Wednesday, June 4, 2014

3rd time's the charm: Baby Storytime Tips and Tricks

Attendance at Baby Storytime has been a struggle for me ever since I started doing storytimes at my library. I've had to scrap and revamp it twice due to lack of attendance within the 3 1/2 years I've been a a Children's Librarian here.  I've had this thought many times:

It has only been in the last 3 months that things have really started to click with this age group. I regularly have over 10 babies and their caregivers come each week, which I consider a major victory after struggling for so long.

  Here are a few things I've learned along the way.
  • Playtime is essential. After storytime I put some baby toys (donated by a family member) on our floor and allow the grown ups time to play with the babies and socialize with each other. Baby's benefit from the playtime, and the adults benefit from being able to talk to people who speak in full sentences.
  • Lapsit is not a term many non librarians understand. One of the main reasons I switched the name of mine to Baby Storytime was that I kept being asked what Lapsit was. 
  • Local groups can be a great resource. One of the main reasons for my recent upsurge in attendance is I changed the time of the storytime. A major reason for the time change was to make storytime fall right before a meeting of our local Mom's Club. The Mom's Club meets in the local Rec Center, just a parking lot away. This is perfect for parents who want to attend both.
  • Repeat songs from week to week. Research shows that babies benefit from repetition. Repeating songs also helps caregivers learn the songs. I have about 20 songs I consider favorites, and alternate between these every week. The Cuckoo Clock Song and Wheels On the Bus are particular favorites, so they get sung each and every week. 
  • Invite older siblings to tag along. The first time I tried baby storytime I heard from many parents that they couldn't come because they had nobody to watch their toddler/preschooler. My solution was to make it clear that they were welcome to come as well. The number of families who have taken me up on this has in no way been overwhelming. Preschoolers can also help model behavior (such as sitting and paying attention) for the older babies.
  • For movement songs and bounces, use a doll to model movements for parents. This has helped a lot to show parents what I expect and how to interact with their babies during storytime.
  • Keep at it! It can be hard to get babies in, but once you do it is so fun and so worth it. The earlier we can make an impact on a child the better. Not only do the babies benefit, but so does future program attendance as babies age into older programing.
For more information on my storytimes (and for storytime plans) see my storytime blog.

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