Play Equipment that Benefits Young Learners

The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum is composed of seven areas of learning and development. The three primary areas are Physical Development; Communication & Language; Personal, Social and Emotional Development (PSED). The four specific areas consist of Literacy, Mathematics, Expressive Arts & Design and Understanding the World.

Young learners need access to play equipment which enables them to develop in these key areas. The best nursery schools will provide equipment which encourages learning and development without compromising on the fun.

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Physical Development

Physical development for young learners focuses on their ability to move and balance, as well as to handle objects. Children need to develop gross motor skills to move about independently and safely, as well as strengthen their smaller muscles and develop their fine motor skills.

Playground equipment such as trim trails which include flat, low balancing beams and stepping stones, are great to start with. Turning handles, blocks which can spin on poles and building blocks can help strengthen the smaller muscles as children learn to grab hold of, pick up and spin objects.

Little Marlow CE Infant School - Pentagon Sport

Communication,  Language & Literacy

For children aged 0-5, it’s important to practise their communication and language skills as often as possible. While children will naturally start to copy and mimic speech, as well as non-verbal forms of communication, there are some great options for playground equipment that can encourage development.

Nursery schools should have a special designated space for story time. That could be an outdoor storytelling chair, a circle of seating, a covered area like a gazebo or pagoda, or even a den. Stage spaces and outdoor amphitheatres can encourage children to speak aloud, act and sing. For early writing practise, chalkboards and whiteboards can work well, as can outdoor tables.

For those of you in the know, Literacy is a separate ‘specific area of learning and development.’ It’s goals are focused on children 3-5 years, as children below this age will struggle to read and write until their 3rd birthday.

Pentagon seating area

Personal, Social and Emotional Development (PSED)

PSED is the aspect of the curriculum which focuses on learning about emotions. Dens, forts, treehouses and playhouses all encourage children to engage in role play. During role play, children can act out different parts, develop an understanding of others and learn important social skills.

Children should also be practising sharing and turn-taking with their peers. Sand, water and mud play provide excellent opportunities for children to work together to achieve something, whether that’s building a sand castle in the sand pit, putting together a waterway, or mixing up a mud pie in a mud kitchen.

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Maths based learning for EYFS learners focuses on learning to recognise numbers 0-20 by the age of five, an ability to count aloud, and gaining an understanding of quantity, size, shapes and patterns.

As with communication and language development, tabletop activities can also link in well with this part of the curriculum. When it comes to the playground, colourful playground markings including number lines and number grids are great for improving recognition and fun number-orientated activities.

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Expressive Arts and Design

This is the messy, creative and really fun part of the EYFS curriculum. Expressive arts and design for young learners often involves sensory play (sand, water and mud play again), art activities as well as singing and drama.

A tuff spot table, a plasticised tray which fits onto a tabletop, is ideal for expressive arts and design because it’s multi-functional and can be filled with water, gels, playdough, paints - anything you can think of! As with communication and language, stage spaces are another great play equipment option for promoting self-expression and dramatic play.

Children playing with arts and design

Understanding the World

This encompasses a broad range of learning objectives. Opportunities for different types of hands on learning work really well here. For example, planting beds and dig pits in your nursery school grounds helps children to learn about plants and animals. Track ways for bicycles can be marked onto the playground to improve learning about road awareness.

This area of the curriculum also covers the use of IT. For EYFS learners, digital cameras and iPads which can be used to take photos with staff support in the school grounds. These can also be used for watching videos of stories being acted out too.

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Sam Flatman

About: Sam Flatman is an Educational Consultant for Pentagon Sport. Pentagon have worked with over 6000 nursery and primary schools to create innovative playgrounds and learning environments for EYFS students.


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Pentagon’s Twitter: @PentagonSportUKfor outdoor education. Sam believes that outdoor learning is an essential part of child development, which can be integrated into the new school curriculum.

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