With Labor Day just a couple of weeks away, fall sports programs at your school or in your community will soon be ramping up again. While organized team sports offer valuable opportunities for kids to learn teamwork, responsibility, and sportsmanship, they can also carry the risk of serious injury: in the year 2013 alone, 1.24 million kids were treated in emergency rooms as the result of sports injuries.


Keeping kids safe on the field or the court is a group effort. Parents and the kids themselves bear part of the responsibility, as do coaches and team organizers. As you prepare to get your teams in gear, keep in mind these five safety pointers:


  1. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. It’s still plenty hot here in southeast Texas, and even when the weather begins to cool off, adequate hydration is a must. Make sure plenty of fresh water is available before, during, and after all practices, and schedule water breaks for every 15-20 minutes. It’s also important that kids learn to recognize the early signs of dehydration, including headache, dry lips, dizziness, and cramps.
  2. Enforce a zero-tolerance policy on “dirty play.” When adrenaline is running high and the game is on the line, some kids may be tempted to bend the rules and take cheap shots to gain an advantage. Make sure all players on the team (and their parents) understand the importance of fair play and respect for others, and address infractions promptly and appropriately.
  3. Encourage kids to speak up about injuries. Sometimes kids will try to “tough it out” when they suspect something is wrong; some may even see it as a sign of weakness to admit being injured. Have your coaches emphasize to the kids that their health is more important than winning any game, and let them know it’s OK to speak up any time they suspect an injury.
  4. Train coaches in injury prevention and first aid. All coaches should receive basic training in the prevention, recognition, and initial treatment of sports-related injuries. Make sure that a complete first aid kit is readily available at all times, and that it contains supplies appropriate to the sport (remember to check expiration dates regularly).
  5. Check surfaces. Uneven surfaces, potholes, and obstructions pose unnecessary injury risks for the whole team. Before every practice, make sure someone walks the entire field or court to ensure that the playing surface is free of hazards.


For more information on preventing kids’ sports injuries, check out the Safe Kids Worldwide sports page at safekids.org/sports. By taking a few precautions and putting some sensible rules and policies in place, you can ensure that the fun continues all season long — and keep injuries at bay.


With vacations winding down and school starting up again, church activities will soon be in full swing, including children’s ministries. As you plan your activities for the first few weeks, keep in mind that the kids may be feeling a bit unsettled as they adjust to new schedules, new teachers, and possibly even new schools. You may also have some new kids in your class who moved to the area over the summer and who may be nervous about joining the group.


To help kids ease into the school year and build camaraderie, here are a few fun activity ideas:

Create a “Prayer Hands” Banner

This is a perfect activity for helping your kids “make their mark” as they begin a new school year. Get a large piece of fabric that’s thick enough to paint on. Let each child dip his or her hand into a paper plate of paint (make sure to use a paint that washes off easily) and make a handprint on the banner. Then let each child sign his or her name next to the handprint and write a short prayer for the class for the coming year. Hang the banner in your classroom and re-read the prayers at the end of the year.

Pack Backpacks for Kids in Need

Host a school supplies drive at your church and collect backpacks, pencils, notebooks, glue sticks, scissors, crayons and other items for kids in need. Have your class pack the backpacks while you talk about gratitude for the blessings you have and the importance of helping others. Let each child write a note for the recipient wishing them a good school year and slip it into the backpack.

Get Outside and Get Active

In addition to letting your class enjoy free play time on your church playground, you can help them burn off some extra energy with classic outdoor games. Think hopscotch, Simon Says, jump rope/double dutch, Red Light-Green Light, Red Rover, and other time-honored activities.

Bring Bible Stories to Life

Divide the class into groups of three or four and let each group choose a Bible story to turn into a skit. Help them decide how to tell their chosen story; you might even bring a box of random items and let the kids exercise their creativity in creating costumes and props. When each group is ready, have them act out their skit for the class, and film it with your smartphone so that they can see their own performances.


Happy back-to-school season!

In our previous two blog posts, we kicked off our series “How to Plan a Neighborhood Park Your Community Will Love” by reviewing the basic principles of park design and strategies for building support among your residents.

Today, in the final post of the series, we roll up our sleeves and get into the project planning phase, where you’ll create the plan that will take you from “square one” all the way through to your opening day … and beyond.

Below we’ve given you some general guidelines for planning your park project, but this list is by no means comprehensive. If you haven’t managed a project like this before, you might want to consider hiring a consultant to help you get started and to provide guidance along the way. You may also want to look into project-management software applications, which make it easy to track your progress and keep all your documentation in one place.

Set Your Goal

Now that you have a clear concept of the park you want to build and have discussed it with your residents, the next step is to set your overall goal. Follow the lead of the best project managers and set a goal that’s SMART:

  • Specific: Be very specific about what the end result of your project will be. How large will your park be? What amenities will be there? How will it serve your community? Who will benefit from it? What impact will it have on property values and demographics?
  • Measurable: How will you know when you’ve arrived at your goal? What criteria will you meet? How will you measure your progress along the way?
  • Achievable: Give the amount of time, money, and other resources available, can you and your team achieve this goal as you’ve defined it? If not, you might need to make some adjustments.
  • Relevant: How will this park serve your community? Be sure to consider its impact in the near and distant future as well as the present.
  • Time bound: When do you aim to have your park completed? It’s true that delays happen due to weather and other factors, but it’s important to have a completion date in mind. Remember, you can always adjust it if necessary.

Determine Milestones

Map out the significant achievements — the milestones — that will mark major steps in progress toward your goal. For your park, these might include preparing the ground, installing amenities, and completing landscaping.

Build a Deliverables List

Break down each milestone into specific tasks. For example, the milestone “Install Playground,” will include tasks such as applying for permits, selecting a builder, choosing a model, choosing the safety surfacing, scheduling installation, and other tasks. Be as specific and thorough as you can.

Build a Timeline

Now gather your list of tasks (you’ll have a lot of them) and build a timeline, keeping in mind that some milestones must be completed before work on others can begin. For example, you can’t build structures before the ground has been prepared, so build that dependency into your plan. Also, remember that contractors are not always available at the exact moment we need them, so consult your contractors to confirm their availability at the point in your timeline when their services are needed.

Get Started and Track Your Progress

Ready … set … GO! It’s time to start tackling those first deliverables as they appear on your timeline. Remember to always track your progress so that on any given day, you can tell exactly how far you are from achieving your goal. If delays happen (and they probably will), adjust your plan accordingly.


Once your park is complete, remember to celebrate your success! Even small parks are big achievements, so remember to reward your team, and schedule a grand-opening event to welcome residents to their brand-new space. Include fun elements like food, face painting, live entertainment, games for the kids, and more. Put up streamers, balloons, and other eye-catching visuals to serve as an invitation for everyone to come join in the fun.


Good luck, and happy planning!

In our previous blog post, we kicked off our series “How to Plan a Neighborhood Park Your Community Will Love” by reviewing the basic principles of park design and sharing some tips on choosing the amenities for your outdoor space.


Of course, a vital part of the planning process is collaboration with the people who will be using and living alongside the space day after day: your residents. Here are a few strategies for building — and keeping — support among your residents all the way through to completion.

Start Early

To ensure support for your park, it’s important to involve residents as early in the process as possible. Remember that your initiative will impact everyone in the neighborhood — not just those who will use the space once it’s complete. Some of your residents, for example, might be concerned about how the addition will affect issues such as drainage, parking, and security. Be sure to address both benefits and possible challenges as you introduce the idea to your community.

Vary Your Approach

For soliciting resident input, remember that people have different preferences when it comes to how they express their opinions. Some prefer live “town hall”-type events, while others prefer the privacy of surveys. Make sure to incorporate at least two of the following methods in soliciting the opinions of the people in your community:

  • Open meetings
  • Focus groups
  • Paper surveys
  • Online surveys
  • Phone surveys

Keep Them Posted

Keep your residents continuously updated on the progress of your neighborhood park project. You may want to start a Facebook page where you post regular updates on developments, delays, and your projected opening date. Encourage residents to follow the page so that they’re always in the loop.


In Part III of our series, we’ll talk about how to get your neighborhood park project buttoned up and ready to roll. Stay tuned!



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