I love, love, love libraries! Growing up in St. Louis, I had access to one of the highest ranking library systems in the country. Fast forward a few years when I moved to a smaller community in Illinois and was shocked to discover that my community did not have a free public library! I was able to join a neighboring community library for a fee which I did because I just can’t imagine my kids not being able to check out books at a library!
If you are just starting out using the library with a toddler here are some tips that have worked for us.
5 Tips For a Stress-Free Trip
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1. Build Up the Experience
We did a lot of talking in the days prior to our first visit about how the library was full of books that we could borrow to bring home and read. For days my son went around our house gathering books that showed more books by that same author on the back cover. He would point out books from that grouping that he wanted to borrow from the library on our next visit.
To help build some prior knowledge for the visit, your child might enjoy Lola at the Library. The story tells of the library experience that Lola has each Tuesday with her mother. It’s a cute read and helps to introduce a library routine. I really like that it portrays a trip to the library as such a special part of the week.
2. Set Expected Behaviors
I explained my expectations for his behavior once we got there. These were discussed prior to going, once we got there and upon every return visit!
- We walk in the library.
- We take one book off the shelf at a time to look at.
- We talk in a soft voice.
- We listen to Mommy.
- We stand next to Mommy during checkout time.
3. Explore on Your First Visit
Simply let your toddler explore on the first visit. He or she will want to look at everything! My little one wanted to sit at every table, look at every display case and walk up and down every aisle. Most of all he wanted to play! Our library has a train table, stuffed animals, and puzzles for the children. This is where he wanted to spend most of his time.
On return visits, our time usually starts with playing and then we select books. We generally page through each one to see if he is interested in bringing it home. He usually knows before we get there what he is interested in getting. This week he wanted, “eek books”. Also known as books with mice in them!
4. Check out Books
Even though the first visit is mostly about exploring, it is important to bring some book home with you. You might draw their attention to some special display of books to pick from or pull a few on topics or authors that you know they will enjoy. I would recommend just sticking with books in the beginning. You can gradually start to check out different kinds of items from the library. When you are ready check out this post on all the offerings of the library.
Don’t forget to bring a “special” library bag with you to transport your books. I like to use canvas bags with strong handles. Lots of books can be heavy and when you may be holding a toddler and a stack of books, a strong carrying bag is a must!
5. Teach Book Care
Once you take your books home, you will want to find a special spot to store them. It may be a basket in their room or a shelf in the living room. It is helpful to keep them stored separately from your other books so that you can retrieve them easily when it’s time to return them.
Library books have some special features that books from your home library do not. It’s important to show toddlers the library pockets inside the books and stress that they are not to be pulled out. The little ones also have a fascination with the clear plastic book covers on many of the books. Again, a reminder that these are not to be taken off will save you some library fines. Here are some more tips for teaching kids how to treat books.
You are now set to head to the library with your toddler! What books will you get? If you are looking for some toddler book ideas, you may be interested in these posts: Favorite Books for 1-2 Year-Olds or Favorite Books for 2-3 Year-Olds.
*This post first appeared on Growing Book by Book on 3/4/13.