Nightingale Infant School, Norwich

Nightingale Infant School, Norwich – Reception Outdoor Space

With a relatively large space which also included a wonderful woodland space, Nightingale Infant School wanted to created many spaces for play opportunities.

Project Brief

The reception playground at Nightingale Infant School was a large tarmac space with some broken and unusable pieces of play equipment. Adjacent to this was a green, woodland space which had restricted use as there was no real connection between the two areas.


• A large space that was being under utilised
• Old and broken pieces of play equipment
• To provide a playful connection between the tarmac space and the green woodland
• To provide opportunities for playful learning and development using a range of moveable, natural elements.
• To provide opportunities for height and different textures


The school wanted to create a multi – levelled, multi textured playground for reception children without the need for large, fixed pieces of play equipment


Physical opportunities within the space were a high priority. Walking up and down the mounding, rolling down the mound, sliding down the slide, clambering up the steps and pulling up onto the top of the mound with the climbing rope encourages the development of good control and co-ordination of movements.

Digging and exploring sand with their whole body is very important to children which is why we created two large sand pits; one dry sand and the other wet sand play, provide many opportunities to explore the properties that these differing textures provide.  Experimenting with the properties of sand is important for children’s well-being and development which is precisely what this open sand pit allows, providing opportunities to add materials such as water, pebbles and planting to see how these interact. Boulders and pebbles surrounding the sand pit offer opportunities for seating and enclosing the sand play environment. This wonderful textured, pebble play feature captures the water as it cascades down from the Playground Pump.

Space for children to imagine and travel to other worlds and new environments is essential. Seating and cosy spaces have been created in the space so that the children can take time out to reflect and think about their place in the world, or simply just a little ‘quiet’ time away from the hustle and bustle of other children. Timber rounds and a playable boundary, with stile, provide challenging and interesting options for travelling into and through the site as well as a space for small groups.

Making use of the existing boat structure, we modified this to provide quite a different mud play option. Utilising the boat seating to create a potting bench for mashing and mixing. A stile offers an up and over entrance whilst gaps in the hedging provide an alternative opening. The fast growing hedge surround provides a sense of enclosure whilst at the same time offers a natural planting area that changes with the seasons.


Imaginative and creative play opportunities have been enhanced with the addition of den building posts which are ideal for covering with materials to create shelters and dens, weaving and threading and hanging resources. The music station is a rope for hanging musical resources. This flexible element can change with the seasons, such as bells at Christmas time or change with the subject topic, maybe African instruments.

Growing and planting opportunities were important with several planters provided that encourage the children to be involved in these changeable elements. All these elements adapt as the seasons change. Growing and planting is a powerful theme for young children, with a strong emotional element, masses of learning in every aspect of the curriculum.


• Physical movement and development through large scale opportunities presented in the outdoor environment.

• Big scale sand pit supports experimentation through play.

• Mud play is a core element of continuous, inclusive provision. The versatility of mud means there’s something for everyone.

• Story telling and cosy area creates opportunities for social interactions and imaginative play.

• The open ended design empowers children to play imaginatively, and freely select resources to enhance play.

Equipment: Playground pump, small children slide, shade sail, sleeper bridge, sleeper steps, climbing rope, stile, playable boundary, stepping logs, hammock, music making station, den posts, open access storage

Landscaping: Large sand pit, pebble playscape, glacial boulders, artificial grass mounding, instant hedging, willow tunnel, planting

What the client said…