Libraries for Toddlers — Tips from a Librarian
Bringing younger kids to the library is not always the easiest thing to accomplish.
Some parents might be tempted to leave them at home while they book browse or find other activities to keep them occupied. But libraries are well equipped to handle any toddler that comes through their doors. Making a library trip with your children is beneficial to their development but can also be helpful for you. While there are worries parents have with bringing them to a place that is stereotyped as quiet and strict, librarians have seen it all when it comes to underage patrons and can help you get your family in and out with books, activities, and good experiences. Here are some tips and tricks on library visits with a toddler.
Benefits of Library Visits
The benefits of taking a child to the library are plenty. Library programming takes into account patrons of all ages which means there are events created for your interests as well as those that will help engage your child. With the endless amounts of books, technology, and activities available, you’ll find there is enough to keep your toddler entertained and excited about your trips to the local public library.
Jumpstart On Reading
Exposing children to a variety of books is one of the main reasons why parents take their child to the library. There are diverse genres of books for your child to explore and with so many titles right at their fingertips, this can mean hours of learning at the library and even more to take home with you.
The benefits of reading with and to toddlers cannot be overstated. Not only does it help them build phonemic awareness, add to their vocabulary, and understand basics of the alphabet, it can also help them grow as children. Storytelling touches on experiences of different characters living through their own challenges and celebrations. These stories set great examples for your child and can help them learn about themselves. Reading with your kids can also help them build a strong connection with you, creating memories they will hold on to for years to come.
Here are some ideas for how to read with your child:
- Create a story time routine.
- Let your child have a say in the book.
- Encourage your child when they try to read or follow along.
- Pick interactive books like those with puppets or have tabs.
- Read slowly.
- Ask your child open-ended questions to help with comprehension.
- Get a library card for your child.
For more tips on reading sessions with your child and age specific ideas, visit the Madison Public Library’s page on “Reading Tips for Parents”.
Story time is one of many library programs for toddlers that are not only fun but contribute to child development. In fact, according to Betsy Kennedy, director of the Cazenovia Public Library in New York, many of those who are in charge of storytimes at libraries have specialized training in early childhood education and brain development. There is a reason why they are doing what they’re doing and they know that in the long run it helps out your kids.
Activities Beyond Books
Early childhood library programs at the public library can encompass many of the technologies and resources housed at the institution. Libraries have toys available for kids to play with that touch on subjects like science, nature, technology, etc. Whether this means you’re bringing your toddler in to build Lego structures while you browse for books or experiment with robots and telescopes, there are activities prepared to spark your child’s interest and imagination.
Building Social Skills
Libraries are a good place to make friends. While school is also a good place for your children to meet other kids their age, the library is another spot to practice those social skills. Kids can be left alone by parents to play in the children’s section of the library where they will come across others doing the same. Signing your toddler up for free events and activities that the library offers is also an option for meeting new friends and setting up playdates.
Library visits are also helpful for younger children to build bonds with older siblings. Have them help your toddler out with choosing appropriate books and set up times where your older children can take their younger siblings out for books and some ice cream. This gives them the opportunity to fit in their own book browsing while also creating memories with their siblings.
Events for You
Visiting the library doesn’t have to just serve your kids, it can be an opportunity for you to get out of the house and do something you enjoy also. Sign up for book clubs, educational courses, movie nights or make a list of books you’re looking forward to taking home with you. By scheduling in time for you to relax, enjoy, and take the time to engage in your interests, library visits will be beneficial for you as well as your kids.
Library Visiting Tips for Parents
Library trips can be an exciting family experience but can also cause some stress for parents when things go south if kids get restless or tired. So what can you do to make sure you are prepared for difficulties that may pop up along the way? Here are some things to take into consideration before heading out to the public library and what you can do along the way and after to ensure smooth sailing.
Before Your Visit
Make sure your kids are ready for their trip to the library. Sit down and make a list of books with them or research yourself beforehand if they’re too little to decide on their own ahead of time. You can place these books on hold so that they’re ready to grab and go once you get there. This keeps your mind off trying to find books from various spots and more time to focus on your toddler. Before you head over, also make sure to have extra bags packed to help you carry your stuff and that your child is well-fed and ready to tackle their day.
During Your Visit
Give your child the freedom to choose some of their own books too whether based on topic interest for older kids or on pictures or book design for those that are younger. This not only shows them how the library is set up and how checking out books works, it also gives them a sense of independence and will create positive experiences for them.
If obstacles come up, know that your children are not the first nor will they be the last to be loud in a library. Set a good example for them by using your indoor voice and teach them about how doing so is respectful to other visitors. For those that need an additional distraction, hand some books from your pile to your kid and have them help you with the checkout process. This keeps them busy while feeling useful.
After Your Visit
Organize your library book haul in one spot whether this is a specific library book row on their bookshelf or in a basket or bin. Teach kids the importance of taking care of these books or (for those with younger children who are worried about tearing and chewing) keep them out of arm’s reach until they are old enough to care for them. Make sure to set reminders for when the books are due by marking it in your phone or calendar. You can even involve your kids in this process by placing a little calendar in their library corner.
Libraries Engaging Families
Libraries are ready to help families in whatever ways they can. They understand that it’s not just adults or grade school students that come in looking for resources. Many library locations have specific resources set up for parents that focus on tips for parenting or tools for preparing young kids for school.
The LA County Library is just one example of this. Their “Parenting Tips” resource page was created to help answer questions, engage children, and help parents be proactive about their child’s overall wellbeing. It includes parenting advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics, articles and videos on child development and school readiness, and even an option to schedule one-on-one consultations with one of their Positive Parenting Librarians.
Like the LA County Library, other public libraries across the country are here to help parents of toddlers. Visit your local library for more information on the specific resources they offer parents of young children and pick up a calendar of programs while you’re there. You can now look forward to planning library trips with any of your kids.