You Can Take the Mom Out of the Library, but You Can’t Take the Youth Services Librarian Out of the Mom
After 10 years in Youth Services I took a break to stay at home with my daughter who is now two and a half. Filling about 10 waking hours a day is often a challenge, especially when the weather in Ohio keeps us in the house. My professional training and interests very much influence the way we fill our time.
Unsurprisingly books are always available to her and we do a lot of reading, but it goes beyond that. I believe in learning through play and creating a language rich environment. I do not believe that being a good parent means you must spend every waking second entertaining your kid. I prefer to provide materials and situations that are what some bloggers refer to as “invitations”, opportunities for her to experiment and explore with different materials. We do have some screen time, because sometimes mommy has things to do. I just try to pick well, and make sure it doesn’t take over our day.
For example, I’ve recently been planning out the next two months. There are four different categories our activities fall into:
These includes smaller trips like visiting the library, neighborhood playground, or splash pad as well as bigger family trips once a week to the zoo, botanical garden, museums, or petting zoo. We are very sad that our Children’s Museum is closed for a move, as it was an easy bus ride away and lots of fun.
I am an indoor person, but I can see all the ways my daughter benefits from outdoor play. This summer she will have access to a sand table, water table, bubbles, sidewalk chalk, balls, and other outdoor toys. The water table was a huge hit last year and I can’t wait until it’s warm enough to bring it back out.
Another place you can find my librarian background is in the toys I seek out for my daughter. If it lights up, flashes, or makes noise you can probably assume I didn’t buy it for her. We focus on toys that encourage open ended/and or pretend play like blocks, dress up clothes, and musical instruments.
Last summer I picked a different color every week and we did activities where the materials focused on that color.This summer I am not doing specific themes, but am scheduling one of these activities a day for four days a week, leaving one day for those bigger outings. Some days the activity will be a hit, and somedays it will bomb. I try hard to just let her lead and sometimes we’ll try again a few months later with more success. With a few exceptions these fall into four main categories themselves:
- Sensory activities are developmentally beneficial in a number of ways. This post from Not Just Cute sums it up pretty well. I usually present sensory activities to my daughter in a plastic storage bin or dishpan. Sometimes we even turn her baths into a new sensory experience with colored water or additions like pool noodle pieces, balloons, or glow sticks.
- Process art is art that lets children explore without a pre-determined result in mind. NAEYC has a great primer on process art if it’s a new concept for you. Process art can be messy, but an old shirt of mom or dad’s and a shower curtain liner from the dollar store can help contain the mess.
- Pretend play is pretty self-explanatory. So far, at 2 her pretend play has been mostly limited to imitating us with her play kitchen, tools, and doctor kit. This summer we will be looking for ways to expand this by setting up simple things like a stuffed animal hospital, ice cream parlor, and castle.
- Activities to help her develop fine and gross motor skills are generally things that challenge her dexterity, balance, and coordination. Whether due to being a preemie or just genetics she’s always done things that require large motor control at the tail end of the normal range. We’re fine with her taking her time, but I like to encourage her to challenge herself. These activities can be as simple as tearing up pieces of tissue paper and putting them into the neck of a bottle or walking lines made of painter’s tape on the floor. Our homemade ball pit and playground outings really help with this as well.
If you want to know more about the activities we’ll be trying this summer I’ve set up a Pinterest board to share them with you. Click here to take a look.
Beth Saxton has over ten years experience as a youth services librarian, most recently at Cleveland Public Library. After graduating from the University of Western Ontario in 2002 she found a real passion for youth services with both little ones and teens and is an active member of ALSC and YALSA. When isn’t busy raising a little reader of her own, she’s reading,knitting, or participating in various fandoms. You can find her on Twitter (@BethReads) or her website (Bethreads.com)