To help beat the heat without being holed up inside, we've instituted Library Day. After my daughters AM nap, we head off!
If you don't utilize the library in your city/county often, chances are you are missing out! On a grading scale, our library is probably a C, maybe a C+, so it's not as though we have this fabulous resource that would leave you green with jealousy. Even if you live in the country (which is how our part of the city would be described), the library is still a great tool.
- Tons of books that you and your kids likely haven't read
- Free membership!
- Low fees if you keep track of the books (free is a pretty low fee, right?)
- Books you don't have to pay for!
- The possibility of good computer programs you can supervise but don't have to purchase
- A play area, possibly. Ours has a table set up with bins of blocks.
- Usually a separated children's area
- Free videos/DVDs
- A/C! Did I mention it's hot outside?!?!
- The possibility of online "shopping" for your books, or online renewal
- Exposure to lots of new books, genres, and authors
The Cons AND Solutions:
- You need to keep track of your books! Forgetting just that one can end up being an expensive slip of the memory. My solution: Keep all library books in ONE location, separate from other books. We have a special library book bin. I keep the printout list given in the bucket with the # of books circled at the top. That way it's easy to check to make sure all the books are there!
- Not a great selection of books. My solution: Keep digging. I usually check out about 2-3 "duds" each week. But what is a dud to me someone else may love. People donate books to the library weekly, so keep looking! You never know...that retired school teacher with a copy of every Caldecott book may have just donated this week!
- Noisy kids in a quiet library. I've been there. You can hear my daughter's squeaky voice all the way across the library. Even people in the restroom knew my daughter was looking for a Fancy Nancy book. My solution: Practice! If they don't have to use a quiet voice anywhere else, why should we expect them to all of a sudden know how to use one in the library. We practice quiet voices in the car. And if she doesn't listen? It's also important to note if the voice level is simply forgetting (you know, just being a kid) or disobedience to what you've asked them to do. If it's forgetting, I remind her. If it's disobedience, we pack up and leave, not checking out any books. But how you handle it is your decision....you are the mom! I will say that I've found that how I react to her behavior usually determines the tone and behavior of the next library trip. If I let her slide with being loud, she'll probably be loud again next time!
- More than one child to watch makes a trip difficult. This was the challenge for me, too. Sometimes it can be hard to look for books and watch your kids at the same time. You can't exactly handcuff them to the stroller to keep them from pulling off every book they see on the shelves. With that in mind, I have to have a game plan for trip out of the house. Where will they sit? What are the possible behavior issues? How will I handle them? What tips/reminders can I give them before we even get in the library? Is it close to nap or a mealtime?
Here's how I handle it with a 3 year old and a 1 year old:
I use the double stroller. My 3 year old is allowed to walk, provided she holds onto the stroller until I give her instructions to do otherwise. Before we go in, I talk with both girls about using quiet voices and keeping their hands to themselves (we practice this at home). We do a practice run of using quiet voices and what it sounds like. I have snacks packed in the bag because at 1 year, it's rare to find a time of the day that isn't close to a nap or snack/meal. I give myself a time limit. (Ex: We will stay for 30 minutes. If it's your first time, have a goal of checking out one book. Yup. Just one. It'll make it less stressful for you). If my 3 year old abuses the privilege of walking or cannot control her hands, she has to sit in the stroller or in a chair for a while. If you have aisles you have to go up and down, you can sit your child on the floor and give them a book or 2 to look at while you look, too. Or you can pull out a book and involve your child in the decision making process of choosing a few books.
Okay, younger kids. My 1 year old sits in the stroller with a book or toy while I choose a book. Then when I've chosen a few, she can walk around, holding the stroller. Then I give them a few minutes to play with blocks at the table. We clean up together. If she gets antsy (especially due to being hungry) I plop her in the stroller and give her a small, non-messy snack on the tray.
The biggest tip I can give? Don't give up after one hectic, tear-jerking experience at the library. I've had parents tell me that the library is just too stressful. In my mind, and perhaps I'm off-base, the solution is to minimize stress. Well, other than eliminating visits entirely. So instead of rarely going, try going weekly. (Sound crazy?) The library is a safe place to practice some of the skills you've been working on at home with your child. You don't really want to see if they'll stay with you while you walk through a crowded mall. And I don't really like to practice a skill when I'm grocery shopping. That's multi-tasking at it's best (or worst, in some cases). Keep practicing at the library (Remember, you can always leave!) but most importantly for us...practice at home. Teach the the skill ahead of time. Quiet voices, control over hands, waiting patiently, respect for others, sharing, sitting and reading when asked to, and listening to specific verbal commands are a few skills to practice. Don't feel like you have to tackle everything at once, either! As my husband says, "We're just trying to give them tools in their tool belts". If you don't give them the necessary tools ahead of time, it's hard to expect them to pull out the right tool when needed. Yes, even a 1 year old. :)
Have fun! Let the stress free outings begin!