Outdoor play spaces are an important area of your school. This is the place where many students not only get to take their mind off more demanding activities but engage in creative play opportunities with their fellow pupils. Having an area that is safe to explore, as well as being stimulating for students is, therefore, essential. Playspaces not only support the physical development of students in school but the cognitive, emotional and social development as well.
To create spaces that encourage children to learn whilst playing, we like to think of the spaces as playscapes. Playscape design can be an important part of any schools outdoor area as it allows the school to properly utilise new and existing outdoor play equipment for developing social, emotional and cognitive skills. Read more to understand exactly how important proper design and planning is when it comes to play areas.
What is a Playscape?
More generally, a playscape is a playful landscape characterised by the occurrence of enjoyment by the public and all those that interact with it. Sometimes playscapes look and feel like a natural environment. However, landscape architects and designers are increasingly using the term to label areas of cities that encourage interaction and enjoyment of all ages.
A playscape considers and incorporates the wider environment and broadens the opportunities for free unstructured play. It should be a place that is set amidst the natural environment, enhanced with new planting, interesting landform and/or enticing structures. This shows that a playscape isn’t exclusive to school environments. Due to this, we offer playground design services to other commercial sectors as well as education.
Why Use a Playscape Design?
The possibility of moving and interacting with the parts that form the play space itself could well be a feature of your new playscape design. It will be a place that develops children’s creative play instincts, encouraging both shared and lone learning experiences as well as supporting physical play, social bonding, risk-taking and discovery of the natural world whilst learning about environmental responsibility. It is almost certainly a place to play without the barriers and constraints of supervision.
There is compelling research and a good body of evidence to suggest that children who have positive opportunities to engage in play in a natural environment benefit both mentally and physically. They have the ability to increase their attention span, reduce depression and lower the symptoms of attention deficit disorders, alongside other normal benefits of outdoor physical exercise.
Alongside this, human instinct and our natural response to our environment simply reinforce that we enjoy spending time in outdoor spaces. We feel relaxed and enriched by the natural environment. Why else are we drawn to public parks, the countryside and our memories of playing in the woods as children?
How We Design a Playscape
At Red Monkey Play we are most often asked to create play spaces that incorporate the best of both worlds, great play equipment that is recognisable to the public, as well as being set into an engaging and stimulating natural environment. Here are our top tips on how to achieve this:
Choose the Setting
We will conduct a site visit when working with a school and assess the outdoor space available. On this visit, we analyse the space and make sure it is suitable for a playscape. Not all spaces will be ready for the construction of a playscape, some may require more work to transform it.
When looking at the space we have to work with, we pose a number of questions. These can include things such as:
- Is there enough open space?
- What are the access routes to it?
- What are the boundaries?
- How can we enhance something newly built?
The information we gather from these questions allows us to create a connected space rather than a number of unconnected hubs.
Consider the Surfacing and Environment
The aesthetic and surfacing will play a big role in a playscape and its setting. This allows the environment to look natural and encourage exploration, as well as safe play. We have a number of different playground surfacing options to achieve this.
We also look at natural options to add or utilise. Shrubs, grasses and willow all offer great sensory experiences. This also allows for creative play and homes for wildlife; in turn enriching, students’ learning experiences whilst trees provide colour, scent, shade in summer.
Integrate Old or New Playground Equipment
Where a structure offers climbing and sliding opportunities, setting this into a mound or slope could add den building or more creative fantasy and role-play opportunities. These structures are designed so that all ages and abilities, including early years students, can explore the spaces and learn.
Due to the importance mentioned above, we will always look at ways to utilise your existing climbing frames and outdoor equipment. This can be by building the playscape around them or adding in play boards to augment the existing structures.
If you don’t have any, we can add to your spaces with our range of outdoor playground equipment. Whether this is through our wooden climbing frames or adventure units, we aim to add excitement to any playscape. These structures allow different areas of exploration in the playscape, giving a varied and exciting environment.
Assess Where There Are Areas of Transition
To effectively connect different play spaces and create one fluid playscape, we need to identify where the different access routes are and link them together. This allows students to journey between spaces, rather than one large open space.
Our trim trails and clamber stacks are the perfect equipment for this. These are fun adventure trails which allows the student to transition from area to area in an engaging way. Intrigue plays an important part in capturing the imagination and attention of a child and engaging them in new experiences.
Use a Variety of Textures
Using a playscape is the perfect opportunity to engage your students in sensory play. We ensure that there are different areas of a playscape which allow students to explore different textures or to utilise existing areas. A sensitive mixture of man-made and natural materials can complement each other well. With our sensory playground equipment, including sand or water walls, give students the perfect opportunity to experiment with different textures and senses.
Get in Touch
We are specialists in playground design and installation. Check out our case studies to see exactly how we have helped a number of different schools. Get in touch today to transform your outdoor spaces.