In October 2019, SPI received funding from Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach to launch Build & Play After School, an enrichment program that encourages children to create, build, and PLAY with loose parts (open-ended materials). The hallmark of our program is giving children the freedom, space and time to engage in child-initiated creative play. The program visited after school programs serving economically-challenged elementary school children in Delray Beach and Lake Worth on a weekly basis. Up until mid-March 2020, we were gaining momentum, hosting 8 Build & Play sessions a week, and starting to expand our program to include middle school children. However, with the pandemic and closing of schools, Build & Play After School was put on pause. During the first month of staying home, our initial plan was to wait a couple months and resume the program during the summer, as we had planned on hosting Build & Play sessions at the summer camps of our partnered sites. However, in early May, holding summer camps on-site started to look uncertain. At that point, we were missing the children, thinking about how they were adjusting to social distancing and virtual schooling, and wondering if they were able to get some fresh air and play. It is during times of stress and uncertainty that children need play more than ever. After some brainstorming, we decided to pivot our program to bring play to children at home. We want to continue providing a play outlet for our Build & Play children but must adapt to the closures of summer programs and social distancing needs created by the Coronavirus pandemic. In mid-May, we launched Build & Play @ Home, a new initiative to bring child-directed creative play to children at home. Phase 1 of the initiative entailed packing and distributing 300 plastic shoeboxes filled with open-ended materials that encourage children to play and create at home.
One hundred children at Farmworker Coordinating Council were the first recipients of Sunflower Play Packs.
“We want to thank everyone at Sunflower for the effort to reach out to the community and especially to help the children during this pandemic. These play packs will have a very positive impact on the Farmworkers’ children.” – Patricia, Education Coordinator.
Other recipients include children at Milagro Center, Paul’s Place, and in our community. SPI continues to prepare and distribute more play packs for children with hopes of providing a second and third pack(with different materials) for the children stuck at home in the summer. We are also in the midst of putting together a middle school version of play packs so that older children can play too. Our goal is to make more than 500 play packs before the end of summer.
Phase 2 of our initiative will be to set up a Build & Play Lending Library at Farmworker Coordinating Council of Palm Beach. We are putting together 20 Build & Play totes that will be available for Farmworker’s families to borrow during the summer. Totes will consist of open-ended play materials that encourage children to play and create. Children will have access to Keva Planks, Marble Runs, Dr Drew Blocks, art supplies, games, 3D pens, Magnatiles, and more. Our hope for Build & Play @ Home initiative is for families to play more ultimately bringing more fun, joy and stress relief into children’s lives.
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