- ALA Annual Conference 2022

Early Learning Activities to Support New Parents

And just like that, my time at #ALAAC22 is off to a fantastic start. Yesterday morning I attended the program ”Supporting New Parents in Diverse Communities with Creativity and Compassion” led by Dr. Tess Pendergrast and Dr. Betsy Diamant-Cohen (the creator of Mother Goose on the Loose). They provided many excellent strategies and fun new songs to use in outreach or programs with new parents and babies. I’ll list a few that stood out to me below.

Parenting in the 21st Century

  • Did you know that only 36% of parents read to babies each day? Before you faint from the horror, Dr. Pendergrast noted there could be socially marginalizing factors or cultural norms researchers didn’t take into account.
  • Parents want more information and tips on social-emotional development than on physical development. This is really where we as children’s librarians can shine!

Reaching Parents

  • NICUs! Teaching lullabies to parents is a great way they can bond with their babies in the NICU while not waking the sleeping babies up.
  • Laundromats as play areas! Interested folks are encouraged to reach out to the organization Laundry Cares.

Songs & Activities

  • Naming activities. Songs like ”Let’s All Clap” or asking the grown-ups to tell the story of their baby’s name can get the baby’s attention and allows you to learn their names.
  • Social-Emotional songs and activities can build confidence and teach school readiness skills like taking turns and waiting. A super easy example she used that I totally want to do is a Humpty Dumpty felt activity. A felt Humpty sits on a felt wall on your board. The librarian says the classic rhyme and removes the Humpty off the felt board. Then the librarian invites each child to come up and pull Humpty off the wall as everyone says the rhyme, cheering for them afterward. So easy and builds so many SEL skills!
  • Equally important: songs or activities for pure joy. Dr. Diamant-Cohen and Dr. Pendergrast performed a hilarious full-body movement song called “I Dropped My Frog.” They had little beanbag frogs (but you could really use anything). Kids learn different body parts and have a hilarious time dropping their frogs.

Just one session and I learned so much! What are ways that you can implement these ideas and strategies in your early learning programs? Do you have any SEL songs to share? Add them to the comments below.


Conference guest contributor Meg Beade Stowe (she/her/hers) is a Youth Services Librarian at Kitsap Regional Library. She is currently serving on the Early Childhood Programs and Services Committee and is an incoming co-chair for this committee. She is looking forward to all the early learning programs at ALA and wants to attend as many as possible. She is also looking forward to the Newbery100! Celebration and hopefully seeing a few favorite authors and illustrators, too. As a child, she wanted to be a Marine Biologist when she grew up. Now that she has a Masters in Library and Information SCIENCE, she finds it funny that she works at a library system on a peninsula so water is all around her. 

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

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