Play in the Library and Beyond

My Imaginary Play Space in the Children’s Library Section in my Future

After listening to a presentation by Cindy Christin of the Bozeman Public Library in Montana (2012) I was inspired to skip the plastic food and play kitchens for a simple set of wooden blocks in the children’s section of my imaginary library; I don’t currently work in a library. Plastic food definitely says ‘children’s toys’ and too often even in this day and age, play kitchen says ‘girl.’ Wooden blocks however, say ‘play!’

th-2Christin went on to explain the reasoning for this choice in a similar fashion, reporting that parents (both moms and dads) and high school kids enjoyed building and playing with these blocks. With these blocks, children can build two and three-dimensional structures. They can build complex structures or simple towers and build all kinds of developmental skills. Babies and toddlers learn about shape, color and texture from blocks. They test balance and negotiate the laws of gravity. Preschoolers begin to learn more complicated skills and develop beginning concepts of engineering, math and physics. All with good old-fashioned blocks, not a toy developed, tested and marketed by a big toy company. Blocks do not need any advanced technology or charged batteries or an owner’s manual. Wooden blocks are simply grab-n-go.

Parental involvement can take on all levels of involvement from co-builder to inquisitive admirer. Animals and cars can add another element of play and the whole combination can inspire narrative stories among preschool, kindergarten and even older elementary age children.

th-1Christin went on to describe some of the best set-ups for wooden blocks within a library play space. She cautioned against crates of blocks and promoted a more organized storage method with shelves. These shelves, she suggested, could have block outlines traced on them to encourage matching skills and for children to take the initiative to clean up after themselves. Kids know how to play better when it’s organized, laid out and visible. This also enables them to use their organizational, classification and observational skills.

dsc_0876The simple, uncluttered open shelves pictured in the presentation reminded me of the classrooms of the Montessori schools that my children have attended. The Montessori learning system stresses order and independence. Different tasks, projects and puzzles are laid out and organized with everything a child needs to do their work. Mats are laid out before a work is brought from its shelf to the work area so as to delineate a specific place for the child.

In my imaginary children’s place, a few simple, clean toys would be laid out on shelves (amidst books, of course). There would be toys for both individual and interactive play and shelves and organization would make it easy for the toys to be found and just as easy for the toys to be put away. My imaginary library space for children would have open spaces for play and cozy corners to cuddle and read. There would be a space large enough for a big, energetic story time and racks of books in reach for children of all sizes. I hope to promote learning and play, accessibility and community. Most of all, I hope to make this all a reality very soon.

Images courtesy of the library in Eddyville, Iowa; the Branchport library and Garden Montessori preschool (child is my own).

Reference: Christin, C. (2012, September 20) Play Spaces for Public Libraries, The Bozeman Public Library in Montana. Found at:



Play is for the Children

img_0779Two of my friends and I were sitting at a local bakery having coffee and pastries; I was playing hooky from work. “I don’t like to play with my children,” Jane said.

The statement struck me as harsh, and then I reconsidered. Are parents supposed to play with their children?

“I like to do things with my children. I love taking them to the library, to bake cookies with them,” Jane went on. This sounded reasonable. Why should a grown woman enjoy or be expected to play Transformers or spend ten minutes or more helping their toddler line up his race cars? She liked to bake and was happy to share that with her kids.

Perhaps play should be left to the kids. Going to the library or the garden nursery are activities for which children require adults to go along, at the very least to supply transportation. There are places to explore and ways in which adults and children can interact—to discuss books or flowers and have a conversation.

Play however, should remain the realm of children.

I cannot imagine if my mother had come into my room and asked which Barbie she could be. Or if I went into my daughter’s room and insisted on playing Shopkins with her. An adult playing in the middle of a child’s game is not only odd but kind of invasive for the children involved.

Play is where children learn about social roles as well as the realm of imagination. Children acquire valuable skills during play that allow their minds to progress at their own developmental rate. During play, children begin to understand symbolic representation. If a large block can represent a boat, then a series of letters can represent a word and in turn an object or idea. Children can explore their own vocabularies, trying out words they’ve heard and using them correctly or incorrectly and learning from the experience. In this way, they can even learn from each other.

When children play ‘house’ or ‘family’ they are acting out roles that are familiar, or slightly unfamiliar depending on each child participant’s family make-up. Perhaps Joey doesn’t know what a big sister is exactly because he’s the oldest child, or maybe Sally has two mothers and no siblings. In this way, children learn to expand the way they view the world and become accepting of a multitude of ways to live.

Play is the place—both literally and figuratively—where children learn to sort out their world, how to negotiate all they need to at their own little preschooler pace.

Scholastic (n.d.) Building language and literacy through play. Early Childhood Today.
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