So, when I first started my new job as a children’s librarian, I was told that I would be helping out with something called Play and Learn. “Yay! Great!” I said out loud. “What the heck is that?!?” I thought. Boy, did I have a lot to learn back in the salad days of, um, a month ago.
It turns out Play and Learn is a program based on the concepts and ideas behind Every Child Ready to Read. ECRR is a program created by the Association for Library Services to Children and Public Library Association, and it emphasizes skills and activities that enhance pre-literacy. Reading doesn’t just start when a five year old starts reading about Dick and Jane! It starts when toddlers get to play with things that are different shapes, when they hear books read out loud by their caregivers, or when they use stampers to mash letters in to play-doh. Being familiar with the tools of literacy and spending time with caregivers who care about reading themselves is pretty much the best training for reading you’ll ever get.
So what does that mean for play and learn? It pretty much means we get to have the most fun program ever! Each week, we start out by sitting on the story time rug with the kiddos. We usually play a game of Ants in the Pants, in which the toddlers (play and learn is directed toward 2-5 year olds) try to guess which colored pants our little ants are hiding behind. It’s a super fun activity that has all kinds of underlying concepts – colors, guessing, and rhyming. It also gives late-comers a chance to settle in. Then we get to sing a song! We usually only read one short-ish story, and often try to include interactive elements, like acting out the motions, or singing along. We finish up with another song. Sounds like a pretty normal (and short!) story time, right?
Well, that’s where the playing comes in! We set up a number of stations centered around a different theme. Each station encourages important developmental assets, like imagining, fine motor skills, sensory play, or building.
Toddlers and their parents can spend time hanging out, reading, playing, and interacting with other kids in a super laid back environment. It’s pretty much the coolest free thing to do this side of Toddler Time!
In the coming weeks, I’ll start chronicling some of the awesome themes, books, and stations we’ve cobbled together to make Play and Learn work! Hopefully, by putting all this down on, um, the screen, I’ll be able to do an even better job — especially since I’m in charge of Play and Learn for our winter session! Eeep!