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You might not normally turn to reality TV to inspire your kids.

But the TVOKids’ show Giver is a fantastic hit television show where kids get to make a difference in their lives, and their community — by creating a playground. The kid participants in Giver not only design the playground of their dreams, they actually build it. The show has run for two seasons on TVO.

And right now, Giver is looking for communities who need a playground.


Maybe you know an existing but neglected playground? Or a great space where kids should be playing — but aren’t? This might be just the moment for your community and your kids.

Giver - kid-built playground


The show runners are currently looking for playgrounds in need, with great kids who have great stories and unique ideas for what a playground should be. The deadline is soon: the package must be emailed by March 1st.

That means you have the rest of the week to put it together! Go to Page 2 of this Call for Submissions.

• Watch a sample show here. You can also check out past builds on the show’s Facebook page.

• It’s important to explain why your playground needs help and what your neighbourhood is like. Are kids already asking for change? One project came about when a local girl wrote to the town’s mayor.

• This group of kids, tweens and grownups from Waubaushene, Ontario made an on-the-fly video explaining why their community so badly needed a new playground.

Bunch Family talked to producer/director Kristen McGregor. 

1. This is amazing! Where did the idea come from?

Giver was developed by J.J. Johnson and myself as a response to TVO wanting to do a show nurturing community spirit in children. Playgrounds are community hubs that children identify with — and having amazing playgrounds makes a community so much better. Plus, people come from all over to play in them.

We had a huge learning curve when we started, but that was 23 playgrounds ago. It’s such a delight to document these kids learning that they can effect change in their communities, and what it feels like to give back.
Giver Kids in Monkton, Ontario: kid-built playgrounds


2. Do the kids come up with the ideas for the playgrounds themselves?

Yep! We do a design session with kids from the town/location to see what ideas they have for the playgrounds. Lots of amazing thoughts come from the kids, and then we challenge our Giver playground construction and design team to figure out how to build them — and ensure they are safe.

3. Who ‘translates’ those kid ideas into real, workable designs?

We have a wonderful team at Giver helping bring these ideas to life, including Michael Lagimodiere, our amazing host. We also have a playground safety consultant who works with us through all the different design stages to ensure that we have CSA compliance at every step of the build.

4. How do you fund building playgrounds? Are materials donated?

We have some money: instead of a traditional TV budget for sets, it’s a playground budget. Then we work with communities to make up the balance. Many people believe playgrounds need to cost a lot of money, but I’ve seen some amazing $15,000 playgrounds. We work with local and corporate sponsors to source materials, and all of our playgrounds are built with community volunteers.
Giver Season TWO
It’s amazing to see what can happen when a whole community comes on board with a project like a Giver build.

5. How do you choose where the playgrounds get built?

We look for stories! One of my favourite stories is from in Season 1 where a young girl in Niagara Falls wrote the mayor asking for a better playground. When we put out the Call for Submissions we heard about this and had to do an episode (with her involved of course).

It was amazing to see what writing a letter could do — and it was awesome to hear that kids have been inspired by her story to write similar letters. One kid said to me, “All it takes is paper and a pen!”

Giver Season 3 Trailer from Sinking Ship Entertainment on Vimeo.

6. Are some groups particularly under-served when it comes to playgrounds?

You could make the argument that most children across Ontario are under-served when it comes to unique, challenging playgrounds that serve as a loved community hub, regardless of income. Some more well-off communities are actually burdened by bureaucracy as much as the lower-income communities are burdened by financial issues. On the show, we’ve done builds in community housing in Toronto and Hamilton, on reserves, and in a low-income city neighbourhood in northern Ontario. The rural builds generally either have one broken down playground that we’re fixing up — or no playgrounds at all. So we recognize that they are under-served as well.

7. What’s your favourite kid-design thus far?

We had this amazing kid design for a gnome home at our Giver Season 2 build in Linwood, Ontario. Imagine a little hobbit house that kids can play in, with the staircase inside leading up to the slide from the top of the roof. They cut fun kid-sized doors into it, the whole thing was accented in astroturf, and it was painted a bright fire-engine red colour. The kids had so much fun making it!

There’s just such utter delight for kids and adults alike to see playgrounds that deviate from the norm — it has huge intrinsic appeal. And it’s just fun for these community hubs to have definition!

We had another fun idea from an amazing kid in Sarnia to construct a musical swing set with bells (that the swings hit as they go back and forth) and each pole painted in a different colour. It wasn’t a huge or expensive change, but the addition of a little care and ingenuity meant that the swing set became the most sought-after one in the whole community.

Thank you, Kristen!


The current call for submissions is for ideas for Season 3 –– so get busy. Deadline is March 1st.

Giver Season 2 premieres Wednesday, April 30th at 6:30 p.m. on TVOKids, and repeats Saturdays at 2:00 p.m., with new episodes released weekly!

source: Sinking Ship Entertainment, TVOKids

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