In May 2020, SPI launched Build and Play at Home, an initiative to bring play materials to children of economically-challenged families in Delray Beach and Lake Worth during this pandemic. Two hundred Sunflower Play Packs were made and distributed for the children at our partnered sites and in the community. Play packs are plastic shoe boxes filled with open-ended materials for children which invite child-initiated creative play at home on their own and/or with siblings. Our June play packs consisted of play dough, bubbles, a watercolor paint set, pipe cleaners, sidewalk chalk, etc. They were received with much enthusiasm and excitement from the children and administrators from our partnered organizations.
We are grateful to our funder, Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County, for supporting children’s need to play during this time and providing work for our Play Counselors, who were working with the children before schools closed.
In June, our Play Counselors packed 80 Middle/High school Sunflower Play Packs that were given to the older children at Milagro Center and Paul’s Place. Packs were filled with open-ended materials for art and sensory play such as watercolor paint, brush pens, model magic, wooden and stone beads, mixed-media journal, etc.
Because many children are stuck at home, we then set up a Summer Build & Play Library at Farmworker Coordinating Council of Palm Beach County for their families. The play library consists of 15 Play Borrow Bins filled with high quality open-ended play materials for families to borrow, return and exchange bins throughout the summer. Bins include Keva planks, Magnatiles, Lego, wooden blocks, seated scooters, jump ropes, board games, etc… The library allows children to play with harder to find and afford open-ended materials that they may not have at home.
The first week of the play library went well as families checked out some bins. Parents reported that they were playing games with their children. However due to the Covid-19 outbreak in that community, the play library was quickly put on hold during the 2nd week. We now know that the pandemic disproportionately impacts the Black and Latino communities. People of color are at an increased risk of serious illness due to the Coronavirus, and the Hispanic community in Lake Worth has been hit hard by the virus. We found out that many families would not take the Borrow Bins home because of fear of catching the virus despite efforts to disinfect the materials inside the bin. We hope that the COVID outbreak will minimize quickly, and we will be able to serve the children soon. In the meantime, we are in the midst of preparing 100 July Sunflower Play Packs (2nd installment) that will be safe for the children to keep home.
In Fall 2020, we plan to prepare Sunflower Play Packs in late August and September for the elementary children at our partnered after school sites that can be used after school onsite or at home if after school programs do not reopen. The Play Packs are a good source of play in times of social distancing and prevention of spreading germs. Each child will have their own box with materials that will be used and reused only by them. No sharing involved. Our hope is that children will continue to engage in child-initiated creative play during these uncertain times.
We are very grateful for the Children’s Services Council’s Great Ideas Initiative Grant. Through launching Build & Play, we have learned a lot, formed partnerships with local nonprofit organizations and most importantly, see the joy children experience while playing.