The one piece of advice I give to any one who has a decent budget to set up a nursery or preschool class is to invest in a set of hollow blocks, ideally if you can afford it the original ones from Community Playthings but if not there are lots of other companies making them now too.
In 2006 we bought a class set of hollow blocks & the storage cart & they have been such an asset to the class - ours are used outdoors as we just don't have the space indoors for them. In the past 8 years of constant use from February to June, they have weathered well, 2 of the planks split but this was our own fault as we left them outside in the rain overnight a few times. But luckily you can buy replacement sets easily.
I love watching how each class uses them differently, some years they make tables & chairs & lots of houses are built. Other years they build them as high as possible & love climbing on top of them. Sometimes they are used as props in other play - as robot feet or TV's etc.
I love that the open endedness of these products allows the children to engage with them in any way they want. They also learn very quickly that they are sore if dropped on toes or fingers, slippy on wet days or if your shoes are wet & that if they fall on your head, it really, really hurts!
One member of staff usually sets them up in the morning to get the children playing with them but they are then free to move them about & create whatever they want to with them.
My favourite post in the last Outdoor Play Party was from Wild Family Fun all about the fun Kim & her sister & their children had over half-term. It was lovely to see her young nephews enjoying such simple yet fun activities as den building & cooking marshmallows. Wonderful memories that I am sure her nephews will remember for a long time.