amidst the action.

Create Your Bespoke Playground With Red Monkey Play

At Red Monkey Play, we’ve been capturing the imagination and attention of school children for over 20 years whilst always maintaining the use of safe and environmentally friendly playground equipment.

We work with schools and nurseries across the UK to create stunning bespoke playgrounds with our playground design service, and we’d love to work with you too! If you want to discover more and explore our wide range of play equipment, make sure to check out our Buyer’s Guide To Sensory Play Equipment. With our bespoke service, we would love to customize our products to suit your needs, so you can contact us today to find out how we can restore the fun to your playground and help your children develop and have fun in the process! 

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