Using Brofenbrenner’s socio-ecological model as a conceptual framework, the objective of this study was to determine playground users (primary school staff and pupils) perceptions of the barriers and facilitators to a physically active school playground at an intra-personal (individual), inter-personal (social), environmental and policy level. Results from a series of qualitative interactions with children (n = 65) from years five and six (9 to 11 years old), and structured interviews with adult teachers (n = 11) revealed key differences in the child and adult perceptions of the playground and the purpose of break-times. A number of inter-related environmental boundaries and school policies were identified as restrictive to children’s explorations and activity levels during ‘free play’ periods, which centred on resource availability, accessibility and health and safety. Further, traditional playground hierarchies act to promote and prevent physical activity engagement for different groups (e.g. gender and age). Finally, differences between the adult and child perception of the primary school playground were observed. Playground physical activity, during break-times appears to be affected by a number of variables at each level of the socio-ecological model. This study provides an opportunity for primary schools to reflect on primary school playground strategies and practices that are implemented at each level of the socio-ecological model to encourage a more effective use of the playground during school break-times.