Discovery and exploration in play

13 March 2020


It can be easy to think that ‘play’ means being active and ‘outdoor learning’ means lessons. Here at Playforce we have spent 20 years helping schools and settings to understand the wide range of opportunities their outdoor space - however small or challenging - can present for both fun and learning. Indeed, we don’t see why the two need to be separated.

Exploratory play - or Discovery - is a natural part of childhood. Right from the earliest age babies seek out opportunities to touch, bang, throw, shake and eat things as a part of their learning and discovery process. Once children get to nursery or school, however, these opportunities are often replaced by active play and classroom learning. Outdoor learning, however, presents opportunities for children to explore skills such as problem-solving, teamwork, sharing, cooperation, turn-taking and communication, as well as learning more about their surrounding world, nature and curriculum subjects (for example STEM, literacy, creative drawing and music). 

Many of our teachers have shared stories and examples of their children being less inhibited when learning outdoors - being more willing to join in with activities, talk and come out of their shells. Particularly in urban and crowded learning spaces, outdoor learning opportunities have been noted to have improved children’s emotional health, allowing for relaxation and calmness, more positive behaviour, as well as greater skill development. And let’s not forget that, for many children, ‘understanding’ things (and having explored them thoroughly) leads to better mental health, wellbeing and engagement with living a healthier life.

Five products to combine discovery, exploration and learning outside

Flow Wall
Rather like our award-winning Poddely our Flow Walls are a great way for children to work together on challenges that involve problem-solving, teamwork and cooperation. Not only is this a superb way to understand the theories behind ‘flow’ but elements of imaginative play can be worked in as children create stories around the pathways and building process.
Mini-Beast Exploration Table
There hasn’t been a time when children weren’t fascinated by mini beasts and all things creepy crawly… Our Mini-Beast Exploration Table allows them to get up close and to study the things they’ve found in the playground. Not only does this require a certain amount of careful handling and turn-taking, but it also encourages children to go in search of things - engaging with the natural world on their way. The Mini-Beast Exploration Table includes three magnifying lenses to ensure lots of children can gather around. The rotating table top underneath the lenses can hold six different samples.

Plant World Discovery
Discovering the natural world isn’t just about creepy crawlies, though. Understanding where food comes from, as well as how plants grow (and die) is a critical part of discovery and exploratory play for all ages. Our Grow range of planters has always been popular but, for a little more in-depth discovery, why not take a look at our Plant World Discovery? The front panel features facts about plants and roots and the curved roof keeps roots cool and protected from the sun. The best part is it includes nutrient rich growing compost!

Weather Station
The one thing we have a lot of in the UK is weather and understanding what it is, how it happens and how to measure it can provide a wide range of opportunities for skill development. This Weather Station includes a wind direction recording dial, wind sock to measure wind direction and speed, rain gauge to measure the amount of rainfall and a chalk board to record information. 

Wooden Musical Trail
It can be easy to think that ‘discovery’ is limited to the more STEM subjects but the mental health benefits of music can be life-changing for my children. Even before they have explored more formal musical training, engaging in making noise and discovering the different ways to make rhythm and sound can be life-changing. Our Wooden Musical Trail - 7 is a fantastic way to get this started, allowing opportunities for children to play and explore alone or in groups. It combines eight different musical elements into a trail, including Rattle Wheel, Bongo, Xylophone, Bell, Bat Pipe, Chime and Guiro.


To speak to one of our team about how our range of products can boost learning through exploratory play in your playground contact us here.

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