Build Day and Beyond for Children's Activities
Final planning steps
Site layout and build timetable
Your co-chair(s) will need your help in creating a detailed site layout that shows the location of all the teams' activities. To do your part, sketch the location and orientation of the children's activity tables. If you have a choice of where to set up, keep safety in mind: you want children to be in view of the build site, but at a safe distance.
Remember that children are not allowed on the construction site. A partially enclosed area helps with supervision; it's also a good idea to place children near a shady, restful spot.
An official build timetable is another way for co-chair(s) to ensure that everyone is on the same page...literally! It's essentially a script for site prep and Build Days, a single document that pulls together all the teams' activities and lists them in order. Your co-chair(s) will need from you a detailed Children's Team schedule including your team's arrival times, deliveries of supplies, major children's activities, and who will be participating in each task.
Wrapping up team tasks
As you approach the build, it's time to finish solicitations and finalize your schedule of activities. First, make sure you have a complete list of children's donors and volunteers. Then check off these tasks for a strong finish:
Organize donor and volunteer confirmation calls
The playspace build is a big deal to you and your team, but it may slip the minds of busy supporters. They may also realize, at the last minute, that they have scheduling conflicts! Check to make sure that all of your donors have received written confirmation letters, clarifying the details of their contribution and inviting them to the build. Then divide your donor and volunteer lists into small groups and have each of your team members perform follow-up calls. These should be conducted no more than one week before the build.
Check your supplies
Are all your supplies on hand? Will any be picked up or delivered the day of the build? Do you need to make purchases? Check with your donors and volunteers to confirm that all supplies will be arriving as needed.
Consider emergency sources of supplies
Just in case you need popsicle sticks or glue at the last minute, designate a "runner" who will have a car on hand. Be sure to talk to your co-chair(s) about whether petty cash will be available, and how it will be disbursed.
Consider emergency sources of volunteers
If volunteers are late or absent, do you have someone you can turn to? Work with your team members to develop a list of names or organizations who might help you in a pinch.
Set up a communication system
You may need a way to contact donors and volunteers from the build site. Make sure that you have a cell phone and that important contacts have the number where they can reach you.
Your co-chair(s) have probably scheduled a walk through, or "dress rehearsal," a day or two before the build. The whole committee will look to you for the following information:
- Where will children's activities be held?
- What will they be doing?
- How many children and how many supervisors are you expecting?
- Are there any times when children will be present on the build site, such as mini-tours or visits?
- What is the children's role in the ribbon-cutting ceremony?
Overseeing the big day
Build Day is here! It's going to be an exciting, fast-paced, tiring day. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- First thing in the morning, set up the children's area and make sure it's clearly marked. Count your supplies. Note the location of the first aid kit or station.
- As your volunteers arrive, greet them and make sure that they're properly registered with the Recruitment Team. Explain the children's sign-in procedures and answer any questions about the day's activities. Check your timetable to make sure that volunteers are showing up to fulfill their shifts.
- Help parents register their children as they arrive; it's important that they give their consent and understand project procedures. Be sure to record any food allergies or special needs, along with emergency contact information.
- Be aware of what's going on at the construction site throughout the day; there may be opportunities for the children to visit or lend a hand with side projects.
- Note children's level of engagement and energy - they may become tired, thirsty or bored quickly. On the flip side, you may find that certain activities are taking too long. That's ok! The goal is to keep children occupied.
- Keep the children's area as tidy as possible, and conduct a thorough clean-up at the end of each day.
- Encourage everyone to have fun!
Tip: If you have access to a camera, take pictures of sponsor-recognition signs or banners displaying the names of businesses who donated supplies. Be sure to get action shots of the kids enjoying themselves (but first, make sure you have photo releases signed)! These can be sent with thank-you letters to show your appreciation.
"During the first day of the build, parents kept checking in to see if their kids were okay. I think some of them even said they were quitting early because they needed to take their children home. The problem was that the kids did not want to go! We had so many activities planned - coloring contests, castle building, pin-the-tail on the elephant - the kids were having a great time. In some cases, that meant mom or dad had to turn around and work on the playground a few hours longer. I think that was our success...we made it so they couldn't use their little Jimmy as an excuse!"
-Sheryl, Detroit playground build
After the last bolt is tightened and the last pile of surfacing is raked underneath the new playground, it's time to finally CELEBRATE the achievement of your long-standing goal!
A festive post-build ceremony can distinguish a good build from a great and memorable one, because it magnifies the pride and emotion felt by all the playspace builders and volunteers. An official ribbon-cutting ceremony is also a great chance for you to bring the "designers" of the playspace, the children, back onto the site for a photo opportunity.
(Remember, the playspace may not be ready for play! If concrete was used, it will need up to 72 hours to set.) Here are a few ways that KaBOOM! partners have involved children in this momentous occasion:
- Colorful puppets took the stage in Kiowa, Colo., for a ribbon-cutting musical show written and performed by local children.
- Children from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Las Vegas made and decorated goodie bags for all the build volunteers, stuffed with prizes from local vendors, club merchandise, pencils, candy, and t-shirts.
- Volunteers at the Girls, Inc. build in Omaha, Neb., were treated to a personal poetry reading that honored their service. Ten girls also spelled out V-O-L-U-N-T-E-E-R-S, with each letter representing a quality shared by the community builders.
- An all-school assembly was the setting for the ribbon-cutting ceremony at C. O. Greenfield Elementary in Phoenix, Ariz., with entertainment provided by the school marching band and flag team.
- Every student at Immaculate Conception in Memphis, Tenn., colored a paper doll to look like him/herself. All of the dolls were cut out and strung together with yarn, making a special chain for their playspace's Ribbon-Cutting.
- The roster of guest speakers for a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Little Rock, Ark., included a congressman, superintendent of schools, the president of the PTA, and a representative from CNA, the corporate sponsor. The person chosen to cut the ribbon, however, was the 8-year-old girl whose drawing had been chosen for the event's t-shirts.
- The Santa Monica, Calif., YWCA finished their Build Day with a simple milk-and-brownie toast!
Thanks to your efforts, your community is now a better place for children and their families. You've shown people what can happen when citizens fight for positive change, and you've created a working model for future projects. To make sure that these seeds of change grow and blossom in the years ahead, we suggest taking a few simple steps toward maintaining your playspace and its network of supporters:
Introduce children to their new playspace
As the concrete cures on your new playspace, kids will be eagerly waiting to pounce on the new equipment. Swings, slides and climbers need no introduction! However, children may not understand the limits of their new playspace. This is your last chance to reinforce rules and procedures before unsafe habits get underway. Work with your co-chair(s) and fellow team captains to schedule a special playspace-orientation session that covers affirmative rules for the space (what to do, instead of what not to do), emergency procedures and simple daily maintenance. Then celebrate your success the right way...by playing!
Send thank-you letters
Can you think of people who deserve a special thank-you for their hard work and support? Let them know! By taking the time to recognize them and make them feel appreciated, you ensure that they'll stay involved in your community in the future.
Evaluate your planning process
If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently? What worked and what flopped? Your experience will prove invaluable to community organizers down the road, so take the time to record your team's thoughts.
Contribute to a "Friends of the Playspace" group
Your co-chair(s) or fellow team captains may be interested in forming an ongoing group to support the maintenance and programming of your new playspace. Children's team members can contribute by maintaining relationships with sponsors and volunteers, and giving them new opportunities to be involved. You might suggest ongoing programming ideas such as clubs, recreation classes or after-school learning. You could lead children in new service endeavors to enhance the playspace or take the message of safe play to other neighborhoods.