9 essential playground equipment items to elevate learning and development

Play is the work of children. Playtime provides children many opportunities to elevate their learning and development by getting outside while giving them a mental break from classroom learning. Playgrounds play a significant part in helping with this.

The importance of learning through play

Children playing on a go-kart on a playground

Providing access for children to play is vital and can significantly impact their development. Play is children’s work and offers many benefits for aiding and improving a child’s learning and development. By letting children discover, explore, and test their limits, you will help elevate their learning.

Without giving children the environment to play, they will lack the opportunity to develop their understanding and skills. The development and skills children gain through play at an early age will be valuable for future life.

Additionally, providing access to play at an early age allows children to understand better how things work. Problem-solving and social interaction skills are also improved through play, alongside cognitive, social, and physical abilities.

Providing a learning environment that encourages fun, engaging, and interactive play ensures the best way for children to develop and learn. A playground is one of the best learning environments for elevating learning and development.

Essential playground equipment

For children to benefit most from their early years of play, you need to provide the right learning environment. A playground is the best informal learning space that provides the ideal environment to elevate learning and development.

However, you must go beyond just providing a playground environment for children to play. You must carefully consider your playground equipment choice to gain the most benefit. By providing suitable playground equipment, you help elevate learning and development.

Whether you are planning a traditional playground or an inclusive playground for special needs, here are nine essential playground equipment to elevate learning and development:

1. Swings and slides

A school playground with swings and slides

Image source: Playground Centre

The first essential playground equipment to elevate learning and development is the inclusion of swings and slides. This type of playground equipment has become a staple of all playgrounds, however big or small, and for good reason.

Swings and slides are a beloved playground item that allows children to have simple fun yet with loads of physical and emotional benefits, including social learning, improving bravery, and developing physical skills. While swings have been around for generations, recent designs have helped spice up these pieces of equipment for greater aesthetics and excitement!

However big your school playground space is, it’s important not to overlook this essential equipment.

2. Interactive play panels

Two young children playing with playground sensory play panels

Image source: Playground Centre

Interactive play panels are another essential playground equipment to elevate learning and development. Interactive play panels include various sensory stimulating activities that keep children engaged and develop their sensory and cognitive abilities.

Each panel focuses on one specific sense, such as musical activities for hearing and developing sound memory. Interactive panels can be easily added to any playground and provide a simple way to engage and stimulate young minds.

This hands-on playground equipment lets children develop their hand-eye coordination, spatial awareness and provide an opportunity for quiet solo play to escape main playground areas. It also is a great way to provide opportunities for shared and cooperative play with all ages and abilities. Even small playground spaces can incorporate sensory panels thanks to space-saving builds and accessible heights.

3. Musical equipment

Xylophone musical equipment in a playground

Image source: Playground Centre

Incorporating music and musical equipment into a playground is another great way to elevate learning and development. Let children get musical and build their sense of rhythm through simple yet effective musical equipment.

Musical equipment provides a fun and interactive learning experience, improving creativity and sensory cognition. And the great thing about musical equipment is the vast choice of options available. Incorporating various musical equipment is ideal for letting children gain the most benefit. Consider incorporating musical equipment such as chimes and bells, gongs, drums, musical play panels, and xylo-chimes.

4. Nature play

A wobbly wood climbing feature in a school playground

Image source: Playground Centre

Another essential playground equipment is nature play.  Incorporating nature play into a playground space allows children to better understand nature while also developing several skills. It is an ideal way to let children explore and better understand the world around them.

Nature play can incorporate a range of different solutions. From musical flowers to wobbly wood climbing features, you can incorporate plenty of unique and interactive playground solutions. Even small features, such as stepping stones and activity trails, count.

By incorporating nature play into your playground space, you are providing the following benefits to children:

  • Gaining a better understanding of risk management and resilience
  • Encourages problem-solving and boosts creativity
  • Increases environmental awareness and stewardship
  • Develop social and cognitive skills
  • Improve physical and mental health

5. Role Play Panels

A playground mud kitchen

Image source: Playground Centre

Another essential playground feature that elevates learning and development is the inclusion of role-play panels. Through the many different interactive play panels available, children can get creative and inventive with role-playing.

While you don’t have to incorporate all of them, incorporating just one or two into a playground can make a big difference. Children can learn and develop skills other playground features cannot provide, such as improving maths, physical development, and a better understanding of the world.

Children can also benefit from personal, social, and emotional development (PSED). Some examples of interactive play panels you can consider incorporating into your playground include bank play panels, sweet shops, bakeries, doctors, fishmongers, flower shops, and mud kitchens.

Various play kitchens are available, including play kitchens, mud kitchens, and messy kitchens. While you don’t have to incorporate all of them, even adding one can make a big difference.

Incorporating a play kitchen into your playground allows children to develop various skills essential for later life. It also provides the opportunity for emotional, imaginative, and sensory play to develop cognitive and social abilities.

Children can learn and develop skills and benefits through a play kitchen, including mathematics, literacy, physical development, a better understanding of the world, communication, and personal, social, and emotional development (PSED).

6. Climbing frames and equipment

Climbing frame playground equipment

Image source: Playground Centre

Climbing structures have been essential playground equipment for a long time, and there’s good reason for this. Incorporating climbing frames into a playground allows children to improve their coordination, confidence, and physical strength. Nowadays, you can choose from multiple designs to match your playground design or theme to develop children’s teamwork and problem-solving.

When choosing a climbing frame structure for your playground, consider incorporating one with multiple features, including tunnels, rope bridges, and platforms. You provide an ideal focal point while encouraging skill development and learning.

7. Water and sand play

A playground sand area

Image source: Playground Centre

Kids love to explore and have a natural curiosity to discover. With water and sand play features, you provide children with playground equipment that lets them freely explore and develop their curiosity.

Allowing children to use sand and water play equipment will enable them to develop their maths and science learning. Whether measuring liquids or getting creative with sand structures, children enjoy natural play opportunities.

Children can also develop a range of useful life skills by playing together. Physical, social, and cognitive skills can be developed through water and sand play. The digging and lifting children do when using this playground equipment will also benefit their physical and cognitive development.

8. Play tunnels

Playground play tunnels

Image source: Playground Centre

Play tunnels are another staple playground equipment to incorporate for elevating learning and development. Nowadays, you can get a variety of themed play tunnels to incorporate into your playground.

This simple but effective playground equipment helps children develop natural curiosity, motor skills, and imagination. Motor skills children can develop through play tunnels include balance, coordination, and gross motor skills.

As with most playground equipment, you can choose from various creative designs to create a unique and appealing playground environment that entices children to play, learn, and develop. Play tunnels come in various creative natural designs.

9. Trim trail

Trim trail equipment

Image source: Playground Centre

Trim trails (or fitness trails) are a parcourse of obstacles and outdoor exercise equipment, such as tight ropes and climbing frames.

Given the versatility of trim trails, children can gain many benefits from using this piece of playground equipment. Not only does it improve their physical well-being, but it also improves coordination, spatial awareness, and balance.

Trim trails can range in different sizes and features. Smaller trim trails may include classic activities such a balance beam, monkey bars, or rope wall. While, larger, high-level trails will incorporate multitude of features to provide a greater challenge for children to develop their learning and skills.

Do you have any of the above essential playground equipment already? Choosing various playground equipment outlined above provides children many opportunities to improve their learning, skills, and natural development. Consider implementing some playground equipment above for children to gain the most benefits.

Check out these principles of playground design for improving learning