School playtimes and playgrounds

Children say that playtimes are the most important part of the school day to them. They have the right to time and space to play as part of their school day.

In Wales children's free time is increasingly scarce and opportunities for outdoor play are steadily decreasing. So school playtime is vital to children for their fun and relaxation as well as for their health and wellbeing. It is part of their 'work/life balance'.

School playgrounds need to provide a rich play environment for children.

Playtime in Schools

The school day should allow time and space for children to relax and play freely with their friends. Children spend a reasonable amount of time in school, therefore the space should be designed to be inclusive and flexible. Children say that playtimes are the most important part of the school day to them.

73% of children interviewed by ICM as part of National Playday research (2009), say that school is the main chance they have to play with their friends. 55% of children report that they sometimes rush their lunch at school so they have time to play and 84% of parents say they are against school playtimes being shortened.

The research found that time to play at school is seen as very important by both children and their parents. The research also found that 88% of parents and 80% of children think that children are happier in lessons if they are given freedom to play at playtime, and this figure rises to 99% for parents of 5-6 year olds. 94% of parents assert that it is important to allocate time for play during school hours.

We have developed some suggestions for ways that play could be incorporated into various areas of the curriculum.

Download Ideas for curriculum development

School playgrounds

School landscape design and playground design presents an opportunity to improve the quality of time spent outdoors both for pupils and staff. Better school playground design supports positive benefits such as:

  • a reduction in violent behaviour in the school playground
  • the provision of positive social experiences for children
  • increased attention and activity in the classroom.