- Reading, playing, singing, and talking are very important in fostering early childhood development and literacy. Programs at the library give babies the opportunity to learn and explore using songs, rhymes, and toys
- Programs help create positive associations with the library and with reading at an early age
- Baby programs at the library offer an opportunity for parents and babies to bond, and give library staff the chance to teach parents about early literacy
- These programs give parents the opportunity to connect with other parents, creating a mini support group at your library
There are many resources available to help you get started. Here’s an overview of what your baby program could look like, and some helpful resources.
Most baby laptime programs are around 20-30 minutes long and are for infants under two years old. All you need for equipment is a program room (or quiet corner of the library), some floor mats, stuffed animals or puppets, and a few board books. Parents will sit on the floor in a circle, with babies on their laps. It can also be useful to print out the songs and rhymes you’ll be singing and pin them on the wall, so parents can more easily follow along. As you experiment with baby laptime, you can also add more fun items such as bubbles, rattles and other baby toys.
Start off with the Welcome. This is where you set the tone for the program for the parents. Encourage them to participate, and explain that repetition is very important for babies to learn, which is why most songs and rhymes will be repeated two or three times. Explain that movement will also be an important part of the program and that you’ll demonstrate on your stuffed animal baby, and they can follow your lead. Most of all, try make them feel comfortable - older infants may want to run around during the program and that should be encouraged. Parents shouldn't have to worry about their child “misbehaving.” Movement and exploration is an important part of learning!
After the welcome to the parents, welcome the babies with a short song. There are many options, such as this hello song, to the tune of “London Bridge is Falling Down”:
- Hi, everybody*, and how are you?
How are you?
How are you?
Hi, everybody*, and how are you?
How are you today?
*Repeat with each baby’s name
Next, you can Read a short board book. Stick to reading one or two, as you don't want to lose their attention, and try choosing a large book with interesting visuals. If you have enough, give each baby their own board book to hold, as even holding a book helps babies learn about reading behaviour.
Next, move into Rhymes, Songs and Fingerplays. There are many fun options for these! Try and choose songs that incorporate action, such as the Hokey Pokey; Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes; and, Bumpin' Up and Down in my Little Red Wagon. In each of these, the parent guides their baby's body to do the movements (ie. putting their right foot in for the Hokey Pokey). Also try songs with rattles/bells, or games like Peekaboo to further stimulate the babies. See the suggested resources for more ideas.
Towards the end of the program, start to bring in slower songs and rhymes. Finish the program with a Goodbye song, such as this one:
- Our hands say thank you with a clap, clap, clap.
Our feet say thank you with a tap, tap, tap.
Clap, clap, clap. Tap, tap, tap.
We wave our hands and we say goodbye!
Implementing a baby program at your library isn't as hard as it may seem! These programs do not need to vary as much week-to-week as programs for older children. In fact, it's better to stick with the same rhymes and songs so that both parents and babies can become familiar. Once you do the initial work to set up the program, you'll be well on your way to success. And remember, these are just guidelines. Do what works for your patrons and your community, and don't be afraid to be flexible and try new things!
- Laptime Songs is a great website, with songs and rhymes for kids, and videos to accompany each so you can hear and see them in action!
- "Bouncing Babies: Programming for the Littlest Library Kids" blog post from The Show Me Librarian has lots of great information.
- The Association for Library Service to Children has some suggestions for rhymes as well as book titles. The also offer a sample program.
- Edmonton Public Library has a list of bouncing rhymes (Ickity Bickity Soda Cracker is especially fun!)
- Check out last week's blog post for some great resources on nursery rhymes for babies and children that could be used in your program.
- Diamant-Cohen, Betsy. Mother Goose on the Loose. New York: Neal-Schuman, 2006.
- Ernst, Linda. Baby Rhyming Time. New York: Neal-Schuman, 2008.
- Ghoting, Saroj Nadkarni. Early Literacy Storytime @ your library. Chicago: ALA Editions, 2006.
- Marino, Jane. Babies in the Library! Lanham: Scarecrow Press, 2007.
- MacMillan, Kathy. Baby Storytime Magic: Active Early Literacy Through Bounces, Rhymes, Tickles and More. Chicago: ALA Editions, 2014.