“Play is the work of childhood.” (Jean Piaget)

A lot has changed since I started as the Children’s librarian at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh — Downtown & Business in February 2014! We definitely had kids coming in with their parents. But we were not a destination for playing. These children came because their parent needed to use the library for materials or computers. We had no area for the children to play, and no toys out in the open. I couldn’t imagine where we would put toys out in the library, or where the children would play with them.

When children came in, we gave them crayons and coloring sheets if they were on the first floor, and assorted puzzles along with coloring sheets if they were on our lower level. These had limited success, and often we would be giving stickers to the same child every five minutes.

Within six months of my starting at the position of Children’s librarian at CLP–Downtown & Business, we had come up with the concept of “Kid Kits” but we were unsure how to proceed. Would the kits be something that kids could take with them? What type of packaging would we use for the kits? What would we put in the kits? While questions are useful, two summers (the busiest time for children’s librarians) came and went before we made a deadline to just get this project DONE.

We’ve had the “Kid Kits” out for about two weeks. Two live on the first floor and one lives on the lower level. A “Kid Kit” consists of a colorful plastic box with crayons and coloring sheets (why mess with the classics?) but also some toddler books (board books or cloth books), plastic animals, and some wooden cars. They are a hit! They live behind the desk, and are offered to kids who need to sit quietly while their parent is doing some work at a table or a computer.

Now that we have the “Kid Kits” and toys out in the open, I shake my head at how long it took to get from the idea’s conception to its conclusion. But hindsight is 20/20. The kits were used right away, as were the toys out in the open. Children are happy to play with the toys and the parents are pleased to see their children playing. While it does mean that sometimes you can’t walk through the aisle where the children’s books are shelved, this is a small price to pay for happy children.

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Contents of a “Kids Kit”

We also have a bin of toys on each level: the clear plastic bins have three rails for trains, some train cars, and some plastic cars.

trucks and trains and tracks!

Trucks and trains and tracks!

The toys were an instant hit. Here you see boys playing with trucks and trains not even a half hour after the toys were put on the shelf!

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Jordon, left, and Jayden, playing with trucks and trains!

Do you have an unusual space where children visit? What are some work arounds you have used?

by Suzi,  CLP–Downtown & Business 

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