Developing School Grounds and Outdoor Spaces

This is the page with ideas and inspiration for tweaking, changing or even transforming your outdoor space. Juliet works with schools and nurseries to kickstart the process using a whole-school participative approach. Find out more here.

The gardening, wildlife and biodiversity posts have now been moved to their own

Gardening Page.

Nursery Outdoor Spaces

The Kate Greenaway Nursery

A special place for special people. Wonderful natural outdoor space for little children

Outdoor Play at Cowgate U5 Centre

Lynn McNair writes about the approach to risk, challenge and outdoor play

Maisie’s Garden

A newly created outdoor space in an Aberdeen children’s centre.

Enter in Style at Highway Farm

The entrances to and within a school send a hidden message about the values of an establishment. What is your school entrance saying?

Dunblane Nature Kindergarten

A transformation from a traditional to nature-based practice at this establishment. Great example of supporting and empowering staff through the process.

What Makes a Brilliant Mud Kitchen

The ultimate mud kitchen – more sophisticated than it looks at first glance.

A Naturalised Outdoor Space for Babies

Kookaburra Korner in NSW Australia – lovely example.

An interactive palette play station

Fabulous messy play area at Fort William Stramash Outdoor Nursery.

School Grounds

A Visit to The Coombes CE Primary School

The first of many postings about this school’s approach to the curriculum. Yes – there’s a lot of outdoor activities happening and amazing school grounds

Play Time at Inverallochy School

What’s playtime like at your school. For the love of loose parts!

Inverallochy School Grounds

A report on progress after a couple of years.

Getting to Grips with the Grounds at Grantown

My first go at developing school grounds

Achnasheen Primary

Making the changes and learning from my mistakes

Wild about this Space

This is where you find me on Fridays

A Celebration of Biodiversity

Introducing the Inveraray Primary School grounds

Demonstrating School Values in School Grounds

Inveraray Primary School has a positive hidden ethos throughout its school grounds

Inspiration and action to change an outdoor space

Black Horse Hill Infant School, West Kirby

Geology at The Coombes School

An amazing geology trail. The potential is mind-boggling

The bike track in the school grounds

How to generate a passion and reduce vandalism

Cramond Primary School Play Landscape

An embankment of possibilities.

Community and Public Play Spaces – Adventure Playground, Out of School Care, etc.

Swings and Things at Glamis Adventure Playground

Great examples of what swings can be about!

Glamis Adventure Playground – Guerrilla Geographers at Heart

the use of signs in a play environment

Adventure Aberdeen

An ugly patch gets a beautiful makeover on a budget!

The Bunk Shack

Creating an outdoor shelter on a shoestring budget.

Free Play Adventures at Broxburn

This is one of the best woodland adventure set ups ever!

Traversing walls in schools: 6 tips for their development, design and use

The Barry Island typographic traversing wall created by Gordon Young provides inspiration for playground climbing features.

Rothay Park Play Log – Ambleside

The detail of a natural play feature in the beautiful backdrop of the Lakeland fells.

International Examples of Nursery Outdoor Spaces

Mulleborg

The first Swedish outdoor pre-school, established in 1986 and still going strong

Inside an Outdoor Pre-school in Sweden

A quick tour to satisfy your curiosity

A Czech Pre-school at an urban environmental education centre

It’s amazing!

Bringing Nature into a Czech Nursery

A much-loved village nursery that developed its grounds

A Swedish Forskola

A photofest of ideas from a Swedish pre-school’s outdoor space

Pallets and Pre-School Outdoor Spaces

Glendale EC Centre in NSW, Australia, provide inspiration for use of pallets in their outdoor space.

International Examples of Primary School Grounds

Art in the school grounds

KapKa’s school grounds and its artwork, Seattle, USA

Saules Gojus – The new year starts outside

An international school that has a 2-week immersion in the forest at the start of every year. Lithuania

International Examples of Outdoor Playspaces

The Joy of a Slide

A core part of any outdoor space are places to slide. Enjoy the examples in this blog post.

Play – A Hidden Phoenix of Christchurch

An inspiring example of how one school community built a temporary playspace following the earthquake in Christchurch.

Rio Tinto Naturescape

A specially designed free play space in the bush – in the heart of Perth, Western Australia

Macquarie Lake Variety Playground

A community-orientated inclusive public playground for all children of all ages. Newcastle, NSW, Australia.

Design ideas for bike, trike and scooter play

How to improve bike play inspired by Macquarie Lake Variety Playground, Newcastle NSW, Australia.

Katanning All Ages Playground

A trip down memory inspired by a visit to this Seventies playground which has stood the test of time

The Children’s Garden Morton Aboretum

Wonderful 4 acre playspace designed by Herb Schaal just outside Chicago.

A bespoke Lithuanian cafe play park

A beautifully constructed compact and bijou playspace for children.

Bosque de Trepa – not a high ropes course

A Richter-Spielgerate play area in Rio Madrid Park, Madrid. Height and challenge make this playspace attractive.

Slide Mountain – where geology meets play

A slide fest!

Frew Park Arena – Urban Awesomeness

A legacy of tennis and rock concerts in a former arena result in a futuristic high-level playscape

Useful advice

Developing your School Grounds – Useful Books

Free downloads and a range of beautifully illustrated books from all over the world to help with inspiration and action to improve your outdoor space.

10 Tips for Visiting School Grounds and Outdoor Spaces

Practical guidance to save a wasted trip!

Valentine’s Day: Love your grounds and green your heart

A simple doable approach to finding out what people thing about their school grounds or outdoor space.

Dry Creeks and Streams

Great examples of dry creeks and practical advice from Australia

Permanent Shelters in School Grounds

A wide range of ideas beyond what you will normally find in a playground equipment catalogue.

Asphalt to Ecosystems

An Interview with Sharon Danks, author

Asphalt to Ecosystems Part 2

The interview continues. Great advice about school yard transformation

What Rusty said in Wales

Spot on advice from one of the world’s leading nature playscape designers

Crime Prevention in School Grounds

Reduce crime by design

Zoning the outside space

An example from Southmuir Nursery to give you some ideas

Original Playground Markings

Some very creative and open-ended examples from Fraserburgh North School

Using local features in your playspace

Inspiration from North Uist to include community features in an outdoor space

Scrapstore Playpods

And other free play systems

Inspiring walls

beautiful stonework in the Lake District and school grounds

Stones as play features

A look at stones for children’s play

Stones at Cowgate U5 Centre

Wherever you look, there’s stones to be seen

Tyres

Ideas for using tyres to improve play opportunities for all ages

10 Ideas for for Exploring Boulders

Big immoveable rocks provide a context for philosophy.

Challenging Myths and Conceptions about Sand Play

Forget the nonsense and just let children play in sand.

A tyre sandpit for playgrounds

A budget approach to creating any size of a sandpit that works in schools where digging up the tarmac is not possible

It’s a blank canvas

Why using a school grounds professional can make a difference

The Moveable Bench

seats that facilitate a child’s ownership of a place

Creating Ongoing Dialogue with Children

Thanks to a bear called ‘Fred the Ted’

Real Boats in School Grounds

Thoughts, ideas and suggestions around boats as features in outdoor spaces

A recycled sandpit kitchen

A one tonne sand pit at Gardenstown Playgroup now is an outdoor home corner

Wooden Logs and Stumps in Schools

Great big loose parts for great big play experiences

Northumberlandia

From landforms to landscapes. Lessons from the Lady of the North in terms of planning and designing an outdoor space

Natural Elements in Playgrounds

Guest post by Frode Svane about naturalised playgrounds in Norway and Berlin

The Hobbit House at Highway Farm

The building of a Hobbit House using recycled materials and with the involvement of children

Music Features

Echt School Outdoor Music Instruments

Beautiful bespoke big instruments

Big Outdoor Musical Instruments

Ideas around siting musical instruments outdoors

An Outdoor Music Wall

A great project for all ages, not just nursery

Art Ideas and Fence Makeovers

Give your Ugly Fence a Makeover Campaign

Ideas for using fences

Fence Art: the Creativity Continues

More fab ideas from Inverallochy School

Collaborative play outdoors

Shared play through a big fence

An Ugly Fence Gets a Makeover

Beautiful fence displays

It’s a Fence Party! Come and See

Fraserburgh South Nursery fence gets a huge makeover

Eco Art in the School Grounds

More than just fences and so worth a look!

Art in the school grounds

KapKa’s school grounds and its artwork

A quick lick of paint

How to brighten up a school grounds with a bit of paint and artwork

The Glamis Monster

A mighty earth bagged mosaic play feature at Glamis Adventure Playground, London

Funky Junk Art

Creating sculptures for your outdoor space using recycled wood off-cuts, Perspex, CDs and a lot of imagination.

The Curiosity Shop

An interactive old-fashioned mural, designed for stimulating imaginative and dramatic play.

Fish Net Art

Robust fence art that can withstand any weather

General commentary

Spot the difference

RBS Supergrounds celebrations

The Clootie Tree

A positive, peaceful tradition which can be established in a peace garden or other special part of a school grounds.


The most recent Developing School Grounds and Outdoor Spaces blog posts are below

Rothay Park Play Log – Ambleside

21 May 2017
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Check out the oak play structure

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Fairies – A Risk Benefit Assessment

1 April 2017
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Essential for anyone with a fairy garden

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In the beginning… starting from scratch to develop your outdoor space

18 March 2017
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Changing hearts, minds and practice

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An Interactive Palette Play Station

11 March 2017
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Palettes = Play. Hooray!

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Developing your School Grounds – Useful Books

13 February 2017
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Developing your school grounds or outdoor space is one of the most satisfying ways of increasing the amount of learning and play happening outdoors. To kickstart the process, it is a good idea to seek professional advice and do some reading on the subject. This blog post is all about the books which can help […]

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Frew Park Arena Playground, Brisbane – Urban Awesomeness!

24 August 2016
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No loose parts but high affordance design makes up for this!

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8 Easy Minibeast Habitats Young Children Can Make

28 April 2016
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Giving little creatures a home!

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Slide Mountain – Where Geology Meets Play

2 April 2016
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A must visit for kids in Madrid

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Cramond Primary School: A Play Landscape

19 March 2016
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An embankment of play possibilities

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What Makes a Brilliant Mud Kitchen?

24 February 2016
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A mud kitchen PhD thesis – no kidding

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Valentine’s Day: Love Your Grounds & Green Your Heart

9 February 2016
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Find out children’s thoughts about their playspaces

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Dunblane Nature Kindergarten – A transformation from traditional to nature-based practice

20 November 2015
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Fantastic example of positive impact of nature-based practice.

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Bosque de Trepa, Madrid – Not a High Ropes Course!

24 October 2015
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A challenging rope playground!

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When did you last yarn bomb your school?

19 October 2015
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There is nothing like a bit of bright textile to decorate an outdoor space. At Inverallochy School one of the more recent projects is to allow children to yarn bomb the school grounds.

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Fish Net Art

1 October 2015
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Robust outdoor art which can withstand all weathers

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Citizen Science – Get your class involved via OPAL

21 August 2015
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Last year, as part of the Wee Green Spaces training project in Aberdeen City for Early Years staff, one of the local OPAL scientists, KeithMarshall, ran a practical session showing participants how to use the materials and conduct simple data collection surveys with children. It is very satisfying for classes of any age to be […]

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Let’s Get Writing Outside

12 August 2015
Writing Outside

Writing outside is becoming increasingly popular in many primary and secondary schools.

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Tyres in School Grounds

30 July 2015
Tyres

Not just for cars! Tyres make great play resources in school grounds.

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Kickstarting a Whole School Approach to Gardening

30 June 2015
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Last week I had the privilege of visiting Riverbank Primary School in Aberdeen to be one of several judges of the trug gardening competition. This year, the school decided that it would be a great way to celebrate the outdoor spaces and raise awareness of the benefits of gardening.

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The Joy of a Slide

3 June 2015
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Slides really mattered to me as a child. When I visited a playground, testing out the slide was always par for the course. A good slide was sublime. A poor slide affected my perception of the whole play park.

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Pallets & Pre-school Outdoor Play

20 May 2015
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My final training session in Australia was at Glendale Early Education Centre. The establishment had just opened after a 2-week closure owning to flooding. As the Chinese proverb states, “Rather light a candle than complain about the darkness,” the staff took the opportunity to further develop their outdoor space based upon discussions with, and the interests of, the […]

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Play – A Hidden Phoenix of Christchurch

9 May 2015
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In April I had the privilege of visiting in New Zealand. Although it was a whistle stop 6 days involving training one day and flying the next, I did pause to catch my breath in Christchurch. I met up with an old friend and children’s citizenship and environment educator, Bronwyn Hayward, who gave me tour of […]

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Rio Tinto Naturescape

30 April 2015
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Whilst in Western Australia I had the privilege of meeting Alec Duncan, of Child’s Play Music. We met in one of Alec’s favourite places: Naturescape in Perth. In the words of the website, “…it is a place for children to connect with nature and learn to appreciate the unique Western Australian environment. It is a place to explore, […]

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Dry Creeks and Streams

25 April 2015
School Grounds Stones

Dry streams provide inspiration for developing an outdoor learning space.

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The Children’s Garden – Morton Aboretum

21 April 2015
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Being able to visit a range of playgrounds and outdoor spaces has been one of the side benefits of working in Australia in recent months. It has also reminded me of a long overdue need to blog about the Children’s Garden at the Morton Aboretum just outside Chicago. The description on the website is apt: […]

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The Lighthouse Slide

17 April 2015
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I love surprises. The Frank Kitts Playground on the waterfront in Wellington gave me a brilliant one. I was walking along, minding my own business, when out of nowhere rose this wonderful play structure.

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Sandpits Outside – Challenging Myths and Misconceptions

8 April 2015
Sandpits

Examining some of the issues of sand and sandpits.

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Embedding Money Outdoors

23 March 2015
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One of my favourite fairy tales as a child was Dick Whittington. I was always fascinated by the idea of streets being paved with gold. Whilst in Adelaide, I discovered a similar concept. On the ground outside a cafe on Rundle Street, lots of coins had been embedded into the ground.

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Where Water Meets Sand and Rock

9 March 2015
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At the Macquarie Lake Variety Playground, the water zone particularly interested me. It was not an especially big area. Yet, the attention to detail in the design really appealed to my love of places where different elements and materials cross the boundaries of the zones or designated areas.

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Design Ideas for Bike, Trike & Scooter Play

2 March 2015
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One of the key zones at the Lake Macquarie Variety Playground is the Circuit Zone where children can bring their small bikes, scooters and other wheeled toys. Children are free to ride around the whole playground yet this zone has sufficient appeal that there were lots of children playing here continuously. Most early years educators know the […]

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Macquarie Lake Variety Playground – The Oz Blogfest Begins

27 February 2015
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It is hard to believe that I’ve been in Australia over a week. For those of you who don’t know, I’m spending the next couple of months working and travelling, doing training, talks and workshops on behalf of Inspired EC, an early years consultancy. You can find my programme here and I can take on extra […]

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The Hobbit House at Highway Farm

8 February 2015
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When I visited Highway Farm in October, the Hobbit House immediately grabbed my attention. It is a beautiful, bespoke structure. Naturally I had to find out the story behind its existence. At Highway Farm Activity Centre – where there is an out of school club and an outdoor nursery, children are active participants in decision-making […]

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Structures and Shelters at Highway Farm

1 January 2015
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One commonly expressed concern about outdoor nurseries lies around the need for shelter and protection from the elements. Highway Farm is on a windy hill and this concern has been mitigated in several ways. First, the children are dressed for being outside. Second, there is a camp fire. Third, there are several large indoor spaces […]

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Enter in Style at Highway Farm

4 November 2014
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Entrances matter. They provide the first indications of what a school or setting is like inside – or beyond the gate. They convey not just a physical message but also a hidden message about what the establishment values. At Highway Farm and Little Explorers Outdoor Pre-School, the entrances fascinated me. Because the place is highly partitioned, […]

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Highway Farm and Little Explorers Outdoor Pre-School

29 October 2014
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Do you ever visit a place and the moment you arrive, a tingle of excitement runs down your spine? This happened to me at Highway Farm. Every tree planted, every stake hammered into the ground and every feature created  is part of the never-ending story of how this remarkable setting has grown and evolved over the […]

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The Fairy Garden at Coombe Mill

22 October 2014
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This past week I have been staying in Cornwall at the wonderful Coombe Mill Family Farm as I was on a professional learning stint, visiting various organisations and meeting lots of different people. The Fairy Garden is one of many examples which demonstrate why this place is amazing and not your average holiday accommodation.

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Vestige – The Mirror People

17 September 2014
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The Mirror People

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Play Stumps

14 September 2014
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Back in March, I was visiting Meethill School in Peterhead to do some twilight training. The nursery have been working hard to develop their outdoor space. One of my favourite features were the stumps in the photo above.

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