Outdoor Play – Fixed Structures

abc doesOutdoors2 Comments

If we want our outdoor areas to be as versatile as possible then we need to keep big fixed features to a minimum, and those that we do install need to be as ambiguous as possible.

On my travels I see lots of wooden trains and pirate ships which often dominate the middles of play spaces. They have often been chosen by adults because the have an initial 'wow' factor – but believe me, the wow factor for lots of children soon wears off!

A huge part of our role is to expand children's imaginations and experiences whilst at the same time giving them opportunities to consolidate the things that are happening in their own individual lives.

A pirate ship will get some children giddy with excitement and they will transfer whatever experiences of pirates they have into their play. But a pirate ship is always a pirate ship which is a shame if you want to role play taking your car to the garage or going to the shops.

Even if I really LOVE  the idea of pirates (which I do!) as a child in EYFS I can only play what I know and if I haven't travelled much further than the local area and I don't have experience of a range of pirate stories, then I am restricted to role playing Peter Pan or Pirates of the Caribbean. If I don't like pirates, then I am a bit stuffed!

I would always try to keep your structures ambiguous and purposeful therefore they have the maximum potential for imaginative play AND they actually impact on developing children's emergent physical skills.

Last week in Bishop Auckland I saw a CRACKER of an outdoor structure at Oakley Cross Primary.

Check this out…


It is made from windfall logs and has lots of spaces to play/create/hide as well as ropes and nets for upper body, spacial awareness, balance… the list goes on. Plus it is all natural so tonnes of opportunities for KUW investigation and so much more.


Alongside that they also had a den that was made out of recycled plastic builders tubing which was very cleverly looped around itself an then attached to two wooden posts.

The den had a brilliant detachable camouflage net which was what can only be described as 'fringey' (is that even a word?). It was such a simple but effective idea anyone could make one.

It was a large piece of nylon net which then had short lengths of florist ribbon, in camouflage colours, tied all over. The children then peeled the ribbon (a bit like a cheese string) to get the fringing. You HAVE to have a go – it was ace!


They even had a couple of large scale pulleys with buckets which (with a bit of effort) allowed you to transport heavy loads across a fair distance, great for problem solving and also building up strength and coordination in the upper body.


The name of the company who did the work is …

It is well worth having a look at their website where they have got lots of examples of other projects they have done, like this one.


Enjoy some inspiration surfing!


2 Comments on “Outdoor Play – Fixed Structures”

  1. Hello there MRPS! Yes, in short it is because you used Imperial Leather. The reason it doesn’t work is because it has got oils in it (that is what makes it imperial!). You need a good old white soap. Ivory is by far the best. For a full bar, you do 1 minute on full power and then bursts of a minute thereafter watching carefully. Just did it with a setting the week before last and got lots of fluffy clouds for them to float in their water tray!
    Let me know how you get on.

  2. Hi Alistar,
    It’s claire from MRPS and the children. We just tried your soap snow but it didnt work…is this because we used imperial leather? Or have I heated it to long…does it need to be on a low wattage?
    Please get back to us as soon as you can. Thank you

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