Our Build & Play programs are held at local nonprofit organizations that host preschool and afterschool programs in under-resourced communities in Palm Beach County. Each Build & Play session invites children of all ages to create, invent, and build anything using their imagination and a huge pile of loose parts such as large and small cardboard boxes, lots of tape, fabric, paper tubes, yarn, art supplies, etc.
We host the program in an open space at schools and afterschool centers, our play counselors set up the space with materials, and support the children as they lead in their own play, building their creativity, communication, collaboration and critical thinking skills in the process.
Build & Play Afterschool
Build & Play Afterschool initially started as a mobile pop-up-play program visiting children in afterschool programs at local nonprofit organizations. In 2019, the program grew when we received our first grant from Children’s Services Council allowing us to offer Build & Play sessions on a consistent weekly basis and expand the program to be offered at more sites in the community. Since its debut, Build & Play Afterschool has partnered with 5 local nonprofit organizations bringing weekly play sessions after school hours to children in kindergarten to 5th grade at local afterschool centers. Our play counselors work with afterschool coordinators on providing a safe open space outdoors for children to run out their energy, build creations and play with one another.
In every session, our play counselors observe leaps in creativity in just having the program offered on a weekly basis. In one session, children built a time machine (to go back to the 1980’s!), a cozy home (with a decorated Christmas party room and full bathroom with a toothbrush), a dog house (with a dog), and a restaurant serving delicious hot soups to the students and adults.
Again and again, in session after session, children show us their creativity and potential when they are given the space to play and build – in just the span of 90 minutes, once a week.
Build & Play Preschool
Build & Play Preschool debuted in 2022 at Achievement Centers. The program hosts 60-minute sessions during the mornings for several classes on a weekly basis. Play counselors and teachers work together on creating a safe and fun environment that promotes child-led creative, pretend, sensory and cooperative play.
Children in the preschool program use similar loose parts materials as our Afterschool program to engage in child-initiated creative play. We found that the preschoolers like to build ALOT. When freedom to use as many boxes and tape as you desire is paired with the boundless imagination of 4-year old children, the results show that their imagination, creativity and determination has no limits. They’ve used the boxes and tape to create cars, helicopters, robots, even a giant elephant. The children also engage in a lot of pretend play such as pretending to be robots, running a restaurant, playing with dinosaurs, dressing up, etc. Their personality, creativity, thoughts, and joy are revealed through play.
Build & Play Middle School
Middle schoolers are not too old to play!
The US Play Coalition funded our Build & Play Middle School pilot program in 2020. We held Build & Play sessions at Purpose Academy and Milagro Center. Loose parts, STEM and art supplies were available to the students. Our play counselors strongly encourage students take the lead in however they choose to spend their time, yet we support and offer our help when needed to carry out their goals.
In an early session of the pilot program, several students collectively built Dr. Seuss’ Whoville Christmas village from cardboard boxes, tape, fabric and chalk. At most sessions, students tend to engage in rough and tumble play and pretend to be invincible with pool noodles, giant television boxes, and hand-made cardboard swords and shields. Students loved having access to the many art and science supplies and the freedom to use these supplies to create whatever creations they chose (e.g. a painting of the Haitian flag, painting each others faces, making play dough and oobleck). The sessions showed us that middle school children still need and want PLAY.
Our past and current Build & Play partners include:
Build & Play is a community program of Sunflower Creative Arts, a Delray Beach based 501c3 nonprofit empowering children to be confident, creative and compassionate through Play, Nature and the Arts. We are funded by donors, grants, Sunflower Creative Arts and Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County.