ALA Annual 2012

Toys in the Library #ala12

Having toys and play at the library is certainly a timely topic: the revised Every Child Ready to Read includes play as one of the five practices to promote early literacy. ALSC sponsored a program at ALA on this topic entitled “You Want Me to Circ WHAT?! or How to Best Utilize Toys as a Literacy Tool in Programs and as a Fun Part of Your Lending Collection.” Toys are a great, child-approved way to integrate play into the library, and this session had quite a few ideas for making that happen:

  • No space is too small for incorporating toys into the library. Whether you have a room, a playhouse, a closet, a table, or just a bit of space under some shelves, you can add toys successfully. Wall panels work really well, too.
  • Adding toys is not a “go big or go home” scenario: a small selection of toys is just as beneficial as a huge variety. A child engages with one toy at a time, so a few puzzles are just as satisfying to a child as a roomful of different items.
  • Need to justify spending some of your budget on toys? Offer programs that highlight play and give plenty of opportunities for kids to play with the library’s toys. Start off with a short book and a song, then spend the rest of the program letting kids and caregivers go to play stations. Ideas for stations include playdoh, blocks, letters, etc., all with brief instructions for grown-ups to encourage interacting with the toys.
  • Adapt activities for older children, too; they also benefit cognitively from play, and making play a family affair does more to ensure the practice will continue outside of the library.

I was so energized by this session that as soon as I returned from Anaheim I ordered magnetic drawing boards to have out in my children’s area. More play initiatives are in the works.

How do you bring toys and play into the library?


I am the Children’s Librarian at the Corporate Parkway Branch of the St. Charles City-County Library District in Missouri. I am active in ALSC, and I blog as the Show Me Librarian at


  1. Sharon McClintock

    Right now we have a large collection of wooden puzzles, a bead table, and a puppet stage with lots of puppets. They are all well used and well loved. Not only do they encourage parent-child play, but they are also a focal point for parents to communicate with each other. We hope to add even more toys in the future!

  2. Amy Koester

    I love the idea of puzzles, Sharon. They don’t take up a lot of space, are easy to store, and are easily cleaned. Plus they’re great for a variety of ages, and they develop problem solving skills as well as reinforce vocabulary. An easy, not-too-expensive way to add toys to your children’s area!

  3. Mindy

    I’m not currently working in a library, but I am at my local public library with my preschool age daughter quite frequently. She loves the puzzles and games they have for kids. They also regularly have Lego Mania Saturdays with various types of Legos in different spots around the children’s area. Occasionally we go to a different branch that has a board game style game in the carpet. She loves it!

  4. Pingback: Thinking About Your Children’s Spaces #ala12 | ALSC Blog

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