Enhancing learning and development

Play In Schools

The Importance Of Play In Schools

PlayBoard has a dedicated work stream focused on assisting schools implement play strategies for learning and relaxation.  We have experience of working with the entire school community to support and enhance play knowledge, whilst developing the outdoor play environment to maximise children’s play, learning opportunities, and experiences.

  • Sole provider of the Taking Outdoor Play Seriously (TOPS) Quality Assurance Award recognising schools for their commitment to outdoor play.

  • Supporting primary schools to improve their outdoor play experiences through our well-established Positive PlayGrounds training programme.


Through offering quality play time and experiences, schools play a significant role in improving children and young people’s:

  • Learning and development

  • Health and happiness

  • Social skills and teamwork

  • Confidence and communication

  • Problem solving and risk assessment

  • Creativity and imagination … and many more developmental benefits.

PlayBoard’s schools-focused programmes and experienced staff team can help your school deliver positive results.

Play Has A Critical Role In Schools

Play is one of the main mechanisms children and young people use to learn about the world around them.

Both natural and instinctive, play enables children to test their own abilities and to learn and develop new skills and knowledge.

As such, play has a critical role in schools – offering an outlet for expending energy during break times, enhancing concentration levels within the class room, and as a means of contributing to learning through the curriculum.

The importance of schools as environments for play cannot be understated.

For many children and young people, the school playground represents the only open, accessible space available to them on a regular basis that allows them to engage in physically challenging and socially developmental outdoor play.

Critically, where a school actively supports and encourages a variety of play types and approaches, play has been shown to help enhance and reinforce curricular learning and development across a range of areas.

By harnessing children’s natural drive to play within schools we can enhance the education process, supporting curriculum delivery and enabling our children to maximise their learning potential.

Play In Schools

Examples of how play can help to reinforce curricular learning include:


Through play children explore mathematical concepts including the differing size, shape and weight of objects; through water play the volume of objects and water displacement and enhance their understanding of numbers by counting as part of traditional games.


Play offers children an opportunity to communicate with others (both other children and adults) in ways that are usually not available to them, for example through imaginary play. As such play enhances language development skills and support increased levels of literacy.



From the moment we are born we are scientists – exploring, experimenting, observing, testing, verifying our assumptions and making new discoveries about the world around us. Coincidentally these approaches are all key elements of play!


Geography & Natural Evironment

Play in outdoor natural environments offers a multitude of opportunities to learn about geography and the world around them. From interacting with the natural environment – mud, trees, grass, stones – to searching for flora and fauna play can enhance and build on traditional classroom approaches to learning.

Health & Well-being

Play is the most natural and instinctive way for children to develop and maintain good health and well-being. Through physical play children can build active and healthy bodies, reducing obesity and helping to establish life-long physical activity patterns. Play also actively contributes to healthy brain development, enhances learning capacity and supports resilience.


Risk Assessment & Management

When given the opportunity through innovative and challenging play children are able to test out and challenge their abilities in a natural way, enhancing their capacity to assess and manage risk as they develop.


Connecting With Others

All children have a desire to play and, when given the opportunity to come together with children from other community and ethnic backgrounds through play, are able to develop social connections and develop positive relations.

play in schools

Training And Play Support Programmes

PlayBoard’s Taking Outdoor Play Seriously (TOPS) Quality Assurance Award

PlayBoard’s Taking Outdoor Play Seriously (TOPS) Quality Assurance Award

PlayBoard’s signature, academic year-long Quality Assurance Award works with the Board of Governors, senior management, teaching and non-teaching staff, parents, and children to bring about a comprehensive transformation of play policy and practice in the school estate.

PlayBoard’s Positive PlayGrounds Training Programme

PlayBoard’s Positive PlayGrounds Training Programme

Positive PlayGrounds supports schools to re-assess their use of playgrounds as a means of enhancing play-based development and learning through environmental assessment and training.

Play Consultancy And Bespoke Training

Our in-house school consultancy team can advise and tailor training and support to cater to an individual school’s needs.  As Northern Ireland’s leading play experts, we have experience of developing a range of bespoke play training packages relevant to school requirements.

Children’s Play Sessions

PlayBoard can offer stimulating, fun, interactive outdoor play sessions to help children have fun whilst learning outdoors.

Parents’ Sessions

Aimed at helping parents understand the importance of play for their children’s overall health and well-being.


  • 19 schools have achieved the TOPS Award

  • Positive PlayGrounds delivered to over 300 local primary schools

  • Over 94,000 children and young people’s play experiences improved

  • Teachers reported improvements in children and young people’s behaviour, planning, focus, self-control, awareness, and flexibility within school due to improved play.

Participant Feedback

“It is not an exaggeration to say that our play has been transformed. We now have a comprehensive and inclusive approach to outdoor play that is reaping immense benefits for children and staff alike. Supervisors report more activity and less disagreements.

Teachers say children are ready to learn when they return from break. Parents are very complimentary of the changes and most importantly, the children love it!”

St. Joseph’s Primary School

“The children have benefited greatly from the TOPS programme. Their needs and interests are being met outside at break and lunchtimes and the play zones that we have created provide opportunities to not only socialise together, but to develop many other skills.

The most rewarding part of taking part in this programme has been watching the children enjoying their play. The playgrounds are full of laughter, squeals of excitement, and happy little faces which is what break and lunchtime should be about!”

Orangefield Primary School

“School playtimes are absolutely amazing now. The outdoor environment is colourful, inviting and a real outdoor adventure wherever you go. I love it as do the children. We have an environment where our children can flourish, where they can work together, grow in responsibility and be independent learners. We are certainly Taking Outdoor Play Seriously!”

Moneynick Primary School

“While I feel that we have achieved so much in a short time frame, I would like to further build on these foundations … I would like to increase our provision of ‘green areas’ moving forward. I would also like to further develop our use of loose parts as our project evolves.”

Gaelscoil Eoghain 

Get In Touch

If you would like to improve outdoor play at your school and provide your pupils with quality play experiences, get in touch.

For more information email info@playboard.org and one of our experienced staff members will be in contact to discuss your requirements.