- Julie Garwood
- Playing on a mini obstacle course at the South Burlington Public Library
When I first became a mom in 2018 and was looking for things to do with my little ones, it never occurred to me that the library offered anything other than books.
It wasn't until I overheard another parent raving about "story time" that I grew curious about whether my local library offered something similar. And so, with my 1- and 3-year-old toddlers in tow, we set out for Burlington's Fletcher Free Library to attend an event called Family Playshop. Playshop gives children under 5 the opportunity to explore materials, from Play-Doh to Legos, with helpful and engaging librarians nearby to assist.
Our first experience there became one of many as I quickly discovered that libraries provide countless opportunities for learning and socialization. Whether taking home activities for a rainy day or participating in interactive experiences like Playshop, we realized libraries are the perfect place for us to get to know our community, free of charge.
Our family has since become an unofficial ambassador of these neighborhood spots. Not only do we enjoy making new friends, we also know there are many parents and caregivers like us searching for the same things we are: community, inclusion and one more way to keep a precocious toddler entertained! With that in mind, it's my pleasure to share the following treasure trove of library resources.
To learn more about your library's offerings, check out its website. Many list their programs, as well as other at-home opportunities, under their "Kids/Youth" tab or right on the home page. Happy exploring!
Playgroups and Programs
- Julie Garwood
- Sing Along With Linda Bassick at Fletcher Free Library
Our favorite library programs are ever changing. Currently, my 3-year-old is counting the days until he can go back to the Fletcher Free Library for Sing Along With Linda Bassick. This weekly half-hour program is filled with acoustic guitar playing, singing and dancing with other 1- to 7-year-olds. My son has even worked up the courage to request a song or two. His current sing-along favorite: the ABCs.
We've also learned about several other programs for infants and toddlers at nearby libraries. At K9 Duke Storytime With Officer Cohen at Dorothy Alling Memorial Library in Williston, children can read with or to a dog and get to know one of their town's local police officers. The Pierson Library in Shelburne offers Little Ones Yoga on Saturdays, a great opportunity to try a new form of exercise and work out those wiggles!
Programs are typically open to residents and nonresidents alike. So, even if your own town's library doesn't have something that works for you, you can likely find an engaging program in the next town over.
Take-Home STEAM Kits
While I'm accustomed to taking home books from the library, I recently learned about STEAM kits available for checkout. STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, art and math, and according to staff at Richmond Free Library, these kits help young learners build introductory knowledge and basic skills in different subject areas. Themes include snap circuits, ocean wonder kits, Magna-Tiles and board games. STEAM kits are available for a variety of ages, from preschoolers to teenagers. You can find them in many libraries, including the Fletcher Free Library in Burlington, Richmond Free Library and Brownell Library in Essex Junction.
- Julie Garwood
- Exploring a sensory bin at Fletcher Free Library
Sometimes, a kid just wants to play. And what better way to mix it up than a change of scenery? Luckily, many libraries offer dedicated spaces for kids to explore and interact with friends. Most of these spaces are open whenever the library is, making it easy to stop by whenever you have a free hour.
Some of our favorite activities we've found for kids up to 5 years old are sensory bins, arts and crafts projects, puzzles, large manipulatives (think blocks), figurines, dollhouses, and coloring materials. We recommend checking out the offerings at Dorothy Alling Memorial Library, South Burlington Public Library, Stowe Free Library and Fletcher Free Library.
Computers and Electronics
OK, so maybe electronics aren't your favorite thing for toddlers to get their hands on, but libraries often offer developmentally appropriate tech toys for young children. At the South Burlington Public Library, for example, children can choose from several games or stories that allow them to read or sing along with cartoon characters. Themes include shapes, numbers and classic nursery rhymes. It's a wholesome option that allows little ones to experiment with technology without letting them hop on the internet and start exploring.
Online Resources and Classes
Speaking of electronics, I recently learned that many libraries also offer online programs that students can access at home. A quick perusal of the Fletcher Free Library website shows programs such as PBS Kids and ECHO At-Home Learning, as well as platforms that offer ebooks and games. These options are ideal for rainy or snowy days or to supplement your child's learning. My kids have taken advantage of a game or two with Daniel Tiger, a PBS character who teaches about love and kindness. This is a great, free option that certainly beats paying for another expensive subscription.
It was on one of our many long walks during the height of the pandemic that we discovered our neighborhood StoryWalk. On the side of a rail trail, we found a forested path where children could follow a series of posted signs, each containing one page of a storybook. We especially liked the fact that the signs were posted at toddler height for easy access.
Attraction and Museum Passes
Want to take a trip to a local museum or state park? Before heading out, check with your town's library to see if it has free passes to your desired destination. Many offer free or reduced-price passes to places such as Shelburne Farms, Rokeby Museum in Ferrisburgh, Billings Farm & Museum in Woodstock, and some state parks.