February 28, 2018

Playground Building 101: Tips for a Successful Playground Build

Today is the Day!

This is part three of our three-part series on how to build a playground. Read parts one and two.

After all your planning, fundraising and scheduling, the day has arrived. Here are some tips to make sure your build day goes smoothly for everyone involved:

1. Check Everything

Each playground equipment vendor will have a slightly different handling method, but you can be sure that your playground equipment will be carefully manufactured, coded with respective part numbers, wrapped, and when possible, palletized for shipment from the factory.

You should inventory all of the pieces as they are unloaded from the carrier’s truck. Pieces may include individual items, such as slides or decks, or large consolidated boxes containing smaller items packaged together.  Don’t open anything until you’ve made sure it’s all there! Also, never sign a freight bill without counting pieces and noting any package damage. The total pieces shipped should equal the number of packages and consolidated boxes unloaded from the truck. Your equipment will arrive with a bill of lading or “delivery check sheet.” Be sure to speak to your vendor in advance to know where to look for this. Note any shortages on the freight bill, and contact your local playground representative to arrange for an immediate replacement.

2. Open and Sort

After you have counted the shipment pieces to confirm all boxes have been shipped, you can open the boxes and sort and count the individual pieces within. Just a reminder that this should be an organized process, not a Christmas morning free for all! Be sure to ask your playground vendor for their recommendations on how best to undertake the opening. If there are missing items or damage caused by shipping, contact the manufacturer right away for guidance. By being organized and keeping an inventory log, you can contact your vendor right away and will have info like the order number, part number, and description of the problem at your fingertips. Your vendor will generally work to correct any issues as quickly as possible. As mentioned above, note issues on the freight bill. It will be necessary for processing freight claims.

In addition to equipment, you’ll have hardware that needs to be inventoried. We recommend putting one person in charge of the hardware. They’ll be responsible for keeping inventory, arranging them in numerical order and handing them out to team members as needed to build a particular component of the play system.

3. Prepare a Surfacing Area

If your surfacing doesn’t require professional installation, it will most likely be delivered around the same time as the equipment. It’s a good idea to have an area in mind to unload that is accessible to the delivery truck and close enough to the playground site to make transporting the equipment easy. This will make your volunteers happy! They’ll be using tarps and wheelbarrows to move the surfacing from the unloading site to the playground, so a close unloading site will save energy and time. If you are having your surfacing professionally installed, these installers will be taking care of the delivery and installation details once your volunteers are finished.

4. Start the Build

After you have inventoried your parts, it’s time to begin building. First things first, get your team organized! We recommend setting up a registration table where volunteers can sign in and fill out the waiver and photo release forms.  As mentioned in previous posts, these forms should be approved by an attorney. Also, have your volunteer team grab name tags so they get to know each other quickly!

Next, you’ll want to introduce your onsite supervisor to your volunteer team. This person is the expert on the build site and it will help make the day run more smoothly if your volunteers know who to take direction from. Your onsite supervisor will also have recommendations on dividing your group into teams and organizing them efficiently. Teamwork will be an important part of your build to lift, carry, and hold larger components in place as they are attached.

The build day can be long, so remember to treat your volunteers well!  Offering scheduled breaks in the build provides volunteers with some much-needed rest, and can help build team spirit and energy. Offer stretch breaks with a fitness trainer, create team cheers and have volunteers repeat it, play music, offer snack breaks or have a sunscreen dance!

Other Tips and Techniques for Installation Day

We touched on some of these tips in previous blog posts but felt like a refresher was important since these suggestions and ideas stem from experience in approaching a playground construction project by volunteers and professionals.

  • Determine playground location, making sure it is safe for children.
  • Note any special requirements needed prior to installation, such as removal of old debris, equipment, additional lighting, fencing, drainage work, etc.
  • Determine dimensions of playground site.
  • Re-establish your volunteer resources and skills. Have a committee member call them a few days in advance to ensure they still plan on attending your build!
  • Set a publicity plan and identify someone who can clearly communicate your mission to act as spokesperson.
  • Check with local utilities before installation day. Local utility companies will often donate the use of equipment with crews to dig the post holes for your installation.  Contact them well in advance to arrange for their services.
  • If post holes are dug in advance of installation day, be certain to cordon off the area with security tape or fencing to avoid tripping hazards.
  • Check with military bases, local National Guard facilities and the Army Corps of Engineers for potential manpower and assistance on playground projects. Area community service organizations may also be willing to help. It’s a good idea to make requests well in advance to be considered.
  • Contact local fast food restaurants and pizza delivery services about donating meals on the build day. Doughnuts and coffee for the early shift, burgers and fries for lunch, and pizza at dinner will make your crew feel appreciated and well fed! Remember, some of your crew might require vegetarian options, so it’s a good idea to be thoughtful when planning food selection.  Be certain to provide plenty of water, iced tea, and lemonade to drink throughout the day and a table of energy food for quick pick-me-ups.
  • If your volunteers will need childcare during build day, consider asking local service clubs, high school students, church youth groups, or senior citizen groups. Planned activities, coloring contests, snacks, and games will help keep children occupied and clear of construction.
  • Since most of your tools will be donated or borrowed, it is essential that you keep track of them.  First, make sure tools are labeled.  Second, set up a station where tools can be checked out and in.  This will cut down on missing tools.
  • Supply first-aid kits on site for small emergencies.
  • Make sure there is sufficient electrical service for the construction site.
  • Enlist volunteers to clean up the construction site after the installation is complete.

This blog series is part of a larger series on planning, funding, designing, building and sustaining a playground project. The information in these blog posts comes from the outstanding Blueprint for Play series by PlayCore. Request a free copy today!