|Duplo table, tool bench, and board books. The board books|
have colored dots on the spines and matching colored
strips on the shelves to keep them roughly in order
Since I just finished, in early January 2018, completely weeding and revamping our tub books and finished it up by reorganizing the children's area with my associates' help (she also reorganized the board books) this seemed like a good time.
Our play area is the most heavily used section of the library. It is in the back corner of the children's area and has one entrance - through the shelves coming from the children's area. At the back, it opens into the Storyroom (the door is always unlocked since the emergency exit is through there). It used to be a complete circle of shelves, but I removed one to put in our market stall. There's a secondary play area, intended for older toddlers and preschoolers, on the other side of the stall, next to the circulating toys.
Above the board books are the backs of the cd holders and above the tub books we keep book bundles for checkout. Additional toys (puzzles, flannelboard sets, etc.) are located on a shelf between the youth services desk and the flannelboard wall.
|Book bundles above the shelves, board books and tub|
books on the shelves. Market stall to the right.
When I started designing the children's area (almost ten years ago now!) I made a conscious decision to stay away from technology and focus on hands-on, imaginative play. Every library creates their space to fit their community and this is what fits the majority of my community. Our schools have a plethora of technology, from ipads and smart boards in four year old kindergarten up to maker labs and robotics in middle and high school. I don't need to try and mimic this in the library. This is a place where families can come together and interact, build early literacy skills, and take a break from their busy lives.
It's almost always a mess. Kitchen toys, puzzle pieces, books, toy bags, often they're strewn abroad. I'm perfectly ok with this. It gets picked up eventually (usually by parents and kids, but sometimes by staff) and the fact that it's not pristine makes it more welcoming, in my opinion. It's often loud (yes, there's a hammer in the tool table). That's fine - it's as far as you can get from the quiet upstairs area and if people need quiet, there are times of the day when it is more peaceful. I often have homeschool families coming in during those times to study and work together or family visitation groups.
I created tub books back in... 2012 I think? I had noticed that people repeatedly asked for Barbie, Disney, and other media-related books. We had some interfiled in the picture books, but I was hoping to eventually move to neighborhoods there and I had noticed that the prebound books were often lost or missing, with prohibitive replacement costs, and frankly looked like crap regardless. If they were going to look so dingy, why not at least get them cheaper?
|Tub books. We currently have 9 tubs, several of them shared.|
|Armchairs, slightly too large table, and Read and Grow chart|
(1,000 books before kindergarten). There's also an art tub
for creations waiting to be picked up.
It may sometimes appear that I just randomly dump toys and books in the play area. But this simply isn't true. I spend a lot of time researching, looking at other libraries, talking to parents, and connecting with the community organizations to figure out the best design, most welcoming features, and affordable but sturdy toys.
|Train table, entrance to the Storyroom|
Our original kitchen, added two years ago, was a cheap wooden one from Amazon. Thanks to a memorial donation, we were able to replace it with a market stall, sink, and stove to create a permanent kitchen area. Kids happily tie on aprons and cook, clean, and serve meals every day!
Our original loveseat was replaced, at my request, with two separate armchairs. It was rare for families to sit together on the loveseat, whereas the chairs are big enough for a caregiver and several children, or to stack up diaper bags and books.
|Other side of the market stall - stove, sink, and|
aprons hanging on the shelf.
Interchangeable toys include the tool table, a dollhouse (which needs to be replaced) and the duplo table. I also have a road mat/rug. When not in use, the toy sets are stored in the basement or lent out to other libraries. Eventually I'd like to add some more interactive toy sets to trade through, but that's a long-term goal.
- Berenstain Bears/Clifford
- Combined tub. I generally buy only the "original" Bears and do not purchase the "Living Light" titles.
- 2 tubs, includes Pixar and Disney-themed Little Golden Books
- Little (Golden Books)
- Non-media titles, both classics like Pokey Little Puppy and newer titles
- Paw (Patrol)/Peppa (Pig)
- Combined tub with Paw Patrol and Peppa Pig titles
- Star Wars/Superhero
- Combined tub - includes all the Lego-themed titles as well
- Thomas (the tank engine)
- TMNT, movie titles like Trolls, Blaze and other Nick titles, etc.
Links and resources for the children's area:
- Read and Grow: 1,000 books before kindergarten
- Train table - Melissa and Doug, $100 on Amazon
- Market stall and kitchen pieces, $250-$600 at Community Playthings
- These are expensive - I was only able to purchase them because of a memorial donation. But they are worth it. Very high-quality and have held up to constant use.
- Tool bench - donated
- Duplo table - bought on Amazon in the mists of time
- Dollhouse - Melissa and Doug (falling apart)
- Small toys and accessories - purchase on Amazon, donated, or purchased through Discount School Supply
- Child-sized table and chairs
- Sturdy dollhouse
- New/additional building tables
- Additional slotted shelves for board book shelving
- As always, I replace individual toys every few years