Otto received his first library card today. Previously I was putting his books on my card but I realised it was time for him to have more ownership over his books and over his library experience. It's important for him to have a card with his name on it, it almost cements his place in the library. It's easy for us to forget that libraries are places for children and so very much so for toddlers.
I believe that libraries are 'must visit' places for toddlers. In libraries, toddlers can learn and experience library etiquette - how to get out and put away books with the spine showing, how to handle the books with respect, how to check out a book from the library, how to use an indoor voice, these are all skills that are fantastic for children to learn during toddlerhood and are transferrable to other areas of their lives. The toddler can also learn and experience community rules like how many books they can check out at one time, the books have to be returned by the due date and must be taken care of.
In libraries, toddlers can be exposed to a wonderful range of books, more so than they ever could experience at home. This may mean the toddler can check out a wider range of books, perhaps they can read the books in the library or simply browse and look at all of the gorgeous covers and library displays. It can open their eyes to the world beyond their home environment. As parents, the library can also introduce us to books that we haven't previously seen or considered for our children, it can open our eyes too! Remember that you don't need to stay in the children's area of the library, there are often many adult non-fiction books that can be appealing to toddlers too.
In libraries toddlers can meet a librarian, my older children have previously formed wonderful relationships with the local children's librarian. Librarians are most often really well read and can be full of advice and super helpful when selecting (or reserving!) children's book. Learning to talk to other adults comfortably is also a really useful skill for toddlers to have.
Libraries and visiting libraries regularly can help promote a love of reading and a love of books from a young age. Regular trips to the library can be a part of a really lovely weekly rhythm. It's comforting to visit familiar places and inside the library, you never know what you will find.
Libraries are multi-generational places, it is an excellent place to mingle and experience interactions with members of our community that may fall outside our regular social circle. It is an excellent place to practice grace and courtesy!
I also believe libraries are wonderful places to catch up with and meet with friends, especially if you are in a colder/wetter climate. It can often be more age-appropriate and healthier for the toddler than meeting at a cafe or even some indoor play-gyms.
The skills gained during a library experience are transferrable to other areas of life. This library checkout looks a little like a supermarket checkout. Many locations we need to scan our membership cards and follow instructions.
Today we also attended our library's toddler 'rhyme time'. Rather than read to the toddlers they sing a few songs with actions. I'm not always crazy about putting so many toddlers together for these activities but it is nice to see the children's librarian and perhaps learn a few new songs. I think I prefer the library when it is a little quieter though!!