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Does anyone have any exciting ideas for planning an outdoor area? I am beginning to investigate products and contractors, any recommendations would be most appreciated


Thanks R x

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sounds exciting Rosemary, are you working with a blank canvas or just updating and existing area?


theres lots of questions to consider...

can you describe your out door area, who will be using it?

will you be able to have large equipment (climbing frames, play houses)?

does everything have to be put away at the end of the day?


with a bit of background information the Ideas can begin to flow

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hi Rosemary


It sounds as if you have some money to spend and I would urge you to think carefully before you buy too many 'huge plastic items' that have only one use, or lots of single rider bikes. The ideal resources for children are those which are 'open ended'/versatile/have many possible uses that encourage thinking/interaction/exploration/discovery.


It is also very important that some of the resources are 'natural' and also that children are challenged to take 'calculated risks' in a safe, supported envionment.

If we had the money, I would definitely invest in a wide range of 'blocks' from Community Playthings - their catalogue is worth getting for ideas and inspiration, although expensive, and therefore we do not have any! their resources are of the best quality and made of natural materials.


Take a look at Learning Through Landscapes web site - although it is a member service, there are many excellent ideas for non members.


I work in a pdn with a strong ethos on learning through play outdoors. However, as a new nursery who as yet, have very few children attending, there is not a lot of money to be spent on resources. We have mainly used what nature has provided and tweeked it a bit, or what we have found at our trusty recycing service.


The outdoors is a great classroom and it is recommended to treat it as such, supporting all the areas of learning, but on a bigger scale (not just taking things outside from inside in fair weather) - zoning areas is a good idea.


We have cut holes in the hedges so children can wander through, laid stepping stones through planted areas which are planted with plants to stimulate the senses and which lead to a 'Den' created in the bushes. We have built a 'stumpery' with mossy logs to encourage minibeasts, have raised planting beds. A Balancing beam and car tyres. We have a huge area of mud for digging in and a large outdoor sandpit which are very popular. The favourite area is a small grassy hillock which the children love standing on/running up and down and which cost only a few grass seeds (and a lot of shifting of mud!) to create.


We have attached perspex sheets to fences which can be painted on with large painters brushes, branches etc. and thin perspex sheets which can be shaken and sound like thunder. We have flexi tubing which can be whispered down, recycled items hanging on a line to create a 'Musical Washing Line'. A variety of plastic tubes to 'put things down' pine cones, gravel, balls etc. Bells and chimes on trees with Ribbons which can be pulled to be rewarded with a satisfying sound.


We have yet to 'find' some guttering - but I would recommend getting some as it has soooo many uses. Would also love to have a 'pulley' system with buckets. Investigation trolley with magnfying glasses, binoculars etc. etc. Ideally laminated cards with pictures of minibeasts/birds/flower and fauna which children may find to support their exploration.


We also do not have an outside water feature - but a carefully thought out one would be wonderful - i.e a rubber mat with holes, which water bubbles through.

Ideally numerals and letters should be outside as well - perhaps 10 green (plastic) bottles on a washing line (I'll put that on my very long to do list!!)


The possibilities are endless the trouble is finding the time to do all the wonderful things that can make the outdoors an even more exciting place than it naturally is.


Sorry for waffling on so much - but I'm passionate about outdoor learning and wish we had some money to spend on ours.


Good Luck.



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Gosh, so many fab. ideas already.


The area is a present a blank canvas and is something I am planning to develop over the next 3 to 5 years. At present we have a small tarmac space which I don’t feel is at all safe. There is, money allowing, space to develop a larger area which is grass at the moment and still have a large grass / planting area left. We want to have small and large equipment in the area and to zone it as well. So much to think about!


I hope to develop it for Reception and Nursery to use and I am trying to encourage Y1 and Y2 use as well.


Thanks again for all the lovely ideas so far. And thanks for moving this to the correct area!


R x

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I really like the living willow structures and really wanted one of these but the powers that be said no. i am seriously thinking of putting one in my garden for my grandchildren ( well that's the exuse).


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A setting that I have worked with in the past has a wonderful outdoor area.


They have a 'growing' area - flowers, vegetables etc. THe children all dig, plant and harvest the veg and use them in their meals at nursery. THey plant them in old tyres, so no need for lots of space to be used for a veg patch. (HINT: find your local scrap yard - it costs them to dispose of tyres, so they will gladly donate them!)


There is a 'mini bug' area with rocks. soil, sand etc, which is complemented with clipboards, magnifying glasses, bug books, pencils etc for children to do their own investigations.


THere is a raised deck area which they got for free - they approached a local company who wanted to do some community work and as part of a team building day, they built the decking for them!


THey have pots and pans attached to the fence for outdoor music; riboons, windchimes and windsocks; guttering, tubes, buckets, etc for water play and experimenting; tuff spots that change according to different interests; AND piles of welly boots, macs, umbrellas so that they can go out in all weathers - PLEASE don't restrict it to a 'weather permiting' resource.


Parents have donated most of the resources from tyres to the inside of cable rolls, bollards, chains, spades, paint ... and they have begged from local companies and some of the 'big' guys - B&Q are great for end of line stock if you get on their list. Oh, and don't forget to ask the children what they would like!


Have fun and post some pictures for us if you get the chance!

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We are still developing our outdoor area but have lots of the things already mentioned.

Last year we had a willow artist work with the children to produce a living sculpture which the children have enjoyed playing in and around all summer. We have flower beds and vegetable plots and are also lucky enough to own some allotments quite near the school. We have a digging pit and two sand pits one is currently being used as a a ball pond as we ran out of sand :o there are two grassy areas with small hills and a small wild area which is still under development but we have flowers and shrubs to attract birds and insects an old sink that was removed from one of the classrooms to provide a mini wet area/pond bird tables and nesting boxes we also planted two self pollinating fruit trees at the childrens request in this area.

There is also a L shaped paved area which we have split up to create a quiet sensory area with different textures and smells and we have tables benches fountains and an arbour in this area. we have 3 old sheds (waiting replacement) for storage and a small wendy house.

There is a large whiteboard attached to one wall and we also have chalkboards for large scale mark making.

Ive attached a few pictures of some of the bits







Edited by Marion
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Two years ago I was lucky enough to attend the EY conference in Norwich where Marjorie Ouvry was a speaker. I highly recommend her book 'Exercising muscles and minds' for inspiration and ideas.

I absolutely agree that you don't need masses of money. In our nursery outdoor area catering for 3 and 4 year olds, we have tennis balls in old tights suspended from washing lines. a heavy duty rope tied into a tree for children to swing on, milk crates to use as stepping stones or for building, tyres, signs that my teenage son seems to have mysteriously acquired on nights out! and a barrel planter we turned into a very small pond which is already attracting frogs.

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We are trying to revamp ours at present - but ours is about the size of Marian's sitting area in total - so in this sapce we have to get the lot in and it is tarmac - anyone made good use of a small space (half of which is covered)? Any help gratefully received.

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