Library Fun for Families with Young Children
Whether you care for a young child as a parent, a guardian, or as a job, every caregiver has had moments where you and your child are stuck at the house and bored. Maybe the weather outside is no good, the little one is tired of all their toys, or you’re simply craving interaction with another adult after being the dutiful parent, grandparent, nanny, or daycare provider all week long. This is where your public library saves the day!
Public libraries seek to provide a place for young children and their caregivers to spend time, have fun, and maybe even learn some valuable early learning skills. What does that look like, you ask? Let me tell you about some pretty amazing services.
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Storytime — the most well-known library service for children — usually takes place several times a week and involves reading fun books to newborns all the way up to school-aged children. But this isn’t a quiet, mouse-like affair like back in my day! During storytime, you can expect lots of singing, fingerplays (think “Itsy Bitsy Spider”), a bit of dancing, and lots of child participation. While children are having the time of their lives, they will also be learning essential skills necessary for learning to read later on. Librarians highlight different letters in the book, helping children learn their alphabet. They sing songs, developing an ear for language, which is the basis of sounding out letters later on. And most importantly, children develop a love of reading which studies have shown is the most important indicator of later academic success.
Storytimes aren’t just for children, though. It’s a great opportunity for caregivers to build a community of people who also care for young ones, giving them a chance to share tips, laughs, or a listening ear in addition to picking up helpful ideas to encourage important “early literacy” skills at home.
Crafts and Sensory Play
Many times storytimes are followed by yet another half hour of developmentally-appropriate fun (that you don’t have to plan!) such as crafts or sensory activities — adding food coloring to shaving cream, pouring water from different containers, etc. — aka, the stuff kids love and that helps develop their brains.
Special Children’s Events
Be sure to grab a copy of your library’s event calendar because, in addition to storytimes, most libraries have fun one-off events going on all the time! These can range from toddler prom to petting a visiting alligator to holiday-themed extravaganzas to interactive performances with professional orchestras to learning circus skills.
E-books for Kids
Moving on from events, let’s talk about books. Yes, the library has thousands of them, and according to experts, bringing them home so children are surrounded by physical books all the time leads to later academic success, even if no one is actually reading them! However, in the digital age, why not utilize the library’s e-books for kids too? At many libraries, a library card offers access to digital book services such as Tumblebooks or BookFlix where, if you need a moment to make dinner, take a shower, or talk to Grandma on the phone, you can station your child with a tablet and feel confident knowing their “screen time” — mixed with a healthy combination of human interaction and physical activity, of course — is contributing to their well-being. These animated e-books read aloud a story with illustrations that change on their own and light background music, along with a few cute effects like falling leaves or twinkling stars. Kids are excited to use technology, but they’re really developing a deeper connection with books, which is our sneaky goal.
So what if you or your child are tired of reading, and there are no activities going on at the library today? Visit anyway! Modern libraries have dedicated “early learning spaces” where children and caregivers can hang out and have fun on their own, without cracking a single book. These areas are filled with toys or an ever-changing array of “passive programs” — self-led activities such as a craft, a scavenger hunt, or game.
Trainings for Adults
Early learning trainings are another terrific service for those who take care of young children. You probably know that kindergarten teachers have a list of skills they expect children to have mastered even before their first day in the classroom, and that’s where learning at home — with you — comes in. Many libraries provide trainings or programs for caregivers that teach basics of brain development and give practical tips on how to help kids learn their letters, develop big vocabularies, and handle writing utensils. Hint: It all revolves around having fun! These trainings sometimes take the form of guided activities with the kids present and sometimes include free materials like books and toys to take home to practice with.
Come On Over!
Hopefully after reading this, you can’t wait to hustle over to the library, where fun and learning undoubtedly await you, with the children in your life. And if you find that you’re unsure of how to find all the amazing resources you’ve just read about, don’t hesitate to ask the librarians. They can happily get you started on the path to good times and an early love of reading.