Making Library Visits Fun and Easy with Little Ones

I love going to the library. And I love taking my girls to the library! They truly have a great time there, and we can find so many wonderful things to read while only paying late fees (which, by the way, you should look into— our library system just did away with fees for juvenile materials!). But man… I know those library visits with kids can be draining! I asked my Instagram followers about their biggest questions about or problems with going to the library with their children. This one is a long one, but read through it to see how our family has trouble-shot common difficulties to make library trips fun and enjoyable for all!

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First issue– the second you walk into the children’s room at our neighborhood library, the first two things you see are the game computers followed by the wall of prominently displayed, front-facing character-based books. Here’s how we’ve learned to deal with those in our family. Maybe some of this will help you!

  • Computers: before we go into the library, my girls to choose how long they’re going to play on the computer from two choices I give them (it’s usually a choice of 5 or 10 minutes). I used to say no computer time at all, but it’s SO much easier to just accept that they’ll play. And, giving them the control of how long means lots less arguing when the time is over. Then, when they’re done, they’re truly done and excited about books. Added silver lining— I use the time they spend on the computers to find books on the shelves!
  • Character based trade books: to me, these are often the least interesting books for us to read. And it doesn’t matter who the character is — my girls love them even if they’ve never seen said show or movie. And because they’re beautifully displayed, it’s hard to avoid their draw (and, as painful as it can be sometimes, I am indeed a believer that anything that gets children excited to read is worth them reading). So, my girls can check them out with their own library cards (more on managing this later in the post), but not mine. Then, these become our “car books.” They live in a basket in the car until next time we go to the library— then I don’t have to read them, the girls always have something to “read” in the car, and we don’t risk getting losing more books!

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Does using the library with your children make you worry about taking care of and keeping track of the books that are checked out? While I can’t honestly say we’ve mastered this in our house, here are some ideas that might help you:

  • Have your kids check out books to their own library cards (see more on this later in this post). For some reason, I find it easier to keep track of what books each girl has checked out and where those books might be when they’re under separate cards. Part of that is because, as stated above, the books that the girls check out themselves usually stay in our car until the next library visit, so they’re always easy to find.
  • Limit the number of books each child can take out of the library. In some families, kids can check out two at a time. Others allow five, and others have more interesting systems, such as one book per year for each child (for example, my 5-year-old could get 5 books). Since my children check their books out themselves with their own cards, they tend to only get 2 or 3, since that’s all they can carry easily to the checkout machine, so we’ve never had to implement a limit like this.
  • Have a special place where library books live. The books our girls check out tend to stay in the car. Books I check out for them go to a special basket labeled “library books” or our front-facing bookshelf, depending what they’re being used for.
  • Make sure your online account is set up so you can quickly and easily see what books your family has out. I also have the girls’ accounts set up online, so that I can easily check their accounts too. You can also pay fines online. Additionally, check to make sure you get email notifications a few days before your books are due. These emails truly the ONLY way I know when to return books!
  • Know that from time to time, books are going to get lost. Don’t sweat it… libraries are used to people losing books! Our library system recently did away with fines on juvenile materials and will also let you replace a lost book with any new book. If you do get fines or lose books, chat with your librarian to find the easiest/cheapest way to take care of it.
  • Try not to worry if your child destroys a library book. Librarians are also used to that. Worst case— your child might have to replace the book. Best case— your child learns to fix the book. Neither are terrible considering how infrequently this happens, and either way your child learns a valuable lesson about caring for books.

Do your kids have their own library cards? I took my girls last winter (they were about 4.5 and 2) to get their own library cards, and it’s been a game-changer. They LOVE using their cards to check out their own books. I give them free reign over what they choose with their cards. It’s their card, their choice, and they are incredibly excited to check out books each time we visit the library!

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Next, do you take advantage of requesting/placing on hold books ahead of actually going to the library? Using the library’s advance requests through the online system is a wonderful way for me to ensure we’re getting amazing, high-quality books every time we visit the library, even in weeks that are too busy to fit in a real library visit. I simply go online ahead of time, request the books I want, and they appear on a shelf in the hold area of our local library! Requesting items is also helpful with extremely popular or new books. Our library system has a limit of 10 holds per account (check your library to know what you’re working with), but it you hit your hold limit…

Use your kids’ library accounts to request more books! When my girls got their own library cards, I set up their online accounts immediately, thinking it would be helpful to manage books checked out and return dates. I didn’t realize it would also be helpful in requesting titles! This is especially useful when I am looking for books around a specific theme, such as back-to-school, farms, or holidays.

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The last common question I get is around germs and grime in the library… While this honestly doesn’t bother me, here are some ideas I’ve gotten from other library lovers:

  • Don’t let your kids play with the stuffed toys! There usually aren’t many, so you can often easily put them out of reach once you enter the children’s area.
  • Sanitize when you walk into the library and when you leave. Our library has a HUGE jar of sanitizer at the circulation desk, so they make this easy for us.
  • Wipe down the covers and spine of books immediately when you get home, maybe even with a clorox wipe.
  • Many libraries have “stay and play” or “toy time” after story time. Whisk your kiddos away before those toys get dumped out, especially if you attend the baby/toddler story time where many kids still put toys in their mouths.

Please comment below or shoot me a message if there’s anything you’re still struggling with regarding the library and your little ones, and I’ll see what I can do to help!

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