Toys scattered among the stacks, puzzle pieces askew, kids popping from mess to mess and over in a corner you see a parent on their cell phone or device. Does this scene sound familiar to you?
Libraries with play spaces often report that they have parents who seem disengaged from their children’s play. While this isn’t the majority of library users but seems to stand out because of the mess and noise children who are not engaged in meaningful play can create. While it is our intention that parents will use the play space to interact and play with their children, they often observe play or expect their little ones to discover the play on their own.
How do we teach these parents to use the play spaces provided as an interactive time to share with their little ones?
- Model play! Library staff can often engage a parent by simply asking a question or starting a conversation with a child. When you see a child playing alone, ask them open ended questions that extend the play. When the parent sees the interaction they will become interested and then you can pull them into the play as well. We model how to share a book in story time, let’s model play on the floor.
- Provide signage! Be simple with your signs and remember you are not posting rules but suggestions for play. https://www.alsc.ala.org/blog/2012/03/instructions-included/
- Keep it Clean, Keep it Organized! While children can look at anything and find the play in it, somewhere adults loose that ability. Make your play spaces clean, organized and obvious. https://www.alsc.ala.org/blog/2012/04/keeping-it-clean/
- Choose meaningful play! When selecting your play spaces and what is included think of what learning is going to take place and what values the parents will see in the play.
Your turn! How do you engage parents in play?