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

Highway Farm Activity Centre

A creative, adventurous space in an outdoor nursery

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.

An interactive palette play station

Fabulous messy play area at Fort William Stramash Outdoor Nursery.

Maisie’s Garden

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

Westpark – an Evolution not a Revolution

How Westpark School Nursery in Aberdeen has re-used, recycled, re-purposed stuff to make a bland space much more attractive.

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


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.

A Naturalised Outdoor Space for Babies

Kookaburra Korner in NSW Australia – lovely example.

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

Natural Elements in Playgrounds

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

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.

Asphalt to Ecosystems

An Interview with Sharon Danks, author. Great advice about school grounds 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

Using local features in your playspace

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

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

Spot the difference

RBS Supergrounds celebrations

Creating Ongoing Dialogue with Children

Thanks to a bear called ‘Fred the Ted’


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

Loose Parts Play

Loose Parts Play Toolkit

Download this document before you do anything else 🙂

Scrapstore Playpods

And other free play systems

Lunchtime free play project

Crimmond School changes their lunchtime practice through scrap materials with great results.

It’s all about stuff

The first loose parts play project in an Aberdeenshire school

Sand Pits

The Highway Farm sand pit

Creative DIY sandpits from this outdoor nursery. What does your sandpit need?

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

A recycled sandpit kitchen

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

Specific features and resource ideas


Ideas for using tyres to improve play opportunities for all ages

Dry Creeks and Streams

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.

Original Playground Markings

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

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

10 Ideas for for Exploring Boulders

Big immoveable rocks provide a context for philosophy.

Real Boats in School Grounds

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

Wooden Logs and Stumps in Schools

Great big loose parts for great big play experiences

Structures and Shelters at Highway Farm

DIY structures – little and large – that provide nooks, crannies and places to be outside.

The Hobbit House at Highway Farm

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

10+ inspirational ideas for placing mirrors in outdoor spaces

Lots of little and large suggestions inspired by a visit to Highway Farm Little Explorers Outdoor Nursery

The Clootie Tree

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

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

Rain chains

Simple, sustainable artwork for channelling water to a water butt or drain

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

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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The Weather Vanes of Nida

31 August 2014
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Most weather vanes are basic affairs. They are an arrow which points in the direction of the wind and with the compass directions at the bottom. The designs are usually fairly traditional stuff. All-in-all, my excitement levels about weather vanes has never been particularly high. My visit to Nida in Lithuania changed my mind. This pretty […]

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Saules Gojus – The New School Year Starts Outside

26 August 2014
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Saules Gojus is a remarkable school based just outside Vilnius, the capital city of Lithuania. Established in 2004 by Laima Sirutiene, it is a vision of education which recognises the value of humanity and learning from each other. German and English are spoken in addition to Lithuanian. International partnerships are actively sought, developed and celebrated.

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A Bespoke Lithuanian Cafe Play Park

20 August 2014
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Whilst walking around Vilnius in Lithuania, I kept an eagle eye out for any interesting play parks. Most were the usual rather dismal swing, slide, spring toy and climbing frame set. Yet tucked away in the Pavilniai Regional Park, I discovered this little bespoke beauty.

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Maisie’s Garden

30 July 2014
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Maisie’s Children’s Centre is an Aberdeen partner provider nursery. During the past year one part of their outdoor space as had a complete makeover. Here’s the before photo: And here’s the after photo. Both were taken by Pauline Smith 🙂 (Thanks for sending them to me)  I’m particularly pleased about this redesign for a number of reasons.Firstly, […]

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The Bike Track in School Grounds

26 June 2014
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I love stumbling across features in school grounds which make me drool. The dirt bike track at Muirfield Primary School in Aberdeen is one of them.  It is cool…

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The Curiosity Shop

15 June 2014
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Do you ever see children interacting with murals on playground walls? Very often murals and boards are a decorative presence rather than a playful presence. They may have originally been a class project. Over the years such projects can loose their meaning to all but those who are involved.

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Minibeast Hotels and Other Residences

24 May 2014
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There is something about humans which makes us not only want to adapt and change our own habitats and homes, but that of other creatures. Generally, the more natural an environment the better it is for wildlife to flourish. Given that most school grounds are highly artificial outdoor spaces, then providing artificial homes for minibeasts […]

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Funky Junk Art

29 March 2014
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This week I was training at Malvern Way Infant and Nursery School in Rickmansworth. Over the past 8 years they have been developing their grounds. This has included giving children opportunities to work with artists and sculptors. Usually the artist creates a piece of work for the school and this is used as inspiration for […]

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Permanent Shelters in School Grounds

15 February 2014
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A decision not to be rushed. Consider all options.

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Temporary Shelters in School Grounds

25 January 2014
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Recently I blogged about my experience of creating suitable shelters when on beach visits with a nursery. I realised as I was gathering photos together that I had examples of other temporary shelters which practitioners use with children, many of which are suitable for thirty children and a class teacher.

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Creating Shelter by Trial and Error

21 January 2014
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Working out what shelter works best

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5 Ways to Re-use your Xmas Tree

26 December 2013
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Would love to know your ideas too…

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A Tyre Sandpit

20 November 2013
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A DIY solution without busting the budget.

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A Bird Feeding Garden

12 November 2013
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Not your usual feeding station!

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10 Tips for Visiting School Grounds and Outdoor Spaces

9 November 2013
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Things to think about when visiting other schools

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A Wonderful Wildlife Garden

8 October 2013
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Great ideas from the RSPB

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Beautiful Miniature Worlds

16 August 2013
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The potential & possibilities of mini worlds for children of all ages

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Foraging for Fruit – A Way to Love Gardening

25 July 2013
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Summer time… and the living is easy

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Lunch Time Play at Inverallochy School

18 July 2013
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What is play provision like at your school? Have a look at what happens at Inverallochy School…

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Inspiration and action to change an outdoor space

12 June 2013
JC Waterwall

Black Horse Hill Infant School are inspired to use a bit of imagination to make changes to their outdoor space.

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Wood Logs and Lumps in Schools

8 June 2013
Wood Logs in School

In recent years moveable wooden disks, logs and planks have begun to make an appearance.

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Natural Elements in Playgrounds

4 April 2013
Out on a limb

This is a guest blog post by Frode Svane, an architect and a pedagog.

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Northumberlandia – From Landform to Landscapes

12 March 2013
Landform Art

Design processes used in art and landform architecture can be useful in developing school grounds.

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Keeping Parents Informed About Outdoor Learning

2 March 2013
Operation Eco Allochy

How do you communicate with parents about your outdoor learning initiatives?

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Inverallochy School Grounds – Progress Report

12 February 2013
Inverallochy Progress

Developing a school ground for play and learning is not a one-off event. It needs to be integrated into the life of a school.

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Zen Gardens – A Reflection

9 January 2013
Zen Gardens

When creating a dry-landscape garden, spontaneity and experimentation are part of the process.

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Willow Lattice Arches and Panels

19 December 2012
Willow Arch

Different ideas for using willow arches in school grounds.

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The Bunk Shack – Palettes in their Place!

28 November 2012
Bunk Shack

Small outdoor spaces inspired by local history.

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Art, Design, Maths and Playground Markings

20 November 2012
Formula for Living Bloor

Playground markings that aren’t your average hopscotch or alphabet snake.

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Pallets for Re-Purposing and Play

17 November 2012
Pallets repurposed

Pallets are perfect for repurposing into so many things…just a few ideas.

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The Glamis Monster

3 November 2012
Glamis Monster

One of the most impressive low level features at Glamis Adventure Playground is the monster.

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Glamis Adventure Playground – Guerrilla Geographers at Heart

15 October 2012
Glamis Adventure Playground

One playgrounds approach to signs and signage.

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Swings and Things in the Glamis Adventure Playground

12 October 2012
Glamis Adventure Playground Swings

There are 13 different types of swing at this playground.

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