When it comes to “things to do with kids” this one is a no-brainer. Libraries are free, they’re full of children, and they have tons of media and a steady stream of events for kids of all ages. My favorite things the library has to offer are book check-outs (so I can get them out of my already-cluttered house once my kids are tired of them instead of having to find a shelf for them) and story times/group activities. Libraries have so many cool activities now — traditional story times, of course, but also music classes, play groups, dance themed activities, arts and crafts, STEM, chess clubs, LEGO clubs, reading to therapy dogs, puppet shows, and on and on.
Sometimes I go to the local library and let my kid play with LEGOs or puzzles on the floor. READ: An hour of peace for me and if he gets too rowdy, the librarian can tell him to quiet down which is 1000% more effective than if I tell him myself to quiet down.
I put together a list to help you make sure you don’t miss out on all that your public library has to offer.
- Think libraries, plural. My particular location puts me within just a few miles of multiple libraries. You might not have the same close proximity but chances are there are at least 2–3 other libraries within a reasonable driving distance. You can go to any story time or special library event in surrounding towns — they don’t ID you at the door and kick out any kids from neighboring towns. Some events require registration but will still allow out-of-towners. Consider checking out (pun intended) the libraries in your surrounding towns. By opening your options to more locations, you’re more likely to find a story time or event that fits with the ever-difficult-to-plan-around nap and school schedule and also your children’s interests.
- Reciprocal libraries. This goes along with #1 on this list about “thinking plural” but this is specifically for check-outs. Most libraries have arrangements with other nearby libraries called “reciprocal borrowing.” This means you can use your local library card to check out items from another town’s library. Check your local library’s website for a list of reciprocal libraries!
- Museum passes! This is both my favorite and least favorite things to tell people about the library. Favorite because NOBODY KNOWS ABOUT THIS and it makes me want to shout it from the rooftops. Least favorite because I have an irrational fear of everybody flocking to the library after I tell them about it and booking up all of the museum passes so there are none left for me. Anyway, LIBRARIES HAVE MUSEUM MEMBERSHIPS. You can check them out like books and go for free!
- Think outside the book. There are so many things besides books that you can get from the library. They have books on CD, music, subscriptions to web resources like ABC Mouse, DVDs, personal movie players that you can plug headphones into, and so much more. When The Lion King was still “in the vault” a few years ago the only place we could find it was at one of our surrounding libraries! For the last road trip we went on, my 3-year-old checked out a bunch of books on CD which came with an actual physical book for him to follow along. It kept him busy in the car for 45 minutes a.k.a. AN ETERNITY.
- Subscribe to emails. I’m a huge library nerd so I get emails from multiple towns’ children’s programs. It’s easy to forget about a special library event or story time even if you have the story time calendar hanging on your refrigerator. The emails help me plan my week!
- Follow them on social media. Libraries are on social media now! Not long ago, one of my local libraries had an event with live penguins that my 3-year-old absolutely loved. Something completely free and fun to do on a Sunday afternoon that he still talks about and it all happened because I found out about it on Facebook! Now I make sure to follow all of my favorite local libraries on social media so I don’t miss out on any cool opportunities like that.
- Take home a calendar. My town’s library isn’t particularly active on social media and doesn’t have a great email subscription. Any time we go, I make sure to take home a kids’ calendar and circle the story times that work for us. I hang it on my refrigerator and it’s a good go-to for any days we’re looking to fill a couple hours.
- Take advantage of e-resources. This one is more for the mamas and the papas, though they do have kids’ e-resources as well. If I bought all my books I would be bankrupt and living in a house made of books right now because I’d have nowhere to put them all. I like going to the library and checking out actual books but it’s hard to find the time/not enjoyable at all to browse the adult section with two psychotic children in tow. My solution for this is my library’s e-library! They have SO MANY BOOKS that you can download for free (using your town’s library card) right onto your Kindle/Nook/iPhone/whatever device you like to read on. There are sometimes wait lists for popular titles but there are also still plenty to choose from all the time. Bonus: I never end up paying late fees (or “lost book” fees which happens in my house more often than I like to admit because it’s the ultimate #shame for a library nerd like me). They even have audiobooks for download! Dirty little secret about me: about 90% of the books I “read” in 2017 were actually books that I listened to. I get a lot of “reading” done while making dinner, folding laundry, washing dishes, taking recycling out, and even during late-night nursing sessions (not this year on the nursing sessions though, #blessup)! If it weren’t for audiobooks, I would miss out on a lot of reading, and if it weren’t for free audiobooks from the library, I’d be broke af.
So I’m obviously way more enthusiastic about libraries than most sane people, but I never said I’m sane. Let me know what your favorite thing is about your local library!