Libraries are fantastic, (usually) kid-friendly places, but a trip with a toddler can turn into a nightmare quickly. Over the years I have compiled a list of tips to make trips to the library fun and peaceful for parents and toddlers.
1. Make a book list. Two days before you go, make a list of the books you want to check out. Go to your library’s website and put all the books on hold. They will be waiting for you at the desk. You will be free to explore behind your toddler instead of trying to grab books and play at the same time.
2. Eat before you go. This is a pretty standard toddler tip. Hungry toddlers are grumpy toddlers, and grumpy toddlers are disruptive, whiny, or plain angry. So eat before you go. Going early in the morning always worked best for my kids.
3. It’s OK to skip story time. Groups of small kids always overwhelmed my children when they were toddlers, and it was easier to go at a quieter time. If we did go to story time, we left when the story was over and came back later to get books, cuddle, and read.
4. Take extra bags. Maybe it’s just me, but when I walk into a library I lose all control. I never leave without five times the amount of books on my list. Even if I got a great parking spot, I end up having to juggle my daughter in one arm and 30 pounds of books (10 of which won’t fit in the bag) in the other. Extra bags are a plus.
5. Let your toddler choose his or her books. Give your toddler a number and let him or her choose that many books to check out. Independence is a big treat for toddlers, and this will make a great positive association with the library and books.
6. Have them help with checking out. This is a lifesaver for me because this is where I will lose patience -- big time. In the past my 2-year-old has used this time to run wild and free or just off to find one more book...or 10 DVDs. Now, if I give her books to hold until the end and let her help check them out, it keeps her feeling like she is a helper and keeps her in one spot. Usually.
7. Have a sense of humor. Know your toddlers aren’t the loudest the librarians have ever heard, even if your toddlers completely forgot their library voice at home. Keep modeling a quiet voice by whispering to them, and they will eventually whisper back and be the kids some other parent is using as a good example.