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Play in group settings

This page provides information about general resources that you might find useful to have in your childcare setting when caring for children or young people.

Basic Play Equipment

When setting up a childcare provision it is important to have an idea of the core equipment you may need to purchase. The following list contains just a few ideas you may need to consider:

  • Tables and chairs - check to make sure you have the appropriate sized furniture (for adults and children) depending on the age range you intend to cater for (all groups will require different sized furniture).

  • Storage - it is important to have good storage facilities for your equipment and resources, these will vary depending on your location but you should consider units that are both accessible and some should be lockable. Some appropriate storage at the children's height for accessible resources is preferable.

  • Fridge - Although you may be able to share a fridge it is important that the club has access to one in order to store food and drinks.

  • Catering Equipment - Cutlery and crockery (including pots / plans for cooking if providing meals). Again you may be able to share with other users but ensure you have enough for your max occupancy.

  • Health and Safety Equipment - fire extinguishers, evacuation bags etc. (Check with a Development and Regulation Advisor for the essentials required by Ofsted).

Equality of play checklist

In order for play settings to reflect children's diversity here are a few things you may want to consider when planning your resources. You should ensure that diversity is represented in all areas including resources, displays etc.


  • Do the books on your shelf...
    • show men and women in realistic settings and in traditional and non-traditional roles?
    • show adults and children with different ages, race, culture and abilities?
    • show a variety of family situations i.e. step families, one parent families etc.
    • include books written in a variety of languages including languages used at home?
    • show people in non-stereotypical roles?

Art Materials

  • Have you got
    • materials which reflect a variety of cultures?
    • paints, crayons and paper that can be used for the skin tones of people from a variety of racial backgrounds?
    • displays which show diversity in a positive way?

Games and Toys

  • Do your games and toys
    • contain pictures and figures from different cultural groups, with non-stereotypical roles for men and women?
    • have you got dolls of both sexes and of more than one racial type with correct features and clothing
    • do you have a range of resources for role play representing diversity - dressing up clothes, foods, cooking and eating utensils etc.?
    • have you got a range of stimulating games for mixed ages and abilities?


  • Have you got a variety of instruments including some from other cultures?
  • Do your audio tapes reflect the range of music and songs from around the world including other languages?

Play resources

The following list represents some of the many materials that can be provided in defined areas in your setting. Children should have access to a wide variety of resources in these areas most of the time.  

Construction Area

  • Unit blocks: wooden, plastic or soft blocks of various shapes, colours, textures and weight
  • Hollow blocks: wooden, plastic or cardboard
  • Interlocking blocks: Lego, Duplo, stickle bricks, Meccano, Mobilo, inter stars
  • Accessories: people, animals, dinosaurs, vehicles, containers to fill and dump

Art Area

  • Powder paint, ready mixed paint and block paints in a variety of colours, to include skin tones
  • Textured and thickened paints
  • Pots, pallets, trays, easels
  • Brushes, in a variety of thicknesses and size
  • A selection of objects to print with, include natural and everyday objects
  • Paper and card in different shapes, sizes, textures and colours
  • Adhesives – PVA, Pritt Sticks, paste, Sellotape, masking tape
  • Tools – glue spreaders, scissors (left-handed and right-handed), stapler, hole punch
  • A wide range of items for collage, including natural and reclaimed materials
  • Assorted sized fabric pieces with different textures
  • Pens, pencils, crayons, chalks, pastels and charcoal
  • Items for three dimensional work – boxes, tubes, pots, trays, corks

Malleable materials

  • Messy: cornflour and water, shaving foam, cooked pasta, porridge oats and water, jelly, baked beans
  • Ice cubes
  • Dry: lentils, Rice Crispies, twigs and leaves, feathers, corks, fir cones, pebbles, glitter

Problem solving, reasoning and numeracy

  • Counting, numbers and sorting ~ real objects and materials (shells, conkers, pebbles, leaves, fir cones, feathers, pasta shapes), different sized, coloured and shaped objects, sorting trays, pegs, numbers made out of different materials (plastic, foam, sand paper, wood), buttons and beads, cotton reels, calculators, telephones, calendars and diaries, counting and number books and puzzles, recipe books and menus

  • Shapes and patterns ~ shapes made from different materials, pegboards, tap a shape games, beads of different shapes, sizes and colours,  magnetic shapes, linking games (multi-link, unifix), construction sets,  collage/junk modelling materials

  • Measuring and weighing ~ sand/water timers, rulers, tape measures, sets of hand and foot prints, scales, real objects and natural materials, graded containers, stop clocks, thermometers, sand and water

  • Time ~ calendars, diaries, stop clocks, timers, clocks, time line

  • Money and shopping ~ real coins,  tills, purses, baskets and bags, real items for use in a shop, bills, order forms and receipts, notepads and pens, clip boards, calculators, catalogues, scales, menus

  • Games ~ dice games, matching, sorting, colour, shape and size games, shape, number, colour and texture dominoes, card games and lotto, puzzles


  • Computer, colour printer, mouse, keyboard, disks, paper, CD-ROM, scanner, software including basic word processing and drawing package.
  • Digital camera.
  • Programmable toys.

Mark making or graphics area

  • Paper – assorted sizes, shapes, colours and types
  • Assorted ready made books – zigzag, stapled and staple-less
  • Headed paper and office stationary
  • Writing paper – lined and unlined
  • Envelopes – used and unused
  • Chalk board and chalks, clip boards, white boards and pens
  • Telephone and note pads
  • Examples of upper and lower case letters

Other items: labels, files, forms, calendars, scissors, stapler, paper clips, rulers, erasers, Pritt stick, diaries, address book, sellotape, hole punch, fasteners , masking tape, pencil sharpener, post cards, felt tips, pencils, greeting cards, crayons, coloured pencils.

Role play

  • Child-sized play furniture (cooker, fridge, cupboards, sink, table and chairs)
  • Dishes and eating utensils reflecting diversity
  • Play foods including natural and everyday foods
  • Telephone, clock, books and magazines, note pads and pens, full length mirror, plants
  • Cleaning resources (tea towel, dustpan and brush, vacuum cleaner, brush, duster)
  • Dolls reflecting diversity
  • Baby resources: cot, highchair, changing bag, baby bottles, baby carrier, pushchairs
  • Dressing up clothes including multicultural clothes, 'work' clothes, hats and clothing that represent different genders
  • Prop boxes to extend role play: shop, café, travel agents, baby clinic, doctors surgery, vets, garden centre, builders yard, car wash

Investigation and exploration
Heuristic play baskets with objects (chains, wooden pegs, cotton reels, feathers, buttons, fir cones, stones, shells)
Magnifiers, magnets, torches, coloured paddles
Pouring equipment: jugs, containers, measuring cylinders, beakers
Different materials: metal, wood, plastic, sandpaper, fabrics, paper, natural sponges
Feely bags, weather boxes
Living things: plants, animals, gardening resources

Sand and Water for either outside or inside
Materials for water play

  • Water tray, aprons, towels
  • Funnels, cups, jugs, measuring cups, spoons, plastic tubing, squeezy bottles, siphons, funnels, water wheels, sieves
  • Boats
  • Fish, ducks, shells, pebbles
  • Things that float and sink
  • Bubbles, glitter, food colouring

Materials for sand play:

  • Sand tray, dustpan and brush
  • Spades, buckets, spoons, sieves, strainers, rake, funnels, jugs, containers, moulds
  • Animals, bugs
  • Natural resources such as pebbles, plants, bark, shells

Outside play
Paddling pools, buckets, outside tap, tubes, guttering, squirters, watering cans, hose pipes, paint brushes and rollers

Music Area
CD player, headphones, microphone, a variety of musical CDs (classical, popular, different cultures, songs sung in different languages, rhymes and songs)

Selection of musical instruments: triangles, bells, sand block, maracas, xylophone, tambourines, drums, claves, ethnic instruments, electronic keyboard

Dance props: scarves, ribbons

Book Area
Front facing book storage, wicker baskets, comfy reading chairs, bean bags, cushions, rug, cuddly toys

Books: a wide selection of books to include fiction, non fiction, books showing positive images of children and adults from different races, cultures, genders and disabilities, big books, hard back, flap, fabric, magazines, catalogues, photograph albums, pictures and posters, CD player, headphones, story CDs, story boards

Puppets, props representing familiar stories.

Physical Play

  • Babies
    • blanket
    • rug
    • play gym
    • push along toy
    • balls
    • sturdy things to pull themselves up on
    • ramps for crawling
  • Toddlers
    • ride on toys with no pedals
    • large push/pull toys
    • balls
    • bean bags
    • age appropriate climbing equipment
    • slide
    • balance beam
    • tunnels
    • large cardboard boxes
  • Pre-school
    • slides
    • climbing equipment
    • monkey bars
    • balls
    • sports equipment
    • wheeled toys
    • tumbling mats
    • skipping ropes
    • bean bags
    • parachute
    • gardening resources
  • Over 5s
    • balls
    • bats
    • skipping ropes
    • hoops
    • basket ball hoops
    • slide
    • gardening resources
    • climbing frame
    • sports equipment
    • wheeled toys
    • parachute
    • gardening resources

Small world play

Rugs, builders tray, dolls house, furniture and people reflecting diversity, roadways, cars and trucks, dinosaurs, jungle animals, wild animals, farm buildings and animals, train set, mini beasts, wooden village.

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Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information provided in this directory, we do not accept any responsibility or liability for any errors that have occurred. It is recommended that you always check with providers that their service or organisation meets your requirements. We offer an impartial service and we cannot recommend or endorse any providers listed.

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