Connection for kids and carers at the library

The library is a great place to take children of all ages – which makes it a great place for parents too. Going to events and joining activities and groups provides opportunities for kids and carers to make friends and build support networks.

Never too early to visit

Having a baby is a huge life event, and the library plays a big part in helping parents around the country adapt.

With free activities like rhyme times and story times the modern library offers parents and carers a safe, warm environment where they can introduce little ones to a world of stories and fun.

90% of a baby’s brain growth takes place in the first five years of life, so stimulating activity is important in these early days. Also important is giving parents and carers chances to meet others at the same life stage.

There's lots for little ones to enjoy at the library

Tracy Hager, Children & Youth Librarian at Wiltshire Libraries, recognises the challenges new parents face - and encourages them to bring their babies to the library as soon as they can.

“I tell new mums and dads: your baby can cry. You can cry. You can feed the baby. You need a hug? I’ll give you a hug,” she says.

“Adults might think their kids need to be quiet, but that’s not the case. We tell customers there are quieter times to visit, if that’s what they need. But we want the library to be a family-friendly space as well.”

Do I need to be silent
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"We want the library to be
a family-friendly space."
Tracy Hager, Children & Youth Librarian, Wiltshire Libraries

Continuing visits

For kids who are a little older, many libraries offer a variety of things to aid their development, entertain them and help them make new friends.

The modern library wants children to continue to visit as they grow - so on any given day you might find Lego clubs, colouring circles, games clubs and more. They’re all great ways to help children make new friends, and for you to meet new people too.

Alex Ferguson’s son, Archie, is a big fan of his library in Smethwick, Sandwell –⁠ which he’s lucky to be able to see from his window!

A group leader blows bubbles for a group of watching children at Glascote library.
Group activities can help children build social skills

“Archie has some unique needs because he has a genetic condition called Wolf–Hirschhorn syndrome. He’s a bit small for his age, and lacks a sense of danger, but he’s very friendly - so it can be tricky to find sociable yet safe spaces,” says Alex.

“Thimblemill Library is a place where we don’t need to worry so much about him. It’s a physically safe space, it’s all on one floor, and it’s free! It’s a much more suitable place for him to visit than, say, a coffee shop.”

Archie’s needs mean he spends time with his respite carer on Saturday mornings.

“At the library it never feels like Archie is treated as if he is any different to other kids,” says his dad. “They know him and he knows them. Our library is one of the reasons we haven’t moved house - it’s the central hub of the community and even puts on gigs!”

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School holidays

As schools go quiet over the summer holidays, libraries spring into action with programmes and activities to help parents and carers keep kids entertained.

Reading-related activities at the library help kids meet new friends

The Summer Reading Challenge, and other summer reading campaigns, act as vehicles for related fun like treasure hunts and crafting activities at libraries. As well as receiving rewards for keeping up their reading habit, kids can expect to make friends with other local children as they take part in programmes of activities.

In some areas you’ll also find initiatives - like Leeds Libraries’ Reception Reading Stars - that offer kids the chance to meet future classmates in libraries before they start their first day at school.

Rachel, a parent of two in Wakefield, finds the library invaluable during the summer holidays.

“My eldest, who is eight, asks to visit the library a lot during the Summer Reading Challenge”, she says. “It’s a nice walk to get there, and afterwards we’ll go to the park with a picnic - so it’s a way to have a great day out with the kids without spending money.”

Tips for bringing the library into your child’s life

  1. Start them young

    Lyndsay Glover, a Service Developer for young people at Explore York Libraries and Archives, says the benefits for parents of babies make the library a great place to spend time - and begin a child’s library journey.

    "We encourage new parents into the library soon after their baby is born. Once they discover all that's on offer they often make visiting the library part of their regular routine,” she says.

    With seating, free bathrooms, no pressure to spend money as well as story times and rhyme times, if you're a tired parent you might be surprised just how welcome you are at your library.

  2. Be aware of what’s on when

    Lots of libraries publish their events and programme listings online. Check out your local library’s website or search for it on Eventbrite –⁠ where you might also be able to book your spot for more popular activities.

  3. Build a day around it

    One thing that can surprise people is just how much children tend to love the library. Even just a change of scene can entertain a toddler - and that’s before you add new people to play with! With games, events and books on offer for older children too, it’s a safe and fun activity to plan a day around.

  4. Ask a member of staff or volunteers

    Library staff want you to enjoy your time enough for you to come back again - so they’ll be happy to help. And return visits are great votes of confidence for staff and volunteers.

    “We get a lot of the same people coming back,” says Helen Halliwell, Library Floor Manager at Halton Libraries, “so we know we’re doing something right!”

  5. Come away with something fun

    Don’t forget - the library is a treasure trove of stories! Once you’re there, encouraging a child to find a book they like the look of, and then making it clear they can take it home with them, can be a `breakthrough’ moment for youngsters. Likewise the ritual of bringing books back and choosing the next ones.

    “A boy in one of my reading groups put it this way,” says Tracy in Wiltshire. “‘The library is my favourite shop in the whole world! There are books, maps, games, and you can hang out for as long as you like. Where else can you get that for free?!”