In the hot summer months, I try my best to play outside with my boys. But, within no time, I find myself mumbling, “Hot, cranky kids…not good for Mommy.” Do you agree? Summer is here but don’t worry. Your local library will save you and your wilting children.
Library as the heart of the community
In our small North Georgia town, we live within walking distance of the town’s library. When we moved here, the library became a refuge for me and continues to do that today. From that statement alone, it should be obvious — I’m a book nerd and former school librarian. Ironically, as a child I didn’t love to read. I think I was intimidated by the library, which meant I missed out on lots of important, as well as beneficial reading time.
So as a mom, I wanted to fix that problem. I wanted my children to relish the library.
Today’s libraries are different than the old dusty depository of books from yesteryear. The library itself is the center of the school, the center of learning. Many libraries have repurposed their library space in order to offer programs which reach many different cultures and demographic groups. Programs include story time, Makerspaces, music and theater performances, teen programs, craft labs, and more. There are conflicting views on this change, but I champion the new direction.
If you haven’t considered the library for your summer plans, give it a chance. I think you will find a variety of programs for you and your family. And the best part…it’s free. Libraries are everywhere. Even if you’re out of town and it’s raining, it’s the perfect place to have fun and learn in a safe, contained place. With little ones, that’s important. Right?
Here are three programs you and your kids may enjoy. You can participate in these activities or check out a favorite title.
Since having children, I regularly stop by the library to browse and pick up the summer schedule. On one short trip to the downtown Chattanooga library, it turned into a long trip. My boys discovered the 2nd floor children’s Makerspace which contains a variety of free play activities. They love the trains, the Legos, and the simple machine activities.
There are a variety of activities for the younger crowd including stencil rubbing, felt animals, shapes on a light table, and more. On the other side, there is the teen zone where kids can play video games, chess, and build numerous creations.
Makerspaces are relatively new programs for libraries. Basically, it’s an open space for people to create. Don’t worry. There are parameters to focus young minds. For example, young children who like lacing boards may apply that skill to sew a bag. So, they build on earlier skills using new materials. Since my boys like Legos, they make new creations, such as space ships that bomb planets. (Boy, already such a proud mom.) Actually, when they craft with Legos, they work together. So, I encourage it. If you want to find out more on Makerspaces, check out this resource from the Association of Library Service to Children about the importance of play.
As an added incentive, most of the libraries in our area coordinate activities with the Creative Discovery Museum, the Tennessee Aquarium, and the Chattanooga Zoo. When the Creative Discovery visited our library, the theme was Science in Art. My kids marbleized a bookmark, made a creature out of clay, used various shapes to create a quilt piece, used mixed media for alcohol ink prints, and took part in sublimation art using dry ice. See…fun, and they don’t realize they are learning!
If you’re looking for more literary pursuits, story time may better suit your children. Different libraries have a variety of programs for a wide range of ages. I love story time as much as the boys. When children are very young, it’s hard for them to sit still. So look for programs that incorporate music, dance, instruments, even bubbles. As they get older, those squirmy bodies will develop better focus.
Story time provides a variety of benefits to young children. When children sing, they learn to manipulate specific sounds and develop words. Reading the story develops an excitement for reading and reinforces how a book works. If there is a craft, it helps little hands develop fine motor skills.
My kids and I love story time whether at home, in school or the library. When it’s a rainy day or just too hot this summer, go check out story time at your local library or the Chattanooga Public Library. Here’s the schedule of Chattanooga Public Library events; if you live outside Chattanooga, check the following:
Early literacy stations
Most libraries have computers for adults as well as children. If it’s a small library, make sure you go to the correct stations! Some libraries ask for a password. Others will timeout so other children can use the stations. You’ll find great resources that may not be available for your home computer. In most libraries, these stations are loaded with activities or access to online resources. There are fun learning programs like ABC Mouse. You can also find digital books that either read the book aloud or allow the child to read it. My boys like the books because the animations are quite fun and keep them focused. Each station comes equipped with earphones. Because most of these programs are expensive for home use, it’s a bonus to use at the library. Here is information about the kids’ resources at the Chattanooga Library.
If you and your kids want an adventure, catch the Carta FREE shuttle. There’s a stop in front of the library. If you are already downtown, you can pick it up along any of the stops. If you are driving into town, park at the Chattanooga Choo Choo on the Southside or the North Shore Frazier Avenue deck.