Active Learning Nursery, Crouch End

Active Learning Nursery – Crouch End

Active Learning is passionate about Sports and Art. They foster an early interest in physical activity by employing specialist teachers to nurture the physical and artistic development of children. They have 8 nurseries in the group, their first and their flagship is the Crouch End site, which was opened in 2006.

Project Brief

The outdoor space at Active Learning Crouch End has not been altered since the nursery was opened in 2006. With limited traditional playground equipment and uninspiring landscaping, the play areas were largely ignored by both staff and children from the nursery. Fortunately the nursery also has the use of an expansive cricket pitch, which was used extensively for sporting activities. The brief for the redevelopment of the playground was to create several distinct areas for climbing, relaxing and being messy and creative. These areas should come together in a cohesive design, revitalising the areas and motivating children to go outside to play and enjoy the space.


Playgarden created the designs to maximise the play value. The two areas can be accessed from one another via a stile or kissing gate, challenging the children whilst helping them develop their motor skills.

The nursery management were keen to present opportunities to play that children would not be able to get at home. In one area children are free to get messy with mud, mixing, pouring and cooking in their very own rustic mud kitchen. A raised sand pit sits alongside this as does a hammock which is very popular with the babies and younger children. Bamboo planting and timber piles create a haven for relaxation, a quieter area for children to sit quietly, look through a book or listen to a story.

Water is the main draw in the other area with a central water pump and pebble stream.  Children can control the flow of water using the playground pump, then paddle or cross over the river using a little wooden bridge. A Shade Sail offers protection from the sun or rain, making the play areas accessible in all weathers.

Sensory planting throughout provides colour, attracts wildlife and changes the landscape throughout the seasons.


  • As all of the rooms look directly out to a play area the children can freely access the play opportunities within.  Particular favourites are the hammock with the babies, the mud kitchen, the  pebble river bed and the climbing area.
  • The sensory planting provides a beautiful landscape, whilst also providing sensory stimulation for all the children. They are also able to witness the effect of the changing seasons on the plants.
  • The sand pit holds very wide appeal for all children. Babies can comfortably sit and manipulate the sand whilst older children can utilise the space to create more ambitious sand structures.
  • Playgarden has built strong links with Active Learning Nursery, who have been impressed with the quality of the designs and the delivery of the project. The play area has achieved all they hoped it would, and more, and they are now using the success of this playground as the blue print for future play areas in their other sites.


Equipment: Mud Kitchen, Hammock, Playground Pump, Bridge, Kissing Gate

Surfacing: Sand play, Pebble Play Stream, Tactile Pathway, Sensory Planting


What the client said…