I overheard (okay, I was eavesdropping a little) a lady at our mommy and me music class talking about how she was desperately searching for a few more activities to do during the week with her toddler. She had no idea that most/all of the libraries in Houston host multiple educational and fun activities for children (and adults) of all ages! Literally, one library near my house in Cypress hosts so many awesome activities per week, we couldn’t attend them all if we tried!
If you are thinking something like, “I have plenty of books at my house already or who uses the library anymore?”, you’re missing out! They seriously have something to benefit any style of learner in your family and programs for almost all aspects of child development.
Why go to the library?
- We go to borrow books, CDs and movies. It saves me time and money (and sanity since I’m not a huge fan of reading the same books over and over.)
- We go to socialize and play with other children my children’s ages. The events are almost always split up by age range which makes it the perfect place to meet other kids and parents of kids the same age as yours!
- We go for the structure of sitting at story time and listening to the “teacher” (the children’s librarians). It’s not always perfect, but I think attending story times has helped us with learning a little discipline and self-control in a loving, fun environment. The story times are very developmentally appropriate; not usually longer than 20-30 minutes and allow for plenty of movement and talking between stories. They’ve found a good balance for each age group in my opinion.
- We go for the parent and child bonding which occurs in the hugs and time spent together in each of the story times. It’s always a special time we enjoy sitting together each week.
- My girls love the library! They always enjoy their time.
- It’s free and there’s no obligation! There are very few children’s activities where you can decide morning of if you want to go or not and there are hardly any that are free.
- We go to beat the hot, rainy, and/or humid days which can be the majority of days in Houston!
- We go to benefit the whole-child development of my daughters (it’s so much more than just the literacy aspect!):
Social/Communication: My girls have met many of their friends at our local library! The story times and events usually end with some sort of free play activity where the children are able to play and interact with other children their age.
Math/Logics: Many of the libraries host weekly STEM nights and/or fun with numbers nights for young children! They also host free tutoring programs for school-age students.
Technology: Free access to computers pre-loaded with child-friendly accessories and educational software!
Science: Right now, many of the HCPL locations are taking part in Project Peep which is an educational animal science program where library visitors get to take part and learn about the life cycle of chicks! Last fall, they held Space Week and the children learned all about astronauts and planets!
Music and Arts: Most events include age-appropriate arts and crafts and almost all include a musical aspect!
Gross Motor Skills: All of the story time events we have attended include some sort of physical movement like dancing, tunnel climbing! I’m pretty sure both of my girls learned how to jump and clap at the library doing the Monkey Dance every Monday!
Fine Motor Skills: Our library always has cute, seasonal coloring sheets and crayons for the children to use and practice pre-writing skills!
Literacy: Obviously, the library is a great place to create a love of reading in your child! Many school libraries limit the number or type of books children can pick, so the local library is a great place to give your child some more freedom with their reading choices!
3 “Pro” tips before you hit the library:
- Arrive early! Most of the libraries in Houston serve large communities and have limited numbers of tickets for each event. We aim to arrive 30 minutes early to any activity we want to go to.
- Plan to stay awhile! I notice that some of my friends come just for the activity and leave. They have lots of fun- but they’re missing out on some of the really great things to do at the library besides the story time or hosted activity. Take a quick walk around the library and you’ll be surprised how much there is to do- ours has a café/coffee shop, coloring corner, computer areas for kids and adults, a play area with puzzles and a duck pond outside- enough to keep us busy for hours!
- Sign up for a free library card and order your children’s (and your) library books ahead of time! Then, pick them up and check out. This is a lifesaver for me with two littles age 2 and under. It also gives me time to look up recommended reading lists for each child and then put it on our library hold list. The HCPL system allows you to pick books from any of the branches and then it is magically shipped to the library you attend! Seriously- it’s amazing.
By Mary West
About me: Mama, wife, daughter, sister, teacher/tutor. I’ve loved the library my whole life and hope my children feel the same!