Your Toddler Wants to Hang Out at the Library

Your Toddler Wants to Hang Out at the Library

When it comes to helping toddlers to laugh, learn, socialize, and develop early literacy skills, your children’s librarian is an expert. Library ToddlerTimes are a terrific educational and social experience for toddlers. At this age, children begin learning to make friends, to become literate, and to really explore the world in which we live. It’s awesome to watch them grow through the magic of ToddlerTime!

sign the petition to vote for libraries!


What’s a ToddlerTime anyway?

A ToddlerTime is an interactive storytime in which children are introduced to books, play educational games, sing songs, dance, and go on treasure hunts.

While many storytimes are for children ages 3 to 5, ToddlerTimes are usually for children age 18 months to 3 years. Because librarians know that some families have multiple young children and some children have different needs, it’s absolutely fine for you to bring children of any age to a toddler time. One large family who came to my weekly ToddlerTime programs included a 7-year-old girl. She had just as much fun as her younger siblings and got to help with special tasks such as passing out art supplies to the toddlers.

It can be a little difficult to describe a “typical ToddlerTime” because librarians know that they must engage toddlers in various activities in order to keep the children focused and to teach them a variety of skills. Let’s take a look at some of the activities your library will provide during a ToddlerTime and why these activities are important.

Songs Help Children Learn

ToddlerTimes usually begins and closes with the same special song. The repetition of a special “ToddlerTime song” each week helps toddlers to begin to learn the words to the song. As talking is the first step in learning to read, it’s vital that children have ample opportunity to practice speech. Playing songs also gives children the opportunity to enjoy music, dance, and use manipulatives.

For example, I provided toddlers with objects like ribbons, feathers, or musical shakers to wave or shake during songs. Encouraging toddlers use small objects in a coordinated way allows them to develop fine motor skills.

I know some librarians who love to blow bubbles during toddler times and ask the children to try to pop them. This game also helps toddlers to practice fine motor skills and they absolutely love the activity!

Sensory Play is Important

Sensory play involves using all five senses to learn and interact. Seeing, and hearing a book is great, but research shows the toddlers learn best and retain the most information when their senses are engaged. Activities like touching, tasting, and smelling makes this a toddler-friendly experience.

One of my favorite sensory play activities was to bring out a special puppet each week. At the end of my ToddlerTimes, I would invite the children to come up and pet “Jellybeans,” a realistic looking cat. Most toddlers loved Jellybeans and were excited to stroke her fur and experiment with putting their hands in her mouth or shaking her tail. There was one regular ToddlerTime friend who was very nervous about the puppet because she wasn’t used to pets. But after seeing the other toddlers pet the puppet, she learned from her peers and overcame her fear.

Other sensory activities at the library for toddlers include manipulating Play-Doh, experimenting with objects floating in tubs of water, and finding toys buried tubs of uncooked rice. Another fun sensory experience for toddlers is to allow them to squish “foam bags.” During this activity, toddlers squish sealed plastic bags filled with shaving cream and squirts of food coloring. As the bags are squished, the food coloring mixes with the foam and the colors change. It’s a playful sensory experience for toddlers and a great way to begin learning about colors!

ToddlerTimes Get Toddlers Moving!

How boring would it be to your toddler to sit for half an hour? Librarians know that it’s important to let your wiggle worm squirm and play! Exercising is so important for your child’s physical health and it should be fun and interactive.

Sometimes, the movements are as simple as dancing or acting out what characters are going during a story. For example, toddlers can be asked to “stretch like the lion in the story.” Other ways that librarians get toddlers moving is by playing limbo. Toddler limbo is more about crawling than bending, though! Your librarian can also give your toddler fun treasure hunts with easily found objects.

When moving as a group, toddlers have to learn to respect others’ space, an important social skill. When providing toddlers with toys like ball pits and tunnels, your librarian will be sure to set expectations and guide the children to make sure that no one gets hurt.

Librarians Teach Toddlers About a Wide Range of Topics

Your librarian is your best partner for early learning, and the library in an amazing place to socialize with other parents and caregivers, too! Each ToddlerTime usually has a specific theme about which children will learn. At my library, we explored everything from foods, colors, plants, to transportation. Your child will learn about these concepts in a variety of ways over the course of the ToddlerTime.

One of my favorite topics to teach toddlers about was animals. I remember getting the whole library staff involved in a zoo-themed toddler time. Librarians became “zookeepers” for the day. Each librarian chose a different animal puppet and sat in a planned location in the library. The toddlers, caretakers, and I went around the library to visit each animal together. Toddlers learned the names of the animals, what the animals ate, and what the animals sounded like.

A ToddlerTime about transportation might include activities such as placing a boat, a car, and an airplane in the correct areas of a felt board scene. This a ToddlerTime might also include a socialization activity such as making a “toddler train.” Toddlers can make a train by placing their hands on each others’ shoulders and walking on “train tracks” taped to the floor.

Toddlers Begin to Develop Early Literacy Skills at ToddlerTime

A typical ToddlerTime will include a couple of nursery rhymes and fingerplays as well as 2 or 3 short books. Rhymes are important for your toddler’s early literacy development because the recognition of sound repetition is an important component of speaking, listening, and, eventually, reading.

The most important reason for your toddler to experience reading early is that reading becomes a natural and enjoyable part of her life. Early exposure to books means that your child has a better chance of learning to read at a high level as she matures. Reading is truly succeeding because it such an important skill to have in order to perform tasks in so many areas of life.

When being read to, toddlers begin to realize that words on a page have meaning. By watching someone read, your toddler also learns how to properly hold a book, another early literacy skill. Reading to children also expands their vocabularies by exposing them to a wider range of words.