Have you ever said to yourself? “This playground would be a great place for a Play Day.” Is there a playground in your community that welcomes people of all abilities, ages, and backgrounds to play? Are there activities all ages can enjoy? If you answered yes to these questions, then that playground may be the ideal place to hold a Play Day.
Why hold a Play Day at a playground? Well, for obvious reasons there are already built-in activities children and adults enjoy. The more variety of activities that span infants to seniors the better. Places to sit and take a break, areas that are covered, and access to restrooms are all pluses.
When I founded a play committee in March 2009 the first Play Day we planned to hold it at Heffner playground in Takoma Park, Maryland. I suggested this playground because it offered many amenities including:
- an indoor facility if it rained
- a bathroom for attendees & volunteers
- a small kitchen where refreshments were served
- an enclosed playground so young children could freely play
- a Touch-A-Truck event was being held within fifty yards of the playground for free and ran from 10am-noon. We held our Play Day from 11 am-1 pm.
When planning a Play Day at a playground list the obvious activities already offered: climbing, sliding, swinging, and paved areas for scooters and tricycles. Plan other activities in outdoor areas you may wish to offer: bubbles, corn hole, dress-up, face painting, hula-hoops, jump roping, playing with play dough, and sidewalk chalk. These were a list of some of the activities we offered that day. At our first Play Day our then State Senator of Maryland Jamie Raskin led Simon Says. Joann, a neighbor, brought friends to perform Turkish Dancing. Our Play Day ended up being a whopping success.
Debra who was the Director of Recreation at the time joined us and took the photo of me showing a little guy how to hit a sponge ball over a net. In November 2009 this photo and write-up appeared on the front page of our Takoma Park Newsletter, a monthly free paper mailed to every resident.
Since that first Play Day in September 2009, we have organized and held 35 Play Days. Three Play Days were virtual during the early days of the pandemic. In 2021 we wrote two Play Day Handbooks, which can be ordered here. I have also produced two children’s books to encourage play, “Let’s Play at the Playground,” and “Let’s Play Outside.” Watch a voice trailer for “Let’s Play Outside.” When children see these eye-catching photographs of children playing outside, they will invariably ask if they can go play at a playground. You can order play clothes, t-shirts, ball caps, tote bags, etc. as well on our online play shop. All great recourses for planning a play day at the playground.
Playground companies around the world build spectacular playgrounds designed by talented playground designers meant for children and adults to enjoy regularly. These professionals may not have imagined your community holding an annual Play Day event at one of the playgrounds they have created. If you are planning an event at the perfect park or playground, contact your local government and recreation department to ask them if they can help fund a Play Day. Maybe they would be willing to help organize the Play Day. Our recreation department along with our public works department, library staff, and our city TV crew all help make our Play Days a special community event that is 100% FREE for the attendees.
Our recreation department assists us in getting the permits we need to reserve our Takoma Park Middle School grounds outside and the two gyms and an all-purpose room inside. Of course, we reserve the restrooms as well. The library staff offers activities in English and in Spanish, which reaches out to attendees who speak Spanish as their first language. Our public works department sends a driver and truck to pick up the equipment and return the equipment at the end of the day. They also bring eight to ten large vehicles for children and adults to climb on and play. The city TV crew interviews people at our Play Day and films people playing throughout the day. Check out our YouTube channel and like us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Regularly our mayor and city council members not only attend Play Day, but you can find them playing activities throughout the Play Day.
For those of you inspired to plan a Play Day I urge you to seek out playful people in your community, have fun organizing the event and remember to play at the Play Day. Go play!