Ingram Blog

Keeping Your Kids (and Smallest Patrons) Busy

Debbie Davenport, MLS, Collection Development Librarian and Wendy Rancier, MLS, Collection Development Librarian
School vacations, winter weather, and holidays can be both a joyous and a tense time. As a parent, you consider and discard multiple ideas on how to occupy your child/ren during those free hours that are normally filled with reading, writing, and arithmetic in a school setting. You ask yourself, what is fun but can also be used for learning something new? The same can be said for public librarians and staff, who are inundated with more traffic from kids, parents, and visiting relatives with no discernable pattern to peak times.

One of the results of being a valued community center is realizing that you are now looked upon (and even expected) to be a place that can help parents and caretakers manage the additional downtime available to their children. When we worked at our respective library branches, we prepared for this influx of people with special programming for the kiddos. We created programs that used recyclable materials, such as cardboard tubes and plastic bottles, build-offs with LEGOS, and duct tape projects to make coin holders and bracelets. These events were a lot of fun, and time just seemed to fly by with the laughter and escapades. Many times, we learned something from the kids, and we used that information in later programming. Another time, a Cub Scout leader asked the library to teach a troop how to knit a dishcloth. We turned it into a program for all. Results were mixed, but everyone certainly laughed. A lot!

Another thing to consider is passive crafting. Because crowd size and participation can be hard to predict during holiday breaks, one of our favorite things to do was to have some passive crafting available outside of planned programming. Parents were grateful for the “drop-in” ornament making, and we were thankful for the assistance in cleaning out our craft closet of those few “extra” pieces. Some people might think, this isn’t a big deal—anyone can make a reindeer out of a clothespin and pair of wiggle eyes. Keep in mind, though, that there are days other folks might be hard-pressed to find a clothes pin in their house, or they lack the patience to deal with a kindergartener armed with a glue stick and determination.

The library was (and still is) our solution to finding ideas on the home front as well. Easy kitchen experiments, STE(A)M activities, home decorating projects, and edible kid crafts are just a few of our more recent personal excursions. Nine times out of ten, you WILL make a mess (hello pinecones, nut butter, and bird seed), but the bonding experience with your child/ren is something no monetary value can be placed on, and the memories will last for years to come. It might even be something that your kids pass on to their own kids…a tradition, if you will.

This time of year is also a wonderful opportunity to increase a library’s circulation numbers by displaying their drawing, experimenting, and crafting books. In addition, you’re helping families with children manage the stress associated with holidays, winter weather, and vacations. We have created a list of some great titles that can help you hone or refresh your librarian/parent ninja crafting skills. Give them a try and build memories with the children in your life, whether it be at the library or home.