what everybaby knows

The teacher stands in front of the group and rings a triangle chime. All dozen or so babies in the room quiet down and come to rapt attention, focusing on the source of the noise. The teacher looks around and nods in approval.

Thus begins another round of story time at the Mt. Lebanon Public Library. The teacher pulls out a stuffed dog and walks it around the room while the children and their caregivers sing an opening song. Story time for 0- to 2-year-olds is much broader than reading stories, you see. The program, called Book Babies, knows children well enough to invoke all their senses. Over the 45-minute class, the babies are encouraged to fully participate through a series of movement-based songs and exercises. The teacher leads a version of “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes,” helping the babies get their wiggles out while learning about their bodies.

A little humor goes a long way toward relaxing everyone. When the teacher instructs the caregivers to stretch out their legs and put their babies on their knees, my 8-month-old arches his back and begins to wail. “Or not,” the teacher says with a wry smile, and the room erupts in chuckles.

This kind of developmentally appropriate learning in a safe, friendly environment is normally expensive and hard for new parents to find. Believe me, I’ve looked, and similar programs cost up to $80 a month. Meanwhile at the library, Book Babies is part of a wide array of quality programming that is, of course, free to the public. Read about the library’s high quality, no-cost combination.

The effort toward creating a welcoming space is making a huge difference in the community. Walk into the children’s library any day of the week, and you’ll see happy kids and their caregivers. The children’s library fosters reading, true. It also has space for children to play. There is a kitchen complete with buckets of toy food as well as a Lego table. For parents such as myself whose babies have short attention spans and are still learning to—ahem—fully appreciate books, the toy space is much appreciated. The kids learn valuable socialization skills such as sharing and making friends. The parents chat amicably with each other until it’s time for their kids to make their final book selections and check out.

May I especially recommend bringing along a family member or mother’s helper? Oh man, the indescribable feeling of getting to leave your baby in the children’s library with another caregiver and venture into the adult area. I grab a newspaper and a magazine, curl up in a comfy chair, and put myself in time-out.

Whether you’re looking for some quality time as a family or to get away from your family, the library is the place to be. For more information about programs, including a link for today’s events, visit www.mtlebanonlibrary.org.

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