A caregiver with two young children, around the age of 4, saw the boy and girl with big smiles on their faces as they climbed through our new red play tunnel.
She turned toward me and said, “I’ve been telling them that a library is not a place to play. Are these toys new?”
She pointed to our activity cube, with different sides in which kids can move wooden or magnet parts, and to our new wooden stationary car. I explained that play is a great way to get kids to become active readers because kids are engaged in telling stories to themselves or each other as they play. The activity cube with its multisensory parts encourages improving motor skills.
Solano County Library wants kids to play. The library applied for a grant from the California State Library’s Early Learning with Families 2.0 initiative. This spring, we received various high-quality toys for each of our branches. Toys include activity cubes, stationary cars, short tunnels, small rugs with a solar system theme and soft cushions with animal themes.
In fact, kids can read a book or listen to an adult or sibling read a book, and then take time to play with the toys. Play stimulates motor and cognitive skills, social skills and the imagination. These are all ingredients for becoming a reader and a library customer.
By talking and playing, children increase their vocabulary and create new contexts for expanding their learning. The more expansive the vocabulary, even at age 2, the better chance a child will excel socially and in school and over the course of a lifetime. When children can have free play, even reading a book, they can imagine new stories, create mini-adventures and see the cause and effect of a toy’s parts.
The stationary car also has become a favorite opportunity for parents to snap a photo of happy children. Some children have decided to read a board or chapter book while they are seated in the car. In addition to these toys, some of our preschool and toddler story times at some of our branches feature stay and play after the story time. We create learning stations in which children can play with puppets, try balancing on a soft floor beam, play hide and seek in a tunnel, and play with soft foam bricks by creating play landscapes. All of these stations stimulate sensory and social skills, as kids are discovering new friends and sharing toys with each other.
Our 100th anniversary continues with more fun.
This summer, children in Solano County get even more opportunities to play and read and have fun. Our summer reading program, Fizz, Boom, Read!, launched June 9 and runs through Aug. 9. Each branch will feature weekly programs with a science or nature theme for preschool and school-age children and teenagers. Sign up at your local branch, receive a game board, and get reading. Children will receive a halfway prize once they move halfway through a game board, and a free book of their choice when they complete the game board.
Our online or print version of our quarterly magazine, Check It Out!, offers a comprehensive listing of all of our summer programs. Or, check our online branch calendars.
Interested in learning more about the impact of play on children? These are a few recent titles with up-to-date research about child development and parenting skills that will inspire parents and educators:
“Ten Skills Children Need to Become Confident and Socially Engaged,” by Ann Densmore and Margaret Bauman.
“101 Games and Activities for Children With Autism, Asperger’s, and Sensory Processing Disorders,” by Tara Delaney.
“Montessori Learning in the 21st Century: a Guide for Parents & Teachers,” by M. Shannon Helfrich.
“Teach Your Children Well: Parenting for Authentic Success,” by Madeline Levine.
“The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Baby Brain Games,” by Lawrence E. Shapiro, with Jennifer Lawler.
“Creative Play for Your Baby: Steiner Waldorf Expertise and Toy Projects for 3 Months-2 Years,” by Christopher Clouder and Janni Nicol.
Serena Enger is the supervising librarian at the Fairfield Civic Center Library. She is currently reading “A Short History of the Twentieth Century,” by John Lukacs.