Early Literacy STEAM at the Library

This fall, our children’s services team brainstormed ways to extend family visits to the floor after storytimes and programs had ended. We noticed the floor would be packed for the 20 minutes before and after a program, but it cleared out quickly. We decided to use our passive STEAM stations, typically reserved for special programs or rainy days/school break boredom busters. Our pie-in-the-sky goal was to have families seeking the library as a place to be, even if there wasn’t a specific program or storytime happening. The more practical purpose was to have families stay engaged in the department past the event that brought them there.

Threading the toilet paper rolls develops eye hand coordination.

The set-up:

We set out 5 easy-to-assemble stations each week at different tables throughout the floor. The stations are switched out weekly. Each week the activities focus on fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination while introducing simple math, literacy, and science concepts.

The ideas come mainly from Pinterest and teacher and librarian websites. Every station comes with simple directions that require little intervention from staff.

The spider web activity helps kids develop a strong pincher grip for future writing

Our observations:

  • Positive interactions between caregiver and child. We take care of the mess, and all the family has to do is enjoy time together.
  • Builds a child’s vocabulary through play. We highlight new words in our directions. Children not only build math literacy and fine motor or eye-hand coordination skills, but they are also building their word banks.
  • Expands a child’s background knowledge. The more enrichment a child experiences, the better positioned that child is when learning to read.
  • Shows that the library isn’t only a place where reading happens. Libraries are places where LEARNING happens.
Build a City encourages 1:1 counting and helps a child visualize numbers.


Through these weekly STEAM stations, we hope to impact a new generation of learners to be curious and excited about learning. We may not be able to easily measure how these weekly programs impact overall learning outcomes as a child progresses through the education system. However, we can see the impact it has on individual families at that moment. We hope these lead to more engagement between caregiver and child and more engagement with the library.

If we hear a conversation,

If we hear laughter,

If we listen to questions,

Then we met our goals.

Do you have passive STEAM programming? What ages does it target? What has worked for your community?


  1. Chris

    Is it possible to get links for the STEAM activities/instructions? Thanks!

    1. Jessica

      The ideas are compiled from Pinterest and tailored to the supplies we have on hand. I apologize for not having specific links. Pinterest has a lot of great suggestions. I used Preschool STEM and Preschool Literacy as search terms.

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