The Fort William Board of Parks and Recreation

Playground Special Events Manual 

A typed document talking about special events for playgrounds

Introduction to Special Events

Special Events afford the opportunity for children to participate in something "special" besides the weekly programme. It may be a sand castle contest in the sandbox for pre-schoolers or a "tug-of-war" contest in the evening for young boys 10 to 14 years of age.

The important feature of special events is that the children will aid in suggestions for such days and will help organize the day. Volunteers can help greatly in this kind of activity keeping children in the group, judging and giving out prizes.

A well planned special event is always a success, but sometimes a spontaneous special event is just as successful.

Some Ideas in Planning a Special Event

  1. Decide with children, date, time, place, kind of event.
  2. Advertise on bulletin board, local stores, town criers, community news.
  3. Radio announcements, write-ups in paper, be handled through Head Supervisor.
  4. Decide with children what kind of prizes are necessary.
  5. Decide on judges 2 or 3 days prior to special event day.
  6. In case of cancellation due to rain or other causes have alternate date set and announced.
  7. If a promise has been made to the children, the directors should make very sure to carry through plans. 

A typed document detailing opening day celebrations

Opening Day Celebration

We are suggesting a full scale parade, picnic and races for your opening day. This is a publicity stunt to advertise your playground and to increase the interest in your programme.


Organize committees.

  • Use every possible method of publicity.
  • Get your adults committees working. 
  • Children love to dress up, show off, decorate their tricycles, wagons, doll carriages. Use all these for your parade.
  • Get placards, banners, flags.
  • Use clowns, decorated pets, floats, tin can or wash tub band, decorated bicycles, noise makers. Make it a community event.
  • Decide on parade route through residential district.
  • Small children cannot walk far, so don't make the route too long.
  • Advise office re: parade route and starting time. Keep the children off the road.


  • Judging: Costumes, decorations, etc.
  • Parade: Parade marshall, followed by banners and placards, small children walking, small children's vehicles, clowns, decorated bicycles, older children walking, floats.
  • Picnic: Basket picnic on playground. Children's games, stories. Older children's races, novelty races, games, sports.
  • Evening: Teen and adults sports such as horseshoes, volleyball.
A typed document detailing what to do with "small fry" participants

For the small fry:

  • Building up the Event: Almost all children have heard of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer. Tell the children these favourite stories - describe Huckleberry. Have the children draw him. Make posters publicizing the event.
  • Costumes: Yes. Each child becomes Huckleberry Finn for a day. Be certain each Huck is equipped with a fishing pole.
  • Fish: All Varieties. A wading pool stocked with wooden fish that have been constructed by the older children. Place a bent nail in the back of each fish so that the children will be able to hook them.

Prizes might be awarded for:

  1. Best Huck Finn
  2. Best equipped fisherman
  3. Most fish caught
  4. Best tomboy
  5. Youngest boy or girl who didn't catch a fish
  6. First fish caught

Slices of watermelon would make an ideal treat for the occasion.

Other Events:

  • How about adding a freckle and pigtail contest to the special day's attraction
  • Insect collections might be displayed and ribbons awarded for the
    1. Largest collection
    2. Most unusual looking insect
    3. Prettiest insect 

A description of the potential for a doll show to be held for children


Doll Show

Planning and Preparation:

  • This event can be held in connection with other events and give the little girls a part in the programme. The idea can be used a number of times during the season.
  • Announce the event in the usual way, and plan a special feature for display, judging and presentation of prizes. Every little girl has a doll and loves to show it off and have it admired.


Depending on the number and types of entries classification can be decided, such as best dressed, smallest, largest, most comical, etc. Have a parade of dolls past the judges and then display them for final selection and presentation of prize ribbons.

To add to the programme, have doll carriages and other vehicles in which dolls can ride decorated with crepe paper, flowers, etc. Another idea would be to have little girls in costume as mothers, nurses, teachers. Make a big feature of this event, take pictures of the winner. Give the programme as much prominence as your other special events. It may be the biggest event in some little girl's life.

  • Doll Show can be combined with Pet Show. 
  • Penny Carnival
  • A Penny Carnival will prove lots of fun to the children -- not only the actual carnival itself, but the planning and setting up of the various events will appeal to the children's imagination. Listed below are a few ideas that might prove successful.
  • Funny House: Cover the jungle gym with newspaper or wrapping paper, and dream up surprises for whoever goes through it. There will be an entrance and an exit close to the ground.
  • Refreshments: Have a few mothers provide lemonade, home made candy
  • Ring Toss: Can have scaler rings and stakes in the ground.
  • Nine Pins: Using a ball and plastic bottles.
  • Throws: Throwing softballs for distance.
  • Fish Pond
  • Weight Guessing Booth.

A typed manual detailing activities for play and playgrounds

What to Make:

  1. Make 25 to 30 fish out of wood. This can be done during craft session. Make a large hole (size of twenty-five cent piece) for the mouth. Paint fish any colour and shellac.
  2. Fishing poles any length of sticks (length of old broom handles will do).
  3. Use.

What to Do:

  1. Arrange the date and age group who can participate.
  2. Advertise by circulars, radio and press, and yourself.
  3. Arrange for prizes.
  4. Write up rules and regulations and explain such to everyone.
  5. The one who catches the most fish in 15 minutes wins something special.


Paint fish different colours

  • Blue 5 points
  • Red 4 points
  • Yellow 3 points
  • White 2 points etc.

Someone who can add keeps score - "Recreation is not alone for the children, but for the aged also, because the aged know enough to learn."

  • Pet Show
  • Planning: Appoint committees, advertise it, talk about it, plan classifications, entry forms, judges. Decide on a date and time. Arouse interest. Talk it up. All animals should be on a leash.   
  • Publicity: Posters, sandwich boards, announcements. Tell dog stories.
  • Entry Forms: Should include type of pet, breed, owner's name, address and telephone number.
  • Award Prizes: Appearance, decorations, largest, smallest, most tricks, behaviour, etc.
  • Programme: Have judging committee, have a parade of pets. Have them perform tricks -- present prizes.

A typed document detailing activities for play and playgrounds

Hat Show:

Suggest that Everyone on the Playground Wear a Fancy Hat

  • Planning: Publicize the event in advance - use colourful signs. Use as a craft project during the week. Have children make their own hat on the playground or at home. Use crepe paper, flowers, leaves, bark, feathers, newspapers, crafts of felt or printed cotton and a dozen other waste material items. Cover old straw hat or felt hats with fancy trimmings. Select judges in advance and post their names on the bulletin board.
  • Programme: Have all children parade before the judges, and stop where all can see, in a line or circle. Have various classifications - best looking hat, most comical hat, most original, youngest entry, most colourful etc. Present prize ribbons and take snapshot of the group.  

Art Fair:

  • Supply the children with a minimum supply of materials.
  • Include a good deal of art work in your craft programme preceding the special event.


  • Crayon - Free hand drawings design
  • Water Paints
  • Chalk
  • Spatter Paints
  • Finger Paintings
  • Free hand cutting and painting
  • Potato Prints
  • Soap Carving

A typed manual on play and playground activities

Birthday Party

Planning and Preparation:

  • Everyone can't have a birthday during the summer months, but they can have a party to celebrate the birthdays of the other children. Plan a monthly birthday party for those children having birthdays during the month and invite all the children to participate.
  • Any party requires careful planning. Appoint committees for publicity, decorations, invitations, refreshments. A meeting of all the committees can decide the details of the programme, date, time, etc.

Publicity & Invitations:

  • Vary the method each time to add interest in the event. Personal invitations, posters, letters, or verbal invitations could be used. Invite the parents too.
  • Decorations and Refreshments:
  • Flowers, coloured paper streamers, cake with candles or individual iced cupcakes are a few suggestions. Others would be dixie cups, revels, candies, pink lemonade. Five or ten cents might be collected from those attending to cover minimum costs.


  • Start the party when first guests arrive. Use party games, identification games and stunts or sing-song. Have a diversified programme of quiet games, musical or singing games, amateur entertainment.
  • Finish with refreshments -- close with "Happy Birthday".   

A typed manual on play and playgrounds

An Inter-playground Visitation Day should  be planned during the summer. This is the day the playgrounds visit one of the playgrounds in their area.

Each playground has playground colours. It is suggested that you have the children make badges (they stand up better) or if this is not possible, pin short strips of playground colour to each child. This will help immeasurably in keeping track of your charges.

Suggested Programme:

  • 1:00 pm Meet children on your own area for trip to other playground. Each child should have two car tickets if the distance is too far for walking, and a picnic lunch.
  • 1:30 pm Official welcome to the visitors by Playground Supervisors and children.
  • 2:00 pm Free Play
  • 2:15 pm Inter-playground races
  • 4:00 pm Volleyball games; Horseshoe tournament; Group games: dodge ball, speed, three deep, street and alleys, crows and cranes
  • 4:30 pm Picnic lunch
  • 5:00 pm Homeward bound "Thanks for the day"

Depending on age group and volunteer assistance, programme can be extended into the evening.

Supervisors on playgrounds participating in this off-the-area features will do their utmost to interest all children, parents too, in the event. 

A manual of activities for play and playground

These are suggested projects for "Family Night" programme:

  1. Supper, family forum sing song, folk dancing.
  2. Supper - playground clean-up.
  3. Family baseball
  4. Working bee
  5. Game night - bridge, crib, bingo, whist, checkers, monopoly
  6. Family track and field
  7. Family amateur night.
  8. Family athletic night.
  9. Bonfire, wiener roast, sing-song and dance.
  10. Garden show.

Planning and preparation:

  1. Publicize the fact that it is Family Night on the playground
  2. The family forum -- this is your chance to sell parents and children on the family night idea. Welcome them to the playground.
  3. Suggest setting up a Family Council who will be consultants and aids in all phases of the playground programme. Show the group the suggested list of projects.
  4. If they approve, then start in on plans for the clean-up evening and begin tentative arrangements for building of craft table, family baseball, etc.
  5. If the parents have other ideas and objectives in mind, get them down on paper. Start plans for next family night.
  6. Encourage family participation in the overall playground - referees, umpires, help with crafts and games, story telling. The success of the playground programme depends not only on the planning and preparation of the supervisor but the participation and interest of the parents.
  7. The final family night may well incorporate the garden show as a "feature" of the programme. 

A manual of activities for play and playgrounds




  1. How birds can be identified: Size, colour, song, flight pattern
  2. Collect pictures of birds from picture cards, magazines, etc.
  3. Discuss principles of flight, how birds use wings, tail, etc.
  4. Keep bird watching charts to show when each child sees different birds and where.
  5. Have children discuss the habits, nests, migration, food, plumage of birds they have observed.
  6. Discuss how feathers protect birds from extremes of temperatures and rain.

Arts and Crafts:

  1. Paper mobiles of different birds.
  2. Birds made of wood, asbestos, papier mache.
  3. Drawings and paintings of birds.
  4. Drawings and models of nests.
  5. Bird houses and feeding stations.
  6. Paper costumes.
  7. Birds made from paper bags.
  8. Bird tree 
  9. Water birds stuck in corks or styrofoam to float on wading pool
  10. Mural
  11. Bird puppets
  12. Wire sculpture
  13. Paper plate birds


  1. The Ugly Duckling
  2. How the Robin got his Red Breast
  3. The Bird who Spoke Three Times
  4. True stories of a bird's life cycle
  5. The Nightingale
  6. The Goose that Laid the Golden Egg


  1. Imitations of bird movements, noises, etc. Story of the carrier.



A manual of play and playground activities


Cock Robin, Yellow Bird, My Pigeon House, Sing a song of sixpence, Six Little Ducks, Junior Birdsmen, Alouette, Let's All Sing Like the Birdies Sing, Bluebird on my Windowsill, I Saw a Little Bird Flying


  1. Prisoner's Base - adaptation. Each child has name of different bird. "It" is the hunter.
  2. Blow the Feather
  3. "Sharp Eyes" contest to see who has noted the most details of a bird.
  4. Crows and Cranes
  5. Cat and Mouse adapted to "Cat and Bird"
  6. Squirrels adapted to Birds in Trees
  7. Blind Man's Bluff, using bird sounds for identification.

Special Event:

  • Bird oriented Stunt Day
  • Bird Watchers' Display Day
  • Special visitor to speak on birds

Recipe for Bird Watcher & Feeder

  • Equal parts of beef suet, corn meal and bird seed. Melt suet and add other ingredients. Pack into waxed cardboard cartons. Make slits in cardboard. Hang from tree branches.  

A manual of activities for play and playgrounds

Arts and Crafts:

  • Gadgets - cigarette lighters, traps (mouse), robots, brain machines, door knockers
  • Posters illustrating different machines used in every day life: steam engine, tractor, wheelbarrows, tow trucks, and all other kinds of vehicles
  • Water wheel machine
  • Dancing dolls on top of a spool
  • Toys using one of six simple machines


  • Pretending to be robots, IBM Machines
  • Make a life story of a machine from when they are brand new until they are old and worn out and are being carted off to the junkyard
  • The little caboose story


  • Upset the Fruit Basket could be changed to Upset the Machine Shed
  • Relay race with machine part names
  • Guessing games - each person could be a machine and others would guess what he was

Special Event:

  • Crazy Machine Show


  • Junior Birdsman changed to Junior Robot
  • Rhythms of machines working well, jerkily, running down, sputtering, etc

A manual of activities for play and playgrounds



  1. Discuss gardens children have at home - what is in them, and why.
  2. Make a collection of seeds and leaves found in gardens.

Arts & Crafts:

  1. Garden Sticks
  2. Miniature garden in box


  • Mulberry bush
  • In an English Country Garden
  • Ring around the Rosie
  • The Ants Go Marching
  • Mary Mary, Quite Contrary
  • Petunia in an Onion Patch


  • Flower beginning to bloom
  • Worm crawling out of the ground
  • Wind in a tree
  • Beehive
  • Ant Colony

Special Events

  • Flower Show
  • Vegetable Show


  • Hot Potato
  • Potato Race
  • Robbing the Orchard
  • I Fill My Basket
  • Thinking of a Vegetable 

A manual of activties for play and playgrounds




  • Discussion of different insects found on the Playground.
  • Use of magnifying glass to see detail of bugs and insects found.
  • Observation of ants in an ant hill.
  • Observation of caterpillars, earthworms, and spiders
  • Make a terrarium
  • Have an insect zoo
  • Transplant an ant colony
  • Collect pictures of insects from magazines, picture cards, etc.

Arts and Crafts:

  • Bug tree
  • Costumes
  • Bug garden - Scrap craft
  • Insect zoo - real insects
  • Ant colony
  • Paper Craft - butterflies, moths, beetles, worms, etc
  • Mural
  • Painting insects' eye view of flowers, grass, etc
  • Insect puppets


  1. Life cycle stories of various insects
  2. The Grasshopper and the Ants
  3. Life Story of the Spider


  1. Imitations of bug and insect walks, sounds
  2. Ant colony
  3. Bee hive
  4. Butterfly Ball


  1. The ants go marching
  2. Shoo Fly can't bother me
  3. A hunting we will go
  4. Old MacDonald had a Bug Farm
  5. Imitations of Insect songs using rhythm instruments


  1. Bug races and relays
  2. Go in and out of the windows: adaptation, bees go in and out of the flowers
  3. Insect tag
  4. Spider and the Web

Special Events:

  1. Stunt Day with insect named teams, insect oriented stunts
  2. Field trip for collecting insects
  3. Special speaker
  4. Parade of insects (costumes)
  5. Display of crafts and collections.

A manual of activities for play and playgrounds

Pineapple Festival:

  1. All children in their assigned places in them semi-circle, on both sides of the king and queen and their party.
  2. The royal party will consist of 10 members (a king, queen, and princes and princesses). One member will be taken from each playground.
  3. The royal party enters the semi-circles after all the other children have seated themselves.
  4. Presentation from each playground to the Pineapple King and Queen.

As each group comes forth, it throws flowers on to the royal platform.

  1. Maypole -- Vickers
  2. Dance of the Volcano Goddess -- East End
  3. Lovely Hula Hands -- Tarbutt
  4. Hawaiian Wedding Song -- Chapples
  5. Luau Sticks -- Minnesota
  6. Island in the Sun -- Dease
  7. Ito Eats -- Heath and Wayland
  8. Happy Talk -- Tot Lot
  9. Rhythm Band -- Green Acres  

All the children sing the songs for the dancers.

Finale: Everyone join hands in a circle to sing: Aloha Oe, Now is the Hour.  

Title: Playgrounds Special Events Manual
Date: ca. 1955
Creator: The Fort William Board of Parks and Recreation
Series: 121, Fort William Parks & Recreation Files
Location: TBA 4802-11

Contact Us