Simple Service: Sand Pails for Parks

Service Project: Leave sand pails with encouraging messages at local parks
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cost: $1 per sand pail at dollar-type stores
Duration: 20 minutes (this does not include time spent driving to the parks and the subsequent sand play that will surely follow!)
Lesson(s) learned: You can brighten the day of kids using community parks without even being there! 
How we did it:
Trying to come up with service projects for a 2-year-old (soon to be 3!) can be challenging at times. Don’t get me wrong, there are a ton of opportunities to do good things for the community. What I find challenging at times is how to select service opportunities that Addie can really relate to. It’s important to me that she somehow connect with the service “job” that she’s doing. So, how do I come up with service opportunities for her? I listen to her. Toddlers love to talk, don’t they? At times it can sound like endless chatter. Addie loves to talk about everything that she sees. Her favorite question is “Why?’” I love that about her and I love listening to her chatter so that I can figure out where her mind is going with a particular thought. 
A dear friend of mine recently had a fundraising event at her house and was left with a bunch of sand pails that had been used as decoration. She gave them to me so that I could donate them to Addie’s school. It was so generous of her! I had them sitting in our garage in a plastic bag right next to our ‘Donation Corner’ that Addie set up earlier this year. One afternoon, Addie was fumbling around in the bag and started asking questions about the sand pails. She has a sand pail that we take to the park with us so she must have thought that she hit the jackpot when she found a bag with over 30 sand pails! Well, Addie started chattering away about this jackpot of sand pails and how she wanted to go to the park with them. I reminded her that she already had a sand pail and that I would love her help delivering the new ones to her school. She insistently talked about sand pails being at parks. Even though she didn’t use the exact words, I felt like she was telling me that sand pails didn’t belong at school but they belonged at parks. 
BAM! It hit me that this was an opportunity to have Addie do something kind with some of the sand pails. Here’s how our conversation went;
Mama: “Addie, would you like to take some of these sand pails to a few parks and leave them for other children to play with?”
Addie: “Sand pails should go to parks <pause> so friends can play with them.” 
Mama: “How about we write nice notes on the sand pails to make the kids even happier?”
Addie: “<babble>, <babble>, <babble> Kids should be happy. When they play with sand pails they are happy.” 
Super! We have a plan! 
Note for older children: I would encourage older children to come up with their own saying for the sand pails and decorate them themselves. Addie put her “signature” on the bottom of our sand pails. 
What you will need: 
Sand pail(s)
Sharpie marker(s)

First, gather all your supplies for the project. Addie is ready with her marker!

I had Addie start by signing the bottom of each sand pail. In retrospect, I should have let her decorate on the inside of the pail, too! 

We spent quite a bit of time talking about what to write on the outside of the sand pails to make other kids happy. We came up with the following;
Be a good friend
Make others smile
Do something nice for someone else
Make a difference today
Help those in need
Share your happiness with others
Be kind to others 

Hopefully some of these sayings will help start a conversation between the child and the parent! Let’s propagate the goodness! 

Here’s all of our personalized sand pails! 

Yes! Let’s all strive to make a difference today! 

After we finished preparing our sand pails, we set out to deliver them to three different parks. Addie was so excited about it! 

Our first stop was a play structure at a low-income apartment building. Addie insisted on hand delivering all the pails directly to the play structure. She’s taking charge and I love it! 

Three out of seven sand pails delivered. Check, check! 

Our second stop was a community park not far from where we live. Oddly enough, we’ve never taken Addie to this particular park even though we drive by it daily. She’s a swing kind-a gal. This park has no swings. Since we drive by it so often, I thought it would present a great opportunity to remind Addie of the good she’s doing for her community. 

After she had carefully placed her sand pails where she wanted them, Addie found it necessary to check out the steering wheel. 

Our last park was one that Addie is really familiar with. Although it’s currently under construction, it has a very large sand pit with a newly erected play structure. 

Based on the signage, the new sand pit play area will be available to enjoy in less than a week. What a perfect time for us to deliver brand new sand pails! 

We trekked to three different towns and left our seven, smile-inducing, personalized pails at one low-income housing play area and two heavily used community parks. One of the parks is where we take Addie after a long bike ride. I’m curious to see how long the sand pails remain at the park. How wonderful it would be to go back in a few weeks and show Addie that they are still being enjoyed! Fingers crossed! 
Have fun delivering your sand pails and smiles!