I frequently meet parents in my office looking for enrichment activities for their kids, but not wanting to spend a fortune to do so. While Philadelphia has a number of fun and free kids programs, museums, and events, not all of them are easily accessible. Schlepping kids across the city on public transportation can be a feat in itself, nevertheless taming them enough to trust them in front of priceless artwork, national landmarks, or water hazards. So when advising families about where to find free fun in our city, I tell them to look no further than their local library. With iPads and Kindles everywhere, recommending a library makes me feel old school. Some of my best childhood memories come from running around the large, musty bookshelves in our local library, discovering an old tome that felt like a hidden treasure before my mom called us back to the kids section. I am hoping my kids develop these memories too.
The Free Library of Philadelphia has a great kids website, full of games and reading lists for different ages. You can also find a list of storytimes at branches around the city, which is how G and I found a baby storytime at our neighborhood library. Surrounded by books, the kids section of the library also has stuffed animals, bean bags, mazes, puzzles, and other toys, encouraging play and exploration. This is not a place where you are expected to sit in silence but rather a place to inspire language development, whether reading or babbling.
Lindsey, our librarian, led a group of 0-14 month olds in a series of songs, dances, and stories for 30-minutes. G sat mesmerized for most of it, both watching the older toddlers dance around her and clapping her hands to the beat of “If You’re Happy and You Know It.” I had to laugh as I remembered N singing his own rendition earlier that morning that went: “If you’re G and You Know It, Clap Your Hands.” Watching my happy girl absorbing the bustling library around her, I think N was on to something.
There are some beautiful libraries in Philadelphia and passionate librarians, ready to instill a love of literature in even the littlest Philadelphians. In addition to regular storytimes, they run puppet shows, animal activist clubs, and music and movement storytimes. The libraries also have movie nights, chess clubs, bingo, and art camps. G and I have just scratched the surface of what the library can offer us, but we are looking forward to our next outing already.