The Importance of Play and the Outdoor Classroom


Whenever you are asked to explain what the word ‘play’ means it is virtually impossible to define it in one simple sentence. Even a dictionary has difficulty being concise and like the rest of us has to resort to examples of play activities so that you can grasp the general idea of what it means. However you define play; teachers and child development experts completely agree that play has a significant role in the holistic development of our children. This means that this small four letter word is a billion times more important than it sounds. The importance of play is recognised within the education system, preschool and early years. Children are provided with many different settings in which they can explore the world around them.

Learning in the Outdoor Environment

Observing children play provides a valuable insight into how a child’s basic skills are developing. In 1992 Frost recommended that observing children at play should be a daily responsibility for teachers and educators. By observing play teachers can assess; cognitive, social and emotional skills, physical development and may even be able to identify possible special needs in children. Children benefit greatly from early identification of specific learning needs. Hyme was well ahead of his time and in 1981 recommended that children had two classrooms, one inside and one outside. This practice is observed in schools in the form of Forest activities, where children can practice their academic skills in an outdoor environment. In 1993 Fox reinforced Hyme’s findings and concluded that observing children when they played outside is just as valuable as when they are observed in the classroom.

Needing Shelter

The inclement British weather is no longer used as an excuse to avoid outdoor learning. On the contrary schools are embracing the rain and tapping into the character building qualities of wearing full waterproof gear to look for worms and other creepy crawlies. However dedicated to the elements a school is there is a necessity for children to be able to carry out their outdoor learning in a shelter. An outdoor shelter can provide protection from the sun as well as the rain and will provide a guarantee that any activities planned will not be sabotaged by the weather.

Outdoor Classrooms

Playdale have designed two outdoor classrooms, a sunshade and accessories that can make outdoor learning fun. The Playdale standard shelter is available in a number of configurations and is reminiscent of a large bandstand. While the Modular shelter can be adapted to any dimensions to suit your budget and is available with either a flat or peaked roof. The Sunshade consists of a heavy duty forest green shade cloth attached to four steel corner poles. If you wish to expand your outdoor area we also have planters and benches available.

If you would some more playground inspiration or learn more about outdoor classrooms you can request a copy of our catalogue here.


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